One of the big issues I’ve had in business is staying organised and focused. There was a time when I would work 15 hours a day, 7 days a week. So, the effort would be there, but my main concern was: was it the best possible use of that time?
In this chapter of the Diary of an Entrepreneur, I’m going to be introducing you to what I call my ‘CEO Operating System’ and the part it plays in keeping me focused.
Efficiency over workload
If we’re all honest, if all of those who claim to work insane hours (which is fine, you’re of course entitled to work as many hours as you want) really drilled into it, is it the best possible use of those 15 hours a day, 7 days a week?
For me, I don’t think it was. I would spend a lot of time procrastinating, staring at a blank screen and eventually getting focused and doing a little bit of work – and then more procrastination. Even though I would sit there and say, ‘yeah, I work 15 hours’ – not a lot of it was very focused or efficient.
So, over the years as I was getting older, wiser and more knowledgeable, and I was reading the books and blogs of other business owners who’ve had huge amounts of success online sharing their stories, I eventually got to the stage where I’m at now. I’m working less hours, but I’m more focused and the time that I am working is zoned in. Don’t get me wrong, I still procrastinate like the best of us – but there’s more of a laser focus.
In this post, I want to break this down and share my processes in the hope that it may help you in some way. Also, it would be great to compare notes! I’m sure there are business owners reading this right now who are at varying levels of success with different methods of doing things. I’m not saying this is how you should do it – this is just how I do it, and it’s whatever works for you.
So, what is the operating system?
Staying laser-focused and organised has been a real, real problem for me over the years. I’ve spent many hours trying to figure out where my sweet spot is for keeping on top of everything. After all, if you’re not keeping on top of everything, things will go really slow and that time isn’t going to be used in the best way.
So, I look at things like calendar vs to-do list, computer apps vs notebooks, scrap pieces of paper vs my memory… There’s a sea of resources available, but it’s about organising all of that.
Overwhelm invites procrastination
The biggest issue has quite simply been that I’m trying to do too much in too little time, and I’m often left overwhelmed. This, in turn, is an open invite for periods of procrastination – which can sometimes lead to mini bouts of depression. When you’re frustrated because you’re unable to do the work you need to get done, you get down and it leads to mini mental breakdowns.
You know what it’s like: you’re staring at a computer screen, you know you have all these things that need to be done – and as the owner of a growing business, that is a lot of things. But which button do you press first? Then, which button do you press second? And third? And so on and so forth. That’s when it all gets a bit muggy. I’ve had to really fight with this over the years.
Traction by Gino Wickman
Now, I don’t read books, but I listen to hours and hours of audiobooks. It was only recently that I discovered the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) after listening to a book called Traction by Gino Wickman. I highly recommend you read this book, too.
Fortunately, the book came with loads of really useful downloads and PDFs, so I’ve adapted the operating system slightly to suit me. It’s been hugely influential in how I organise myself and keep focused. This is by far the most effective method I’ve used.
So, my own operating system was born. Let’s call it the CEO OS.
My CEO Operating System
My CEO OS is made up of 4 key categories. These categories consist of things that need all of my attention all of the time, with minimal distractions.
These 4 categories are then broken down into sub-categories, and eventually, ‘to-do’ items. Now, these items are based on what we need to do to achieve our company goals. The operating system is designed to get me to those goals.
These ‘to-do’ items are then organised into ‘Do’, ‘Delegate’ and ‘Delete’ categories.
My 3 ‘to-do’ categories
- Do – Is it something that only I can do? If so, how important is it – and does it need to be done now? If so, then that goes on the ‘Do’ list.
- Delegate – When it’s something I could delegate to someone else or outsource, then that goes onto the ‘Delegate’ list.
- Delete – Finally, there’s the ‘Delete’ list. Is it really that important? Am I just being anally retentive about something that isn’t going to move the needle for the business and is instead just me being me? If so, it goes on the ‘Delete’ list and gets chucked in the bin.
So, those are the three filters everything goes through before it eventually makes its way into the next part.
The 4 categories of my operating system
Quite simply, this is the business plan. Where do I want the business to go, and how do we want to get there?
This is a big part of my and any business leader’s job: getting the right bums on the right seats.
Make sure you’re hiring people who are enthusiastic – not just about themselves and their own careers, but about what you are trying to achieve as the business owner. Do they understand you? Do they believe in you?
Team is a really important part of the operating system, because without the proper team in place, we ain’t going anywhere. It’s as simple as that.
As the head of the business, it’s really important to know your industry inside and out, to keep on top of that knowledge and to be able to converse with your peers about it.
When you’re in a room full of influencers, high-profile businesspeople, investors, potential clients and the like… being able to have conversations at an intellectual level, that don’t seem out of place, is crucial. Reading books, studying resources online and having mentors is all key in helping you do this.
Knowledge is power! There have been countless times where I’ve been in conversations with potential clients whilst pitching for work, and I’ve been able to take the conversation up a level or two and get really detailed in video marketing, and that has won us the work.
Knowledge is really important in the operating system – however you consume it, you need to be doing it.
Basically, marketing and sales. You need to shout about your business and be head of the marketing. You don’t necessarily need to be doing the marketing, such as the social media posts and designs, as (going back to the ‘to-do’ categories) that sort of thing can be delegated.
However, as the head of the business, you are automatically the key marketeer and salesperson. So, you need to have a voice and you have to be able to sell your business. Not just to prospective clients, but also to possible recruits, investors and even suppliers.
So, when creating tasks I need to focus on, they need to fit into one of these categories. Plus, that’s just the very top line. The CEO OS gets much more granular than that – which I’ll elaborate on in a later post!
However, more importantly than anything else: everything is documented. It’s there in black and white, it’s got a name and it’s got a process – and I have to be disciplined enough to follow it.
And guess what? That’s easier said than done. I don’t always get it right. Plus, to be fair, it’s not all set in stone. However, at least it’s something for my little brain to fall back on. I’ll talk more about my documenting process in a later post.
It’s taken me years to get to this stage, but I’ve finally found a system that I can work with and that works well with me.
- Divert your attention when you feel like procrastinating so at least you are doing something useful. I believe procrastination is patience in disguise! It’s your brain and body telling you to have a break, or you need more time to do what you’re doing right now.
- Having everything documented, named and written down is incredibly useful.
- It can take weeks and even months to define your operating system – and everyone, I believe, needs an operating system.
Look out for my next post all about how I organise my goals, strategies and ideas into different documents, and the tools I use in my everyday working life.