Successful Business People Do the Most Difficult Thing First Every Day
I recently read that successful entrepreneurs have one thing in common. They do the hardest, most unpleasant, most stressful things immediately, at the beginning of their day. They waste not a moment getting them out of the way, which apparently provides “room” in the brain for creativity and positive action. It seems that when you leave something undone that is stressful, it will percolate in the brain even if you are not aware that it’s in there, doing damage by interfering with clear thinking and positive energy. Makes sense. It really does. I get that.
It got me to thinking, which was probably me choosing to focus on this idea instead of some stressful things I need to do that have been moved to a new to-do list every day for quite a while. (I’m human. Sue me.) I took a look at the clients I’ve had over the past few years to see the different ways they handle stress in their business strategies. Because I’m a strategist, and our marketing consulting service includes being the sounding board for the issues every small business owner faces, I see firsthand how different personalities deal with different stressful situations. See if you can recognize yourself in any of my clients (whose names have been changed), and consider how you might work toward changing.
Hot Potato Sam
Sam hates anything that is outside the box of protocols that has enabled his business to double within a year. He is a diligent leader. He loves a to-do list, and he loves crossing things off it. If something stays on the to-do list because the answer is not immediately obvious, he panics. He would prefer to lose a piece of business, or to say no to a special custom order that might secure customer loyalty and a profitable sale, than to work outside the parameters that have served him so well. This single-minded approach to business is one of his biggest strengths, but as with all strengths, it is also his biggest weakness. He will get rid of it rather than go through the angst of trying to figure out an untested, outside-the-box solution. He gets a lot done, and he has never had a real crisis, but he also could have grown more quickly if he were willing to take the risk of exploring unchartered territory and suffer the irritation of allowing an item to stay on the undone list longer than is comfortable for him.
Grey’s Anatomy Gale
Gale runs into a problem that doesn’t have an easy or immediate solution and she panics. She works from home, and she gets up from her desk when she should be working and watches Grey’s Anatomy — over and over again. I have watched Grey’s Anatomy myself and think it’s a fabulous show, but I think she does this because there is an answer for every life-threatening issue on Grey’s. She escapes into that world and just looks away from the problem. Don’t get me wrong; Gale is highly successful, but she is under tremendous stress from things that are not done — and really need to be done. That angst has to be eating away at her creativity and efficiency.
John runs a successful company, and he hires really good people. When he hits the wall of stressful tasks undone, he passes them to someone else to do, without providing that person with enough information or consideration to ensure that the task is handled in the best possible way. But it’s off his desk, and it hasn’t trashed the business. But has it hindered the business? I’m sure it has. And, the people he works with find it extremely frustrating. It passes the stress on to them, along with all that goes along with it. They are not working at capacity due to stress caused by items that should never have been on their plates.
Lizzie lies her way through it. Says it’s on its way when it’s not. Sometimes it goes away and sometimes it doesn’t. But either way, this strategy doesn’t really work because she is in a constant state of covering her ass. She is very smart and gets things done really well … until she encounters a stressful situation that calls for additional work that is hard or embarrassing. Lizzie is the one who knows she needs to fire someone and doesn’t. She lies to the person and says they did not get a bonus because bonuses were not in play that year, hoping the employee doesn’t talk to anyone else and discover the truth.
Knowledge is power. Are you the successful entrepreneur who deals with difficult things right away, first thing of the day? If so, kudos to you for sure. If not, find out which profile above is you (or another one I haven’t mentioned), and own it. Embrace it. Then change it. Somehow these coping mechanisms have worked in the past. You came by them honestly, long, long ago, as a way to get through difficult things. But in business, to deal with it right away, and deal with it well, not half-assedly, is the ticket to a higher level of success and satisfaction.
And please, no beating yourself up. It’s likely that your way of addressing these situations is also a strength in some way. Sam gets a lot done and is the most efficient person I’ve ever seen in production. Gale can take a lot of pressure. She handles a lot of difficult issues. No one is afraid to bring her the difficult jobs. Lizzie has lots of people who love working for her and would walk through fire for her. So know when it is time to just say no and stay inside the box of your product limitations and protocols. Or know when it’s time to take a break and clear your head with Grey’s Anatomy. Or wait until after the holidays to fire that person because that’s the way you want to be remembered. But knowing whether you are doing it by choice or because it’s your coping and problem-avoidance mechanism will determine whether it’s an asset or a deficit.
By the way, I also know a few people who deal with the hard stuff right away each day, and they do it thoroughly. They have other irritating qualities that the rest of us do not, I promise.