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Entrepreneurs: 6 Ways to Get Out of a Rut

As a business owner it's easy to get that "Same Stuff, Different Day" feeling: Every day you face the same frustrations, same roadblocks, same employee headaches, same problems with vendors and suppliers and, yes, even customers.

And before you know it you're in an SSDD rut.

How do you get out? It's not easy, but it can be done.

While you can't change what you do -- you still have to deal with employees and vendors and suppliers and customers -- you can change your approach.

Here are six ways to break out of your SSDD rut:

  1. Get back in the trenches. Most business owners start a business based on a passion. As the business grows, though, they spend more time working on the business than in the business. (Which is usually a good thing, but not in this case.) The more successful your business, the less time you get to spend actually doing what you love. If you're a florist with three shops, you probably spend the bulk of your time organizing and managing and firefighting and very little time creating beautiful arrangements. Take a step back and "work" for a few hours or better yet a full day. You'll start the next day recharged... and you'll remember why you love your business.
  2. Change how you measure. We all have internal measures for how we work. Some people work based on time: "I'll work on (this) for two hours." Others work based on tasks: "I'll work on this until it's finished." Others dip in and out of various tasks all day. Think about how you normally approach your day, and switch it up. If you tend to be time-based, switch to task mode: Don't stop working on a task until it's complete. If you're task-oriented, set a time limit for a task instead. Either way you'll be more productive. If you like to finish projects, setting a time limit will cause you to work smarter and harder to make sure you get done within the time allowed. If you like to work for a set period of time, forcing yourself to finish a task will make you more productive for the same reasons. And no matter what, you'll look at how you work differently.
  3. Eliminate five things. Everyone does things they don't have to. Do you really review every report employees create? (More to the point, do employees really review and act on every report you create?) Some processes no longer make sense. Some guidelines no longer make sense. Look around and find five things you can eliminate: Reports, tasks, processes... anything that falls into the category of, "Well, that's how we've always done things..." The more "stuff" you eliminate the more your day changes and the more time you free up to focus on what really matters.
  4. Delegate five things. Face it: You hang on to too much. We all do. We're convinced that some things only we can do. No one else has the skills, or the experience... or simply cares enough. Not true. Your employees can perform many tasks just as well as you can, often even better. One of your employees has outstanding interpersonal skills; let him work with a few key customers. One of your employees is so organized she makes Stephen Covey look sloppy; turn more processes over to her. Explain, train, follow up, then let go -- and give employees a chance to grow.
  5. Work with your best. I know. Twenty percent of your employees take 80% of your time. It's natural to spend more time with struggling or poor performers. It's also draining. Switch it up: Spend a few hours with your best employees. They'll appreciate the attention -- and you'll be inspired.
  6. Fire the worst. One of your employees probably needs to go: He's not just a poor performer, he's a morale killer. Or maybe one of your customers needs to go: The margins are too low and the effort is too high. Or maybe a product line needs to be cut: Doesn't sell anymore (if it ever did), takes up valuable shelf space and a big chunk of operating capital, and trying to make it a winner drains resources from every part of your business. Nagging, long-term problems lie at the heart of the SSDD syndrome. Whatever your "worst" is, let it go. It may be painful at first, but in time you'll wonder why it took you so long.
Related: Photo courtesy flickr user neoliminal, CC 2.0