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Issue Date: March 2011, Posted On: 3/7/2011

One Thing at a Time

Executives at large companies typically have an assistant or other employees on hand to help keep track of the daily tasks, meetings and phone calls. Running a large business certainly comes with its massive responsibility and requests from all directions siphoning away time. Without a way to keep all this organized and prioritized, life as an executive would be a nightmare, the company would suffer and performance would surely be down overall.

The same remains every bit as true for the startup entrepreneur or business owner running a small business. A major difference, though, may be the resources at hand.

If someone is just trying to get their business off the ground, they likely do not have the manpower or resource to have staff dedicated entirely to organizing the schedule and keeping track of commitments. Of course, it is also likely that there is not quite a full-time job in that task anyway, but it does not mean that it does not require some serious and dedicated work time.

The biggest danger for small business executives is to let all that is required of them swirl around in the mind and float over them like a dark cloud on a daily basis.

In the true startup or small business situation, the things on an executive’s plate may all feel like they carry equal tremendous weight and that the life or death of the company may hang in the balance on the completion of each one — even if this is true, they cannot all be done at once and prioritizing the tasks is of upmost importance and entirely possible.

This is something that is often lost when you remove another employee from the process of scheduling. At large companies, when an assistant schedules tasks or commitments for a superior they are removed from the tasks themselves. All they see is time and slots to fill. On the very basic level, they can view all tasks as equal and only worth considering in regards to the amount of time it takes to get them done. Even if an executive has prioritized certain activities being removed from how the tasks impact the performance of the company makes it a pretty cut and dry scenario. You can’t do two things at once and certainly a schedule or calendar won’t allow it. Without remorse an assistant simple moves around the puzzle pieces until the day or week or month is filled up and each task has its on slot.

Small business owners and executives can learn a lot from this remorseless assignment of duties. When it feels like everything hangs in the balance it is very hard to focus on the task at hand and not consider other things on the horizon. However, too much of this approach can lead to a scenario in which an executive is trying to do everything at once, feeling like everything on the plate is so important it can’t be relegated to later. Hence, it becomes impossible to do anything.

Sometimes the best bet is to forget how important all tasks, meetings and commitments are — figure out what needs to be done, figure out a realistic schedule allowing time for each one and put the head down and blow ahead one thing at a time.

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