Trying to do it all is slowly killing your business

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You can’t do everything. In fact, you shouldn’t even try. The business machine has perpetuated the false notion that if you don’t take advantage of every new idea and hot trend, you won’t grow. To feel like you’re keeping up with everything you see on your social feed pushes your business to run in so many different directions that you can’t clearly talk about what you’re doing, let alone know what should give you time and what should not.

Because when everything is a priority, nothing is. To run an effective business, you need to focus on delivering value to the people you serve – and deliver that value better than anyone else.

Related: You can’t do everything, and if you try, you’ll do even less

Do everything ≠ growth

I walked into a software company with a firework CEO who had all cylinders firing, ready to grow, grow, grow. After a few conversations with members of her team, I asked, “So why are you guys here again?” Between the CEO, advisory board, investors, consultants, and senior team members, the company had so many priorities, new ideas, and different directions that it couldn’t get any of them through.

I knew that without a more deliberate approach, the company would either start in the trendiest direction, go off track, then start over with a new idea – or try to do all the things at once and push it to a complete stop with the team frustrated and burned out.

Running a business that tries to drift in every direction doesn’t allow for productive steps forward, and it certainly doesn’t allow for long-term growth. No team wants to spend time and effort on projects that aren’t going anywhere or that have their plate so full of competing priorities that they’re frantically trying to cross things off the list. And they are certainly not looking to sit in several pointless meetings to get on the same page. To cut through the noise and actually be productive, you need to focus.

Related: Most of what you’ve read about business purposes is wrong

Filter out the noise

Your focus comes from your purpose. As a business, you should exist to deliver value to the people you serve. Delivering that value is the point of building the new product, running more educational webinars or adopting the latest technology. Delivering value is The reason for what you do. And it’s something your entire team can use as a filter for the choices they make.

As for the software company, they dug deep into what matters to their customers and articulated their purpose: to advance the way we communicate complex information. They then evaluated the list of ideas and priorities to determine which provided that value. They eliminated anything that didn’t fit.

Once you’ve filtered options through your purpose, you must also filter them through your unique abilities, because you can’t effectively be all things to all people. The software company had a long history of developing popular graphics products, forming deep relationships in verticals dealing with complex machines and providing unparalleled support.

After eliminating a number of elements that did not align with their purpose, they examined what remained through the filter of their unique abilities. Of all the ideas and directions they considered, developing software that enabled everyone in a company to work with the same information on the same platform, in a visual format that made it easier to understand, would have the greatest impact.

Now you can add one more filter to get even more specific and strategic: how you do things on this team in this culture. The software company valued speed. That led them to set up cross-functional teams that included writers. They can develop features and associated supporting documentation simultaneously and in smaller batches, so their customers can start using them more quickly.

Once you know why you’re doing something and that you should be the one doing it, you can filter your options through one final question: Does it create the world we’re here to build? Suddenly, not every idea is a good idea, even if you have SO MANY. Not every priority is actually a priority – and not every task is worth doing.

You have eliminated the noise. When you only have the right pieces on the table, you can use all your efforts and creative energies to act as efficiently and completely as possible.

Related: Staying in Your Lane: Why startups need to stay focused

Then work backwards to keep it out

Part of the reason we end up overwhelmed with ideas and prioritized competition is that we start our work in the wrong place. Most of us start with the tactic or idea: “We should make a podcast”. Sometimes we reason, “Everyone has one, so why shouldn’t we have a podcast?” Or even, “If we don’t have a podcast, we won’t succeed.”

Sometimes we skip justification and due to pressure from above or outside, we do things even though we don’t know why we are doing it. Instead of starting with the tactics, start with the point: “Does this action fulfill our purpose? What is the result I want to achieve?” Then you can strategically assess whether a podcast will be an effective solution.

When I pushed the idea of ​​a podcast, a member of the software company’s team said the point was to reach people launching tech products to show them why visual communication makes them more effective and efficient. And it aligned with their purpose of advancing the way we communicate complex information, because they spread the word and got more people on board.

Starting with the point, they found that a podcast was a poor choice due to its audio-only nature. They ultimately decided to pursue speaking opportunities at relevant conferences where they could performancedon’t tell, through presentation decks and demos.

Starting with the point—whether it’s the point of your business or the point of a meeting, email communication, or presentation—gives you a reason for what you choose to do and how you choose to do it. It provides the laser-sharp focus you need to be conscious of what you choose to do and decisive in eliminating anything that isn’t worth your time.

Related: 4 key principles to stay on track and maintain focus

Stay focused

Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Jumping on every hot trend and saying yes to every shiny idea keeps you busy, but that doesn’t mean you’re doing anything productive to grow your business. And what’s worse, you’re probably wasting your team’s time with pointless meetings or projects they never needed to start.

Instead, start by asking, “What’s the point?” When you know the bottom line—from why you exist as a business to what you need to get done in this meeting—you’re focused on cutting through the noise and moving your business forward in a way that makes the most of everyone’s time. Because running an efficient business isn’t about doing everything; it’s about doing the right things and doing them well.

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