This Framework Will Make You Crazy Effective as an Entrepreneur
"Efficiency is doing things the right way, effectiveness is doing the right things." - Peter Drucker
Ergo, being effective as an Entrepreneur is all about making good decisions about WHAT to focus on — as a founder, as a leader and as a company.
This demands a set of powerful decision making principles that are based on the company’s vision, goals, strengths, performance and strategy as well as a a high level of mental clarity. I like to call the interplay of these 3 factors the Triangle of Effectiveness.
All 3 factors (decision making principles, information and mental clarity) are required to decide on the high priority tasks and projects for your company and yourself as a founder. But the factors are interrelated too: gathering the necessary information is required to apply decision making principles and mental clarity is demanded for both applying decision making principles as well as gathering information. In turn, gathering information and using decision making principles increases mental clarity.
Here is the detailed walk-through of the framework:
If being effective means doing the right things, how do you actually decide what these things are? Applying a clear set of principles simplifies one of the greatest challenges of Entrepreneurs: Prioritisation.
When evaluating whether or not to do a project and how to prioritise it, go through this checklist of decision principles. In order to be effective, every task, project or meeting should tick off the following boxes:
Aligned with your vision: Anything you do should be in harmony with the company’s vision and values as well as your personal goals. How else can you make sure that what you are working on is actually important to you and the company?
Goal related: This sounds like a no-brainer, but it is really not. Your primary focus should be on doing the things that have a direct impact on your top goals.
First things first: Don’t just pick the project that is somewhat related to your top goal, pick the one that has the highest impact on it. This might be a task that makes other tasks faster, easier or even obsolete. Here are some examples: learning and research, hiring and delegating, planning and strategising.
Aligned with strengths & core competences: If you are doing the things you love and are good at, you will automatically be more effective in your work. The same goes for your company. Distribute responsibilities among your team according to strengths, as well as align your strategies with your company’s core competence.
Important, not just Urgent: The most effective tasks can be found in quadrant II of the Urgent-vs.-Important Matrix. Spending 80% of your time in quadrant II will allow you to pro-actively work on new opportunities and high-leverage projects instead of spending all your time reacting to pressing issues and other people’s needs. To do that, eliminate, decrease or delegate quadrant III and IV work and focus on quadrant II work as soon as the urgent issues from quadrant I are resolved. The more quadrant II work you are able to do, the less quadrant I work will occur in your business and life.
Applying these decision making principles can greatly increase the effectiveness of your work — but only if you have the necessary information to apply these principles in the first place. Thus, make sure to have the following things always clearly defined and documented:
Personal Values & Mission: Knowing your purpose and clearly defining your personal values and goals is essential for aligning your work with your own priorities which in turn greatly impacts your motivation, perseverance and ability to make effective decisions.
Company’s Vision & 12-, 6-, 3-Month Planning: Working effectively means doing the things that will actually get you the desired result. But unless you know what that result should be, nothing you do will be effective. To define the desired results on every level (company, teams and individuals), you need to start with the end in mind: Where do you want your company to be in 3 to 5 years? What is the ultimate vision? And from there, subsequently define your yearly, quarterly, monthly plan & strategy. My advice: Do quarterly or half-yearly strategy meetings where you (and your team) review and adjust the company’s vision and set the direction for the upcoming months including crystal-clear deliverables for everyone involved.
Monthly & Weekly Goals: Clearly defining and communicating monthly and weekly goals on all levels (company, teams and individuals) is an absolute must. Block time in your calendar for planning your month and week, as well as schedule meetings with your direct reports to discuss their respective objectives.
Personal Strengths & Corporate Core Competencies: Getting crystal clear about everyone’s strengths, skills and experience and their respective roles is crucial to a highly effective organisation. The same goes for your company as a whole — don’t waste resources on products or markets outside of your core competency to avoid severe competitive disadvantages. Build up the competency first by working with partners or hiring the expertise in house.
Performance Tracking: How can you judge your effectiveness if you don’t know whether the things you do are actually working or not? Defining the desired outcome is one thing but actually setting suitable metrics and tracking the progress towards that outcome is another. Hence, for the sake of efficiency, attach every goal to one or more clear KPIs that you can look at on a weekly basis the effectiveness of your actions. Make sure that your team knows about their respective KPIs and has access to them as well. This will allow you to set specific hypothesis about which strategies will get you to your goal and allows you to tweak them as you go.
Being able to think clearly is the very basis for making good decisions — not only in business but also in life. The better you are able to continually sustain a mental peak state, the better your decisions will be. Here is what you need for achieving and maintaining mental peak state:
A well rested body: Sleep deprivation leads to impaired memory, increased levels of stress hormones and a significant decrease in your mental ability to focus. Furthermore, your desire towards rewards is elevated which may lead to impulsive decisions. Prioritise sleep and take the time to properly recharge on weekends.
A well nourished body: Food coma, brain fog, digestive issues and lack of energy are not the best partners to make effective decisions and do great work. What and how you eat has a tremendous impact on your body and mind. I personally recommend the following for optimal mental capacity: Cut down the foods that you are intolerant and sensitive too (for me that’s gluten, dairy, yeast and sodas) and eat 3–5 small meals throughout the day. Thereby focus on fresh, unprocessed vegetables, healthy fats, protein, fruits and complex carbs and avoid refined sugar, processed foods and too much caffeine or other stimulants.
A calm mind: Chronic stress and anxiety are poison for your mind. Calm your Monkey Mind with stillness practices like meditation, deep breathing, yoga, reading and walking in nature.
A focused mind: Distraction and overwhelm are the antidote to mental clarity. Block out time for focused work and thinking. Turn off notifications and keep your work space free of clutter.
An conscious mind: Being aware of what you and the people around need and how they feel is vital for good decisions. Practice checking in with yourself multiple times a day to practice self awareness and develop your intuition. When with others, try to be fully present, listen actively and observe body language to pick up on between-the-lines signals from your team.
Being effective as an Entrepreneur is all about making good decisions about what to focus on. The triangle of effectiveness is a framework that can help you prioritise projects in your company as well as your own tasks by looking at all 3 aspects of prioritising well: mental clarity, sufficient context information and decision principles.