Small Business Spring Cleaning: How to Better Prioritize Your Managerial Workload

Spring signifies a rebirth in nature — a restart — with flowers blooming and trees regaining their leaves after a long, hard winter. It’s also a time of the year that people often use to reorganize themselves, evaluate what they have accomplished over the last year and plan ahead.

It could also be the perfect time to align yourself with the season and harness the energy of spring to facilitate transitions of your own.

Spring cleaning is a term that is often used in the business world to talk about similar concepts. It’s a time during which company leaders can meet up and discuss the direction their business should be taking in the coming period.

In the business world, a spring cleaning could mean a variety of things. It could include analyzing what you have been doing over the last year and trying to identify the best business strategies for moving ahead and growing your organization.

As a manager, you should be taking some time every year to have a look at how you are running your business and leading your team. Instituting a spring cleaning of your own could be the perfect solution for organizing yourself better, reestablishing your priorities and entering the summer with a refreshed plan of attack and a new set of goals for developing your business, redefining your most important tasks, and finding better ways to manage your staff.

If implementing a spring cleaning for your business sounds like something you and your employees could benefit from, here’s where you can start.

Scrap the Unnecessary

Spring cleaning at work is not just about asking yourself what you need to be doing, it’s about understanding what you need to stop doing as well.

Take a look at all of your biggest projects as a manager and divide them into three groups:

-Projects that are vital to your business.
 -Projects that could prove to be valuable but aren’t top priorities.
 -Projects that you could abandon without hurting your business.

Once you do this, you’ll be amazed to discover how many things you are working on that aren’t doing much of anything in terms of pushing the needle and increasing productivity or revenue.

Not to say that these tasks or projects are useless, but by putting together a list and prioritizing your tasks, you’ll get a better idea of which projects are really helping to improve your bottom line in a very direct way. Make sure you identify your most vital projects and push them to the top of your list.

It’s important to constantly check on the strategic importance of all of the tasks that you and your team are working on and to eliminate projects that could potentially be slowing down your growth.

You can put those “unimportant” tasks in your backlog and take a look at them at some point down the road to reassess their importance.

Naturally, this isn’t something that you should be doing on your own. Open up the floor to your employees and let them chime in on this subject as well. Ask them if any of their tasks appear to be a waste of time. Ask them if there is something they believe they should be focusing on more — something that would bring real, visible and immediate improvements to the business.

Asking your employees for feedback not only gives you insights into your business that you’d probably never see on your own from your managerial viewpoint, but the fact that you are showing your staff that you appreciate their opinions and want to give them their say can be a great motivator for employees.

Prioritize Goals Instead of Tasks

So you’ve looked at the tasks and projects that you and your team are working on and you have prioritized them. Now it’s time to take a completely different approach.

Put together a list of high-level goals or themes that you need to accomplish first. Then, take the tasks that you have prioritized and file them according to whether they work towards achieving those goals.

Ask yourself, with crossing these tasks off your to-do list:

-Are you driving growth?
 -Are you increasing employee engagement?
 -Are you improving retention?
 -Are you improving customer service?
 -Are you making your products/services better?

Now take those themes and prioritize them according to what you believe your business needs to focus on most in the coming year.

By identifying your priorities based on very clear and understandable goals instead of trying to prioritize a seemingly endless list of tasks, you are able to see the bigger picture more easily and turn your focus towards the areas that are most important to the future success of your business.

Set Deadlines for Everything

No matter how important a task is, you need to set a deadline for moving on from it. If you don’t meet that deadline, simply implement it as it is and move on to the next most important task. Timing is everything in business. That means that completing a certain project in two weeks could prove to be a great thing for your business, while spending two months on it could have the opposite effect.

Perfectionism is something that just about every small business owner struggles to avoid. Entrepreneurs tend to take everything about their businesses personally and don’t want to show anything to customers that isn’t absolutely perfect.

However, most of the time, that’s not the best approach to take, especially when you have tons of work on your plate. You need to develop an ability to stop something in midstream that’s taking up too much of your time and refocus your efforts on the next most important task that needs your attention.

Perfection never comes overnight. You should take an incremental approach for all of your most complex tasks. Set a deadline and if you’re not completely done with it when the time runs out, move on to another task and come back to it later. Not only will this type of approach allow you to be more productive and help you to get more things done, it will allow you to gain much needed perspective when revisiting the task down the road.

It’s definitely not an easy thing to do, but it’s a necessary part of being a strong and efficient small business owner and a better overall manager for your team. The more high-importance tasks you are able to touch on over the course of the year, the better your chances are of seeing real results quickly.

Originally published at www.humanity.com on April 11, 2017.