Seeing Above The Trees
I’m on a small island in the middle Lake Nicaragua. It’s formed from 2 volcanoes that stretch up into the sky and dominate the horizon.
This island is covered in jungle. In order to get between the restaurants, the beds, the main road or anywhere else you need to weave through the trees on small paths. I got lost in the dark the night I arrived. I was going in the totally wrong direction many times! During the day you never get much a view.
They’ve built a platform called ‘El Mirador’ that elevates you about 30ft in the air. From the platform, you can see exactly where you are on the island. The lake, the treetops and 2 volcanoes are beautiful to admire.
After you climb ‘El Mirador’ you know exactly where you are.
Working In The Jungle
I’ve been putting in a lot of hours since arriving. I’m talking with team members, (Click here if you want to join us and learn e-commerce) jumping on calls with investors, watching daily sales, adjusting advertising campaigns, and managing inventory. It’s exciting and exhausting.
Sometimes working on the business feels like walking through a dense jungle. It’s easy to get swept up in urgent tasks and forget the vision and long-term goals. Sometimes you can’t see the forest through the trees and you're not sure which decision to make.
Just like on the island, I need to climb up El Mirador to see the big picture for my business. Otherwise I’ll wander in circles without a clue where I’m going.
Here’s the steps I’ve been taking to climb a mental El Mirador. It helps me stay on track. They only take a few minutes so try them out for yourself.
1. Clearly Define Your Long-Term Goals.
Re-write your your 5 and 10 year goals on a new piece of paper. (If you don’t have any, brainstorm what they might be for a few minutes!)
These goals go beyond strictly business goals. They should be ‘life’ goals.
I run an e-commerce business selling products on the internet. The types of questions I asked myself are…
Do I really want to run an e-commerce business?
Is this the change I want to make in the world?
Will this business still be viable in 10 - 20 years?
Can this business model really allow me to reach my long-term financial goals?
For now I’m avoiding the day-to-day questions I usually ask like “Should I invest in this product?”, “Should I run this advertising campaign?” and “Should I re-do these marketing images?”
The big questions help you see where you really want to go. Is your goal to reach the beautiful volcano? Do you want to swim in the beautiful beaches on the lake?
2. Clearly Define The Daily Tasks You Actually Do
Write out all the things you do for your business. Think of everything.
Without being too thorough, I created a list of about 15 items. Included in this list was…
Answering customer service complaints.
Managing re-orders with suppliers.
Tweaking advertising campaigns.
I also included these three items…
Researching new products to sell.
Helping the team learn how to launch products independently.
Talking with potential investors.
Write out your own list. Try to be as thorough as possible, but it shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes to remember most of the big tasks that take most of your time.
3. Compare Your Long-Term Goals And Daily Tasks
Look at your two lists. Do they align?
Growth (Increased revenue and profits) is one of my core business goals. I went down my list of daily tasks and labeled them as either ‘Maintenance’ or ‘Growth’ tasks.
It helped clarify that the first group of tasks I mentioned above were ‘Maintenance’ tasks, while the second group were ‘Growth’ tasks that would actually get me closer to my goals.
This exercise helps clarify what you probably already know, but are probably not taking action on. Writing it all down makes it real, just like how a written map helps you cut through the jungle.
4. Review Your List Frequently
How often do you check your GPS when you’re going somewhere you’ve never been? I check mine almost continually.
During the days and weeks after doing this exercise, checking the list daily will help you stay on course.
You will be more aware of when you’re wasting time after this exercise. You will know if what you’re doing is a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ task. (‘Maintenance’ or ‘Growth’ in my case) Naturally, you will focus more on important tasks and move in the right direction more rapidly.
Try This Exercise Now (For Just 5-10 Minutes)
Grab a clean sheet of paper and a pen.
Brainstorm your goals for 1, 5, and 10 years. (You can change them, just write something that feels right.)
Write down the day-to-day tasks you do for your business.
Label each day-to-day task as ‘beneficial’ or ‘detrimental’ depending on how much they move you towards your long-term goals.