Stop Working IN Your Business and Start Working ON Your Business

It’s the dilemma of every entrepreneur or small business owner – you’re so caught in the tangled weeds of running your business that you cannot seem to find the time to proactively manage your business. Forgive the mixed metaphor, but you’re too busy chopping trees to stop and sharpen your axe. So, how do you extract yourself from the day-to-day tactical items and transition to thinking more strategically…or maybe the holy grail – THINKING ABOUT THE VISION FOR THE BUSINESS.

Having run my own business for several years, as well as running businesses for others, I can tell you it’s not easy. There is always a tendency to gravitate toward “doing” when things aren’t going ideally or things get busy. But it’s very important to have time in “planning” and “strategizing” modes. So, here are my business tips to stop working IN your business and start working ON your business:


Prioritization seems so obvious, I’m almost embarrassed to write it. But, I’m not talking about having to-do lists and a calendar. I’m talking about real organization. For example, I use the Eisenhower Decision Matrix to sort through my emails. My email, which is critical part of my business management, is kept so that emails are dealt with immediately and sorted based on priority. Emails are removed from the inbox and sorted based on their level of importance and priority. Not every email requires an immediate response and if it takes more than 30 seconds to respond, it gets sorted by priorities to be worked through in the day. Items that are URGENT get dealt with immediately (HERE’S A SECRET – THE MORE YOU PLAN AND GET ORGANIZED, THE FEWER URGENT/EMERGENCY THINGS YOU’LL FIND CROPPING UP). The point is not that you have to use my system, but use a system that works and stick with it.

I don’t just prioritize emails. I also prioritize tasks. I use a task management software called Trello, which you can get for free. Trello allows you to prioritize lists, color code them by importance, assign due, dates and even assign tasks. Which brings me to my next tip…


I have, at various times in my career, found myself doing tasks that others should be doing because I think that they don’t do them the way I would. I think it may be my OCD that causes this. The reality is, if my employees can’t do a task well enough, it’s my fault for not training and mentoring them properly. This is a big sticking point for a lot of folks especially small business owners. Sometimes you do tasks because you don’t want to pay someone else to do them. But the question you have to ask yourself is: How do you value your time? What would it be worth to you if you could focus on the things that could grow your business 20 or even 30%?

In order to scale you’ve got to be able to delegate responsibilities to others. You can’t be everywhere and do everything. It’s a surefire recipe for burnout!


The age old saying is: Plan your work, then work your plan. It’s very important that you plan what you’re going to get done in your week/month/quarter/year. Task lists are good but they’re not big picture. You need to block off time on your calendar to think and plan. Block off time on your calendar to do short and long-term planning. What are your objectives for the quarter? What are the things you need to get done each month to make them happen? What are the things you need to do each day to reach your objectives? Having a quarterly objective that you write down and review often greatly increases your likelihood of getting it done.

One thing you have to think about is: what do you need to do to plan? Do you need to schedule someone to cover the business while you’re planning? What things do you need to have at hand to plan (ANOTHER SECRET – IF YOU NEED YOUR MONTHLY FINANCIALS TO DO FINANCIAL PLANNING, HAVE THEM IN ADVANCE SO YOU DON’T GET BOGGED DOWN IN TACTICS LIKE PRINTING OUT FINANCIAL REPORTS – you know how this goes, oh, I’m out of ink, I’ll just run to Staples; three hours later, you still haven’t done your planning).

Make a conscious, concerted effort to elevate yourself. Stop working IN the day-to-day minutia of your business and start working ON the vision and strategy that will take your business to the next level! It’s not easy and it won’t happen overnight, but it can happen if you give it your full effort and attention.

Karin Jakovljevic

About the author

Karin Jakovljevic

Karin Jakovljevic is the head of marketing at Ximble, a powerful, cloud-based workforce management system, simplifying employee scheduling and time tracking for retailers, restaurants and small businesses.

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