One of the worst feelings in the life of an entrepreneur is feeling stuck. There are a million things on your to-do list. Maybe you organized them on Trello, or Asana, or Basecamp, or (like me) on Trello and ALSO a little text-only Notepad designed just to focus on my top priorities for all of my projects and ideally my top priorities for each day. Which, according to some articles I've read, is THE PATH TO SUCCESS YOU CANT GO WRONG YOU WIN GAME OVER!
Except not really.
The problem is that no matter how you organize your to-do list, you can still end up on the overwhelm treadmill. When you can't pick good priorities, or when your priorities aren't moving you in the right direction, you're stuck.
I HATE feeling stuck.
Hate, hate, hate. Deep, strong, visceral, feel-it-all-over-my-body hatred. When all you want to do is execute, but you're faced with a bunch of crap that all seems equally important, you might as well take a nap or watch Netflix on your phone (not that I ever do that during the workday). Being stuck saps you of energy to do anything, even non-business personally helpful things, like working out or making/eating healthy food. It's a big ball of suck.
Well that's it for now.
Just kidding. There's a solution! Or at least something you can try -- something that has worked for me.
The answer is: Measuring stuff.
Measuring a few key business activities helps you gain clarity about your business, and stops you from managing your day based on your hourly emotions, sleep deprivation levels, sugar cravings (and related crashes), and whatever makes its way into your inbox. Instead, you'll have concrete, activity-based goals and hard numbers that will quickly and clearly show you what's going right and what needs to be improved.
Here's the three-step "un-sticking yourself by measuring" process:
#1: Pick five business activities that YOU DIRECTLY CONTROL.
Every business will have different activities. Examples:
- Blog posts
- Retail sales phone calls
- Farmers market booth appearances
- Networking meetings
- Strategy sessions
- Pitch meetings
- Hours spent improving or creating a product
- Customer surveys sent out
Put your five activities into the spreadsheet. Next...
#2: Pick five categories with numbers representing the hoped-for RESULTS of the above activities.
These will be things you CAN'T directly control, but that should be an outcome of the activities above). Examples:
1. Weekly sales
2. Weekly revenue
3. Cash balance
4. New customers
6. Quality numbers
Now, put these five categories into your spreadsheet. And, finally...
#3: Pick a number representing your goal for each activity each week.
Like 2 blog posts, 10 customer surveys, $5,000 in weekly sales, 15% churn, whatever.
Don't stress too much about picking the wrong numbers or activities. You can change them any time (and should, once you've started measuring and seeing what is realistic.)
Also, this approach can scale as your business grows. It works for a solopreneur, business partners, small teams, large teams, and multi-million dollar international businesses. It can also help you see when your business is on the wrong track, and can offer insight into how to fix it.
Once you've picked your activities/categories and your goal numbers: Get on it!
The scorecard set-up process shouldn't take more than 30 minutes. You already know your business. And don't get hung up on the exact numbers. Try not to pick too many more than 10 indicators to track, just to keep it simple, but a few more or less is fine.
Then: Record and review each week. I also like reviewing and totaling monthly/quarterly/yearly goal numbers, but that's just me. As the data rolls in, it gets more interesting. If you aren't meeting your goals, either flag in red or decide to be more realistic and set a new goal. You can assign different numbers/activities to different people, and you can include a review in team meetings or just pick a day of the week to review it by yourself.
The key is to keep measuring, keep recording, and be flexible as you figure out what works and doesn't work. If you have a team, great -- if not, pick a fellow startup founder and email each other for accountability. And keep in mind that you probably want to revise activities, categories, and goals at the one month or two month marks, at least.
Now, go forth and get some clarity!
**For more this topic, check out Chapter 5 (The Data Component) of TRACTION, by Gino Wickman. Not an affiliate link, just an actual book I have read and used in more than one business.
I'm going to go mark down "1 Blog Post" in my special scorecard, right now. BOOM.