Finding clients you seek to serve, who have projects with appropriate budgets and realistic schedules is very important. Understanding business fundamentals and building systems that will lead to a healthy profitable firm is critical. Developing an effective marketing strategy that provides appropriate leads and a sales system that converts those leads to clients, may make the difference between a thriving business and a endless loop of failure.
As small firm architects, we have so many responsibilities. There are so many roles that require our attention. We need to acquire the knowledge that our limited architectural educations neglected to provide and we must apply that new knowledge to our firms as effectively as possible.
All this knowledge is important, but the very first step toward living a successful life as a small firm architect, before we can focus on any of these responsibilities, is to learn how to get things done.
Our personal productivity is most critical to our success and happiness.
Get Things Done Faster
Soon after launching my own small residential architecture firm, Fivecat Studio, I was faced with the reality of running a small business. It wasn’t long before the list of tasks, from my many new roles, unexpectedly grew beyond my comfort. I discovered a new level of stress unlike anything I experienced before.
During the early years in business, I tried to be more efficient. I read all the books and tried all the tactics. I thought that if I could get things done faster, I would have more time for all the other things going on in my life.
That didn’t work.
I found that the faster I completed my “to do” list, the faster it would fill up with new “priorities”. I could never catch up. It became a never-ending list of what had not yet been done…. And my stress level once again began to spike.
First Things First
I continued my search for a solution and I found what I thought was the answer to my personal time management crisis; a book titled, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Dr. Stephen R. Covey.
Dr. Covey taught me to prioritize my “to-do” list. In the Seven Habits book and in his follow up title, First Things First, Dr. Covey shares his, now ubiquitous, Productivity Matrix. This new tool allowed us to determine which items on our list are urgent, which are important and which are not. Dr. Covey encouraged us to focus on all the tasks that were important and leave the unimportant behind.
I organized all my tasks and grouped them into the four quadrants of the matrix… And my stress level started to drop.
But not for long.
Using the Productivity Matrix, I knew which tasks were important, but the time available to complete all these important items was desperately limited. Most of the items on my list were important. That’s why they were on my list. Even after reducing my list to only the important items, I still didn’t have enough time to get it all done…. And my stress level, once again, began to rise.
In order to get things done and live a successful, stress-free life as a small firm architect, we must learn to focus on what matters most. We must learn to identify the single most important item on our list.
6 Steps To The One Thing That Matters Most
With everything we’re doing as small firm architects, among the many roles in our lives, how do we determine what matters most at this moment in time? Which is the single most important task on our list? Which item on the list is most significant? Which will give us the greatest return on the time we will invest? Which is the one thing of all the most important items on our list… Which is the one that matters most?
In his recently published book, Procrastinate on Purpose, Rory Vaden encourages us to ask the question, “On which single task should we focus today, in order to have the most significant impact on our lives tomorrow?”
How long will it matter?
Rory Vaden introduced me to the multipliers. Multipliers are the most successful people we know. They are the ones who are focused on their mission and pursuing their purpose. They are getting things done and making a difference. They are whom we all strive to be.
How do they do it?
Rory explains that while most people make decisions based on urgency (How soon will it matter?) and importance (How much will it matter?), multipliers factor in a third calculation based on significance. Multipliers ask, “How long will it matter?” They multiply their time by spending time on things today that will give them more time tomorrow.
When evaluating their list of important tasks, multipliers process their decisions through what Rory calls a Focus Funnel.
Here is how it works…
Step 1. List everything.
Start with a list. Yes; a list. Just like I did in the early days… list everything in your mind. Get everything out of your head and on to a sheet of paper or into your Evernote.
Step 2. Eliminate everything not important.
Then use Dr. Covey’s Productivity Matrix and sort your items among the four quadrants. Anything on the list that is not important gets eliminated.
Step 3. Automate everything that can be automated.
Of the remaining items on your list, many can be automated. Time invested today on setting up these automated systems will yield time tomorrow that can be used to focus on the things that matter most.
Step 4. Delegate everything that can be done by someone else.
This is a tough one for many of us small firm architects, but delegation is a critical step toward our success. We should be focused on the things that only we can do. When we spend time on things that others can handle, that time cannot be spent on the things that matter most.
Step 5. Determine the significance of the remaining items.
After we eliminate, automate and delegate, we will be left with only the items that can be, and should be, accomplished by us. Now we need to determine the significance of each of the remaining items. Remember the question that Rory encourages us to ask, “On which single task should we focus today, in order to have the most significant impact on our lives tomorrow?”
Review the remaining list and determine if now is the best time to complete that task. If the answer is “No,” then Rory invites us to “procrastinate on purpose.” Send that item back up to the top of the focus funnel and process it again through Steps 1 through 5.
Step 6. Focus on the one thing that matters most.
If now is the best time to complete that task and it is the most significant item on your list, then it is time to concentrate and get things done. Its time to focus on the one thing that matters most.
How To GetFocused
Throughout the past 2 decades, I have learned so much about personal productivity. I’ve read all the books and tried all the systems. What I have determined is that one system alone does not answer all the questions.
None of the “productivity gurus” have all the answers.
As a small firm architect, a husband and a dad, I have discovered that a successful, stress-free life is the result of getting things done and focusing on the things that matter most to me. An integrated life is my goal; where my time at the firm and my time with my family merge to become one well functioning happy life.
As I interact with the EntreArchitect community here at the blog, on social media and at the EntreArchitect Academy, I have learned that we are all struggling to stay focused and live a successful, stress-free life. The mission of EntreArchitect is to inspire success for small firm architects and the first step toward success is to learn to get things done.
Earlier this week, I announced the launch of GetFocused Course; a 16 session video course where I share everything I know about productivity and living a successful, stress-free life as a small firm architect.
If you are interested in learning more about GetFocused Course, visit GetFocusedCourse.com.
Photo Credit: 123RF.com/Bettystrange