Ideas are cheap, but action is rare. Execution, from start to finish, is the most valuable element of business, any business. Here's why it matters and how to make more of it happen in your business.
The herd man vs. the individual man
William Crosbie Hunter once wrote, “There are two kinds of men, the kind that lives in the herd and the kind that has strong individuality that needs room to grow. The herd man exists in infinitely greater numbers than the individual man.”
All those who don't like being crammed in a cattle chute, stand up and be counted. Ahem. There are lots of you. Lots of hands. Lots of people standing.
Let's narrow this down.
All those who like taking full responsibility for their choices, making the best use of their time, working way too hard and way too long, setting impossibly high expectations for themselves and then meeting them, trying a lot of things that fail in order to find the ones that succeed…you folks stand up and be counted.
Hm. Small crowd this time. Just a few of you. It was that "working hard and long" that got most of those hands down, I'll bet.
At any rate, you folks, the ones still standing: yes, you. You're the anti-herd. It's true, there aren't many of you. That's why you often feel like the world doesn't understand you, or, at any rate, your parents/friends/significant others don't understand you.
Oh, there are plenty of people around who will nod and reiterate their own grand passions, but at the end of the day, they're chilling with a beer and the latest reality show, and you're cranking out the hours of more work, more work and more work. They're talking about creating something, but you, anti-herd guy or gal? You're actually creating something.
And that's the secret.
The most valuable item in a business, any business, is the ability to execute. Anybody can have an idea or plan out a project. What separates the individuals and businesses who succeed from the herd is action.
It's not just any action that makes the difference, though.
Getting it done
Whatever it is, doing something from start to finish, and doing it in a timely, professional matter is key. Not just to know what to do, but to discipline yourself and actually get it done. What do you wish most for in your employees? How about that they would simply do their jobs?
How about you? Do you make it a habit to take each task from start to finish, then move to the next? Or are you prone to distraction, bouts of procrastination and a constant feeling of being a few steps behind? Do you feel like you start each day racing to catch up?
This is not the way a business has to be run, and it's not the way you have to work or live. There are no magic pills or formulas, but there are some tools, or habits, that you could adopt to help you be more productive.
Tool 1: The habit of starting
Beginning something is half the battle, because it's at the point of starting that we encounter the most resistance. We put off starting a task because we think we don't have enough time or we don't have all the resources or we need some important feedback.
Get into the habit of starting before you feel ready, before you have enough time, before you have all your ducks in a row. Start anyway. The thing about being ready is that, even if you feel ready, things rarely work exactly according to plan. You're going to have to improvise along the way, so go ahead and just start now.
Instead of trusting your preparation, trust your ability to analyze, adapt and act along the way.
Tool 2: The habit of focus
Most of us spend too much time trying to minimize interruptions in order to get some work done. It's great to minimize the interruptions you can control, but most of them are out of your control.
Accept that interruptions and distractions are part of life. Quit denying their existence or fighting a battle that is futile. Instead, cultivate the habit of focus. If you can learn to concentrate, you can learn to get stuff done despite the interruptions that will happen.
Tool 3: The habit of daily progress
Big projects scare us because we really don't see how we can make significant progress on them. But small steps add up. If you figure out the actions you need to take to reach your goal, and then make a small version of those actions a daily habit, you'll get there.
Daily, habitual action will get the biggest project done.
Create a daily checklist of the actions you need to complete for your current project. Focus on only one or two big projects at a time. Keep that daily checklist front and center, check it off daily, and keep track of the progress you're making toward your goal.
Tool 4: The habit of finishing
You start. You focus. You act daily. And you get there, sooner than you might think. The final tool is the ability to call the thing done.
Perfection has its place, but it needs to be something that serves you in the quest for quality, not something that controls you. Choose which parts of your project need to be perfect. Give them more time. But don't place the standard of perfection on the project as a whole.
Instead, let done be done. Wrap it up, ship it out and then focus on the next project. Take one task, one idea, or one project all the way to completion.