Getting stuff done: 8 tips to help you work more efficiently

Jane Sunley offers advice on how to manage your time effectively – and focus on the tasks that really make a difference to your business

Successful business people get things done. Successful organisations set achievable goals, write them down, roadmap the journey and then visualise again and again what it will be like once they’re there. They don’t sweat the small stuff and spend a disproportionate amount of time on the planning at the detriment of the actual doing.

Budgets, strategy and key performance indicators are important though in uncertain and fast-moving times should be viewed as guidelines rather than being outlined within an inch of their lives; they must never be allowed to quash the enthusiasm and innovation of those who are delivering the tactics to achieve these milestones.

As a start-up it is vital to get things done effectively and make the desired impact. So here are our 8 ways to reach the goals – be they around growth, bringing a new product or service to market or otherwise.

1. Know the end goal

Knowing where you are going is key for an overall big picture view for your organisation. Unless you’re a true free spirit with endless time and resource, you wouldn’t head off on your holiday without knowing where you were heading and how you were getting there; so why would you risk being uncertain with your own business? Think about what it is your business strives to do, what it is you actually do and how you plan to fill the gap.

2. Have strong strategic intent

With the world moving so fast, having a strategic five-year plan with three years’ budget and cash flow projections is almost impossible. Our take on this is to have a clear strategic intent instead. You know your end goal so now work out the non-negotiables in terms of your vision, mission, values and success. From here be flexible about the detail – change is inevitable and you will need to veer off plan. By taking this approach you’ll pick up opportunities without getting distracted from your strategic goals.

3. Have obvious goals and objectives

While taking a big picture view is a recommended approach, delivery can sometimes seem quite daunting. Therefore you need to break down your vision into manageable chunks which can be tackled a piece at a time. For this to happen, your goals and objectives must be:

… Aligned – to the big picture … Clear – so they are understood … Self-generated – provides more motivation to achieve if you set yourself … Inspiring – excitement drives motivation … Monitored – otherwise how do you know how you’re doing?

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4. Think SMARTER

The SMART concept is nothing new; however it does work – especially when setting clear goals and objectives. At learnpurple we’ve added ER to make it even more effective:

Specific – we’ll sell 100,000 rubber ducks

Measurable – gross profit will increase by 30% year-on-year

Achievable – while it’s great to have aspirations, these need to be realistic. Becoming a three Michelin star chef within the next six months is highly unlikely if you’re currently a kitchen porter.

Relevant – the goal / objective to be reached is within the remit and capabilities of the organisation and its people

Timed – our organisation will have a third franchise by 1 February 2013

Engaging – if we do this and do this well it will put us over budget next month and we can celebrate!

Reviewed – progress will be checked at quarterly periods, reviewed and the plan adapted accordingly

5. Visualisation works

There will be some sceptics among you; however visualisation really does work because it’s all about self-belief. No winning Olympic athlete thinks about losing the race, top speakers do it and so you and your people can as well. Paint a picture of success so you’re experiencing it before it even happens. This will make you perform better and achieve those goals quicker and keep the gaols in mnd for everyone.

6. Urgent vs. important

To make things happen and get stuff done you have to prioritise. Learn to think in terms of ‘urgent / important’ about everything you do.

Sometimes it’s easier or more fun to do the not urgent, not important  work, however this means you often fail to get round to the stuff that really makes a difference. Be disciplined and in the words of Nike, ‘Just do it’.

7.  Manage your time better

Google ‘time management’ and you will be met with a million and one ways on how you can be a time master. The most important factor, however, is self-discipline. Personal focus, drive and organisation make a world of difference when it comes to achievement.

We’d also recommend brain dumps – getting everything out of your head and onto a list or into a diary / calendar – you can use your brain to think, break big tasks down, be assertive about saying no, prevent interruptions and ask for help!

8. Delegate, delegate, delegate

Delegation is the art of divesting responsibility and authority of a task to another. Sometimes people don’t delegate because they believe they can do it better themselves; or they don’t want to ‘lose control’; or it’s just too much work to stop and explain and then support someone else to do the job.

By acting in this way, the individual misses out on a massive opportunity to win themselves more time, develop others, provide motivation, build trust and assist with succession planning.

To delegate effectively you should: … Define the task or responsibility to be undertaken … Decide who’s best for the job. Explain the ‘why’ and agree what a good result looks like … Set deadlines and milestones … Provide support … Leave well alone – very important … Review, feedback, celebrate and say thank you

In a start-up it may be that you do not have another person to delegate to – this is where you need to become a master of self-management by using effective time management and prioritising.

Jane Sunley is CEO of talent management specialists, learnpurple ( ), and author of people bible, Purple your People – the secrets to inspired, happy, more profitable people which can be purchased via This article is based upon chapter 15.



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