Prioritizing Your Small Business Goals

Decisions, decisions, decisions. 

As a small business owner, you’re already familiar with the sheer number of choices you have to make in a day, from what to wear when you wake up in the morning to whether you should invest your already-tight budget in more inventory. 

Obviously, those two tasks don’t share the same level of importance in the grand scheme of things– Choosing a blue shirt over a white shirt isn’t likely to cause any life-changing consequences– yet, we tend to spend more of our time and energy thinking about small items on our to-do list, rather than the big ones that matter. 

Prioritizing your small business goals can help you keep your eye on the prize, especially if you’re willing to use a consistent strategy that keeps you laser-focused on what’s next.

A simple quadrant called an Eisenhower Matrix can help you get your goals aligned and find the time to achieve them.  

Make Your Master List

Before you can start prioritizing your small business goals, you need to “brain dump” everything that’s on your mind. 

At this point, you don’t want to think about what’s urgent or important at all. However, feel free to make separate matrices for different categories of tasks. 

For example, you might want an everyday priority list, a financial quarter priority list, and a long-term priority list. This is helpful in squeezing the most time out of your day while still keeping a keen eye on the big picture of your business. 

We suggest making a digital checklist so it’s easy to color code according to the matrix, but you can accomplish the same thing with good, old-fashioned highlighters if you prefer a paper copy. 

Keep in Mind:

  1. Treat every task as completely equal– Don’t forgo writing down one of your goals because you think it’s too small or short-term for your list. The goal is to stop all of the must-dos and maybe-dos from cluttering your thoughts.
  2. Ask others what priorities they have for their team or department. If it’s something you’ll have your hands on at some point in the process, it deserves a spot. 
  3. Keep your master list on hand, whether digitally or physically, and mark things off as you accomplish them along the way. When new projects, goals, or tasks pop up, add them on so that the next time you need to set priorities, they’re already gathered up. 

Sort Your Priorities

Before you start filling in your matrix, you’ll want to write a “rough draft” by assigning a score of 1-4 or using some kind of symbol, such as color, to start sorting your list. 

This gives you space to change your mind, scratch things out, and add tasks while you’re working without having to move things around in your final product. 

As you’re working through your list, keep these four categories in mind:

  1. Urgent and Important

These are the tasks and priorities that require your immediate attention, whether it’s because of a looming deadline or it’s the next step to growing your business that you personally find most critical. 

Focusing on these items first ensures that you don’t face unwieldy time constraints or let other, less important tasks distract you from the things that are actively helping you improve your small business. 

  1. Important But Not Urgent

Once quadrant #1 is complete, you can jump over to the tasks that still impact your business but don’t have strict time constraints. 

The key to mastering this quadrant is never letting them migrate over to being urgent and important, as these are often the tasks we feel the most stressed about. 

Working with important but not urgent tasks gives us the freedom to think creatively, engage deeply, and make decisions without the pressure of impossible deadlines. 

  1. Urgent But Unimportant

Typically, tasks that fall into the category of urgent but unimportant are those tasks that need to be done ASAP but not necessarily by you.

These shouldn’t spend more than a day or two on your list. One of the best methods for prioritizing your small business goals is giving up the tasks that are sucking up your time when there are other people who could handle them for you while you focus on overarching goals that require your attention. 

List out anything you’re willing to delegate to another person, then wait for confirmation that they’re willing and capable of getting them done. Once it’s on their plate, you can take it off of yours. 

  1. Neither Urgent Nor Important

If it’s not urgent and it’s not important, then it shouldn’t be on your mind at all. 

The items in quadrant #4 are those little time wasters, like unsubscribing from emails or scrolling through social media, that make us feel like we’re getting things done at the moment but, in reality, are distracting from what our real focus should be. 

Delete these from your matrix completely and breathe a sigh of relief, knowing you’re ready to keep your small business’s most important goals at the top of your to-do list. 

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