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Vital Tasks-v- Functional Activities

As business owners we have many different tasks and activities that demand our time.

And if we were honest, there are times when it probably feels there are so many demands on our time, that we feel we are going around in ever decreasing circles. We feel busy and yet at the end of the day when we look back on our day we’re not quite sure what we achieved.

Sound familiar? It’s a common problem among entrepreneurs and business owners and is a situation we have all faced at different times. And it can become a problem when this is the way we operate our business on a day-today basis.

When that happens we end up stressed, frustrated and feeling like we’re going nowhere.

There could be several reasons for this scenario, but one of the common issues amongst business owners is that we often prioritise the functional over the vital.

What do I mean? Let me explain.

In our businesses, there are what’s called functional tasks. They need to be done and they are important, but they don’t “move the needle” in terms of revenue or the effectiveness of you as a business owner.

On the other hand, there are vital tasks which are not only important but must take priority over the functional tasks. This is because they make a difference to the business. They increase revenue, they generate leads, they “move the needle” as far as the business is concerned.

So, what’s the difference between a functional task and a vital task?

A functional task can be any number of things but includes checking and responding to emails, reconciling your bank account, paying invoices, checking your LinkedIn messages and so on.

They may all be important tasks, but one of the signs that a task might be functional is that either it can be automated, or it can be done by someone else.

Take emails for example. I heard a brilliant definition of your email inbox: it is a convenient filing system for other people’s agendas. And yet what do we do first thing in the morning? We check our emails and respond to other people’s questions, queries and agendas. And before we know it; an hour has gone by and all we’ve done is work on other people’s agendas and probably got side-tracked on to something else in the process.

Now, I’m not saying that dealing with emails isn’t important – but the point is, it’s a functional task. In other words, someone else could do it, or alternatively if you deal with your own emails, it could be done at a time of the day that suits you.

Compare this with vital tasks. Vital tasks are what will make your business profitable. Such things as a sales meeting with a client, writing content for a sales brochure that you can use as part of your sales presentation. Or perhaps sitting down and writing an entire email sequence which you can use as a follow-up series of emails after the sales meeting with the client.

These tasks are not only important, they are also “vital” to the ongoing success of your business because they bring in leads, they help convert those leads to paying clients and customers. In other words, they “move the needle” by generating revenue.

As I’ve looked at applying this strategy of prioritising vital tasks over functional tasks, I’ve made a commitment to myself.

In the first two hours of the day, so usually between 8.30am and 10.30am I don’t do any functional tasks. So, I don’t check emails, I don’t switch on my mobile, I don’t reconcile my bank account. And I certainly don’t check Facebook!

Instead, I commit those first two hours of each day to tasks that I consider to be vital.

So, for instance this week, among other things I’ve written this blog, I’ve started work on writing a sales brochure, I’ve written a script for a video series I want to record, and I’ve also called a selected number of clients who I haven’t heard from for a while and who I wanted to re-connect with.

It really isn’t difficult, but it does require a decision and then some discipline.

What’s been interesting, is that I’ve been doing this for several weeks now, and already I can see the cumulative effect on my business of doing vital tasks for 2 hours a day every day. You really do begin to see the “needle moving”.

And after you’ve done your two hours? You can get on with the rest of your day and believe me the functional tasks will still be there waiting for you!