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Updated 30 Sep 2020

How to work on the things that matter most

As an entrepreneur you can find yourself working in the business, not on the business. This must change. 

Chris Ogden, 22 December 2017  Share  0 comments  Print

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In the late 1940s, Dr Joseph M Duran made an observation he called the “vital few and trivial many”. Of its many applications, its strongest interpretation suggests that 20% of actions accounts for 80% of results. This general principle is known as the 80/20 Rule.

This principle describes what many of us see every day; that 20% of our employees generate 80% of entrepreneurs’ human resources issues, that 80% of revenue is the result of sales made by 20% of the sales team. Your challenge as an entrepreneur is to make sure that you focus on the activities that have the most impact, that move your business forward. 

1. Revisit your personal/business vision and mission

The former states what you want to achieve and the latter outlines how you will achieve this. Your roadmap needs to be clear, otherwise you cannot know what 20% of activities are likely to lead to 80% of your success. Set out clear goals that you can work towards every day.

Related: Why personal development is critical for entrepreneurs that want to succeed

2. List what NOT to do

The items on this list should be time wasters, for example gossiping, social media voyeurism and tasks that can be easily delegated or should be outsourced. These weigh you down, drain your energy and fill your day with noise.

Be aware of the habits you have that can lead you back to the things on your “not to do” list; you may be inclined to solve people’s problems or you may be a perfectionist or a control freak. You’ll need to focus hard on breaking these habits. 

3. Create space to think 

This will enable you to identify opportunities or threats that you might not otherwise see as you rush around, focussing on short-term task fulfilment. Dedicate an hour a day to thinking. Thought leaders like Robin Sharma advocate writing in a journal.

Each day, take time to document what was good or bad about the day, what you are inspired by, what lessons you have learnt. Activities like this create the head-space you need to think creatively and strategically.

4. Develop and call on your “support crew”

This is a group of people, all better than you in one way or another. They are mentors and coaches who can open your mind to better ways of doing things. The best way to connect with a support crew is to join forums. 

Spend some time quietly observing members and look for those that have real value to share, who genuinely care about the development of other people. Then ask questions. Encourage them to tell you stories or anecdotes about what led to their success.

Related: 10 Genuine points on navigating business in Africa

Eventually, you may feel comfortable enough to share with them and ask direct questions about the things that you are struggling with or want to change. Your “support crew” can also consist of thought leaders in your business. Get feedback from them regularly regarding how to drive your business onward and upward. 

5. Never stop learning and look beyond the boundaries

Look at what others are doing in your areas of interest, both locally and abroad. The Internet is a wonderful research tool and, in printed media, there are many trade publications to choose from. 

Open your eyes and mind to learning about innovations and developments around the world and actively look for ways to apply them to your business or life. We are not all gifted with the ability to think creatively. Sometimes, we have to replicate successes that originated elsewhere.

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About the author

Chris Ogden

Chris Ogden of RubiBlue is well positioned to contribute on entering Africa as he is a year into doing this, and is still discovering varying nuances to different nations, and industries within the continent.

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