Four Things in Business You Always Need to Be Thinking About

Four Things in Business You Always Need to Be Thinking About

Without clear guideposts to direct you, it’s hard to know whether or not you’re spending time on the things that matter.

You could easily be flapping away in the winds of chaos. It may look impressive, but you’re not going anywhere.

So it can be useful to have a set of guiding focuses in your business.

These areas of focus help structure your action and act as a filter for whether or not you decide to do something. They also help you achieve balance in your actions, acting as a gauge to determine when you’re lopsided and have been spending too much time and energy in one area. Regularly taking stock of how you’re spending your time helps you realign your course back to a balanced approach.

For myself, these areas are divided into four categories:

  1. Write
  2. Train
  3. Connect
  4. Optimize

These act as a reminders for me to focus on what matters most. And they bring awareness to my actions so I don’t get too imbalanced or distracted.

Here’s how I think about each one:

  1. Write. It’s pretty obvious what this means. My business is centered around writing. Nearly everything I do in my business hinges in on writing in one way or another. I write on the blog, in emails to my list, when I create a product, when I mindmap, and when I connect with others. For you, this might be something different. It may be speaking or playing guitar. This first area should be whatever your mode of creation is. For me, it’s writing. If I didn’t write, I wouldn’t have a business.
  2. Train. This area is about improving your skills. You always want to be thinking about the question: “How can I upgrade my skills? What useful things can I learn to provide my people with more value?” This might be learning how to build a highly engaged newsletter or getting some type of new coaching training. It’s a good idea in this area to focus on improving your strengths, rather than your weaknesses. You also need to think about essential skills you may need to improve to make your business more effective, like keeping better track of your finances or taking better care of your body to give you more energy in your business.
  3. Connect. Creating awesome offerings is great, but unless you connect with the right people, you won’t have an audience to share them with. In order to succeed you need to talk as much as you walk. This means being an unabashed self promoter. Your gifts need to be shared, so why not talk about them?
  4. Optimize. If training is about improving, then optimizing is about implementing. It’s about regularly reviewing and creating awareness around what you could do better, then taking action to do it. Some things aren’t as easily tracked (like trust and authenticity), but the stuff that is trackable you should monitor. Subscribers, revenue, and conversion rates are a good place to start.

Of course, there will always be some overlap in areas of focus when you’re taking action. You’ll often be connecting while you’re writing, and optimizing can often involve improving your skills.

Now, you might want to use this structure or define your own. I adapted this one from Charlie’s Three Cs, a great article to read on the subject. Hat tip to Charlie for encouraging me to start thinking about this.

I don’t get too deep into trying to tag each task or project I do in each of these areas. But you could you do that if you wanted to. For me, it’s more of a background filter that helps me answer the question: Am I doing something that’s important?

So, what do you think: Could you use something like this in your business?

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Comment & Add Your Voice

Dino Dogan January 27, 2011 at 7:10 pm

I always do one thing and one thing only. I train. I dont call it training, I call it learning but we mean the same thing.

Then everything else comes from that. If I learn something new I have a desire to share it, and so I write. Because I shared it I get to connect with people who found it useful. But the root of it was in training.

Because I train, I learn to do things better. And so I get to optimize.

So that one little thing. That training, or learning, or reading, or experiencing, or…it really takes you pretty far, dont it?

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Jasmine January 27, 2011 at 8:19 pm

Jonathan,

Thanks for the support in: Narrowing. Limiting. Focusing. Training. Fine-Tuning. All in the service of illuminating and listening!

Keep the guideposts coming…

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Dustin January 27, 2011 at 10:48 pm

I constantly ask myself “Does this activity have a direct impact on generating new business?”

It is very easy to be sucked into a void of mindless busy work that has very little impact. Taking the time to focus our thoughts is super valuable.

Nice post Jonathan! Thanks!

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Karawang Business January 28, 2011 at 5:45 am

interesting article .. according to my study of business .. thanks
best regards from Indonesia

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Katie Brandt January 28, 2011 at 6:57 am

Yes! I just started doing this in 2011. I have “4 Pillars of my Success” aka my focus. I ask myself every morning, what am I going to do to help one or more of these areas today. That way, when the day is over, I can look back and know all the work is leading me in the right direction. Thanks for another great article :-)

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Contrarian January 28, 2011 at 9:43 am

There are many techniques available to achieve a desired outcome. One that has served me well is called “Start From Zero”.

Start from zero wipes the slate clean and begins NOT with the beginning, rather it starts with the end in mind.

Imagine how you want your love ones, those you respect most, and your best friends to eulogize you at your funeral. What do you want them to say about your life? How do you want them to describe you?

Get a clear picture of the kind of business you want to have, person you want to become, parent you hope to be, etc. Then design your life and set all your goals accordingly.

This becomes your plumb-line against which you make ALL of your important life decisions.

This strategy has helped me: Keep the main thing the main thing. Ensure my actions, thoughts, and words are all congruent. Centers me on the most important things.

My 2 cents.

– Contrarian

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Tito Philips, Jnr. January 28, 2011 at 4:27 pm

This I must say is similar to what almost every entrepreneur using the internet to promote their business should be thinking about. It can be very hard at times knowing which one to focus on per time because of the pressure often associated with business. There are just so many aspects that will be contending for your limited time. I just finished reading Charlie’s blog post on the 3 goals of any business on productiveflourishing.com and learnt about the framework which we must put at the back of our mind – cashflow, opportunity and visibility. This including yours now, is a great helps us put the right things first.

Thanks for a job welldone!

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Brian Cormack Carr January 29, 2011 at 9:33 am

I like the idea of these “guiding focuses” – they’re like the legs on a table. Miss any of them off, or lean too hard on any of them, and you create imbalance. Thanks for the inspiration!

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Jessilicious January 30, 2011 at 5:04 am

Hi Jonathan!

I love this background filter – it’s a great tool to help stay focused on what really matters. I have a similar filter that I use, as well. Although admittedly, I don’t use it as often as I should! ;)

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Annabelle Beckwith January 31, 2011 at 5:58 am

Blimey, you’re so right. It’s such a challenge not to get lured away by ‘bright shiny objects’ that might look useful at first but actually don’t mean much (if anything) to your business. And once you have your list, it’s going to take a lot of self discipine to stick to it!

Annabelle B at Yara Consulting

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Brad Alexander February 1, 2011 at 1:46 am

“Without clear guideposts.” This is an intriguing thing you raise here Jonathan. We go through our entire young lives with structures in place. And we achieve things within them, like school and college etc. But when you take those things away, like starting your own business then suddenly it all becomes hard and you don’t know if you are spinning your wheels. I feel that way often, thanks for sharing your perspective.

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Mark Robertson February 1, 2011 at 6:49 am

I used to balk at the following: “In order to succeed you need to talk as much as you walk. This means being an unabashed self promoter. Your gifts need to be shared, so why not talk about them?”

I used to think self-promotion, higher education, spreading “your word” was = to ego-aggrandizement.

From your “illumined” perspective I can see that “gaining an audience” is not necessarily garnering ego-thrills. Perhaps the opposite is false-humility–just as insidious.

Even so, storytelling (and storylistening) are the finest parts of life, and often remind me why I focus.

I appreciate the focus in your articles, too. Who needs Ritalin??

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Luca February 1, 2011 at 8:03 am

The hardest part for me is the “Connect”. Being an unabashed self-promoter is definitely a challenge at this stage.
But the more positive feedback I get, the more I am encouraged the share my stuff.
It just takes longer :-)

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Mazzastick February 1, 2011 at 3:25 pm

Consistent focus and action will bring consistent results in your life. I feel that in life if we are not learning and growing, then we are dying.

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David Smith February 3, 2011 at 10:31 am

Good post, Jonathan. Writing comes first because without writing, the rest doesn’t matter. Training seems to be a natural part of researching. I fall short on connecting because my day job is 3 to 11 pm, the time when most people are online. Track as much information as possible to get feedback on your work, but drop metrics that aren’t providing useful data. Thanks for posting this.

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Mike Roberts February 3, 2011 at 6:07 pm

The challenge for me is the training (I have some kind of phobia about learning new tech stuff). I also gotta stay consistent with my writing too. and now that I think about it, I haven’t been online in like 3 months so my connecting is suffering as well.

Got to start somewhere, so my plan for now is to just be consistent.

Write every day. Connect every day. Train every day. Even if I spend 30 minutes doing each, I’m sure it will make a dent over time.

Good stuff bro, hope your liking the new digs in Portland, post some pics!

~Mike

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Nate Dodson February 4, 2011 at 1:13 pm

Unabashed self promoting eh? You NEED to check out my new blog Jonathan and hook me up with a tweet, your readers would appreciate my words.

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jonathanfigaro February 4, 2011 at 8:12 pm

When you offer people more than what others can give. You win..

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Kristina February 6, 2011 at 5:06 pm

Until recently I thought my ‘guideposts’ were my handy To Do Lists. Man, nothing felt better than putting a checkmark in my little, hand drawn box. However, after some conscious tracking, I realized my checklist was more of a distraction than a guide. I would quickly check off the easy tasks and rewrite the list before I ever checked off all the boxes.

Now I concentrate on two aspects only: writing and education. Yes, I hold a full time job which I hope to leave to start my own business, but in the meantime, I will work on these two tasks. Focused, planned steps that not only feel good but bring me closer to my ultimate goal.

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Ryan Yokome | Authentic Inspiration February 7, 2011 at 11:14 am

Love the break down on your terms. Sweet content. For me it’s about the training part for sure. What can I do to constantly upgrade my skills. Love it :)

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Note Taking Nerd #2 February 7, 2011 at 2:29 pm

This is an outstanding list Jonathan!

I love all of it but I especially gravitate toward the training part!

Being a nerd, I’m addicted to learning and I’m lucky that what I love learning about is what my audience does too.

So, this ends up fueling a ton of the content I share and makes it WAAAY easier to implement the writing step.

And optimizing is one of the smartest things any business owner could ever embrace!

With your actions coming from this short and powerful list, I expect to keep seeing your name in lights! :-)

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justinharmons July 8, 2012 at 8:04 pm

Hey Jonathan,
 
Great advice! All of these things that we do to better our businesses and outreach. I think everyone should be engaging in these four elements. I also think something could be said about ones ability to balance everything out effectively. 
I find myself spending too much time training, trying to find the best methods and resources, while my writing sometimes takes a back seat. 
Connection is definitely key!(Like I am doing now :) You can only go so far on your own, it takes other people to pull you to the finish line, metaphorically speaking.
 
Cheers,
Justin 

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