Your Business as a Stovetop: An Analogy for Success
Professional workloads often vary widely from month to month, week to week or even day to day. It’s sometimes difficult to consistently get everything done within the time available. No matter how many things need to be done at any given time, the fact remains that you and your team can only accomplish so much. It’s easy to become overwhelmed when there’s simply more work than you can complete.
So how do you get it all done? The plain truth is, sometimes you simply can’t. Sometimes, you have to treat an overloaded workload like triage in a medical situation: Handle the most critical issues first, then deal with the rest in descending order of severity. The key to this process is to prioritize and strategize. Actually, a more apt analogy may be to think of your business as a stovetop. As such, it only has so many “burners” (which refer to its capacity to complete tasks). You must remain conscious of the fact that you simply cannot cook (work) on more than the number of burners available. So you prioritize what’s most important and what you can - in very practical terms - accomplish. To continue with the analogy, those priorities are the tasks with which you fill your “pots” upon your stovetop.
This approach may run counter to many go-getters’ mindset that is convinced that if you can’t do it all, then you’ve failed. Unfortunately, we’ve been programmed to believe that doing everything - or at least more - is the way to measure success. The truth, however, is that when you focus on what you can actually do - and do well - it’s more likely that the work that does get done will be done better, more effectively and more efficiently.
It may be easier to adopt this “pots on the stovetop” system armed with some criteria for determining how many burners you have and what should be in those pots. Consider these variables before you start “cooking,” giving preference to those that suit your:
- Available staff - Ensure that you have an adequate number of employees to perform necessary functions and schedule deadlines accordingly. Spreading people too thinly will lead to burnout and poor attitudes. Scale back projects when possible to avoid heaping too much on your employees and yourself.
- Available time - Be certain that there is an acceptable amount of time for projects to be completed. When time is tight, measure out work in manageable bites. When possible, avoid a “mad dash” scenario; it leads to unnecessary stress and almost always avoidable errors.
- Available resources - Remember to have all necessary materials and supplies on hand when embarking upon projects. Frustrating delays will be imminent when jobs are held up due to lack of necessary resources.
- Highest priority work - Obviously, any work that legitimately MUST be done, for the good of your business, should be bubbling away on your stove. Make certain, however, that it truly IS high priority; or do you only think it’s high priority? Reality-checking expectations of your customers is an important way to keep on top of what are really your top priorities.
- Jobs that stand in the way of other work being started or completed - Clear those logjams! Prioritize any work that is causing delays to getting additional jobs moving forward. By procrastinating, you’re causing unnecessary hold-ups to progress. Sometimes, however stressful, it’s necessary to bite the bullet and get to those pesky in-the-way projects.
- Work that will make you feel accomplished/successful - It’s a prudent idea to fill one of your pots with work that will be especially gratifying; it will keep you motivated as you plow through your other jobs. You’ll feel more satisfied when you sit down to the “meal” you’ve cooked up if there’s something with which you’re especially proud on your plate.
Avoid filling your pots with:
- Work of a secondary or superfluous nature - When filling your pots, remember, even if you have six burners, it’s perfectly acceptable to only use three or four at a time. Avoid the urge to add unnecessary work just because there’s “room.” When the pots you’re utilizing are full and productive, acknowledge that it’s enough. Appreciate that sometimes the key is greater concentrated effort on fewer projects.
- Vanity work - Avoid taking up space in your pots with work you’re only doing because you believe it will make you and/or your company look good. It will take up a pot that would be better used for something of greater consequence. Besides, nothing makes your business look better than doing quality, authentic work.
- Busy work - These are tasks you just “feel like you should be doing” but without solid reason. Avoid wasting a pot with tasks that appear productive (like running reports for report’s sake) but ultimately get you nowhere.
- Shiny, new work (even if it’s enticing) - This pot-waster will only serve to distract you from your progress on what you’ve already determined to be important. Perhaps you could add this exciting opportunity to a future goals list, but it’s crucial to keep your eyes on the work at hand.
- Work that you should have turned down - Everybody wants to be accommodating and helpful; but sometimes doing so becomes a stone around your neck. Granted, it’s sometimes difficult to say, “No” but it’s imperative to have the wherewithal to do so when your stove-top is full. Otherwise, you’re jeopardizing your ability to progress and grow.
You’ll probably never get it all done; it’s the nature of business and life in general. Referring to the stovetop analogy can help you manage your company’s workload with a degree of grace and authority. You’ll be cooking up a more productive operation in no time!
What’s cooking on your company’s stovetop?
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