Execute or Be Executed

Breakthrough ideas, unique selling propositions, strategic insights.  Ho-hum.

Editorial calendars, email funnels, 90 day plans. Boring.

The best strategy in the world means diddly if you can’t execute it.  The coolest ideas are worthless if they are still floating around in your head.  The cleverest domains are meaningless if they feature a “coming soon” banner.  Rock solid plans mean little if they are still on paper.

One of my clients has a fantastic concept for an online workshop.  I love the idea and and eagerly await it’s launch so I can participate.  I personally think it has wide appeal and is likely very lucrative for my client.  He’s got the big idea but can’t bring it home.  Unfortunately, he’s not alone.  The entrepreneurial highway is littered with so many brilliant ideas.  That’s because executing is hard.

In fact, I think that execution is the key to business success more so than the “big idea”.  Yet, so much time, money and angst is directed toward developing concepts, brainstorming ideas and writing plans.  By comparison, very little effort is spent on execution.  Usually it’s an afterthought.

Entrepreneurs who succeed do so because they can execute.  Executing is a skill.  At it’s core, it’s formulating a plan that consists of determining what to do (and what to put on hold), when to do it and who does it. Finally, and this is key, sticking to the plan and making sure it gets done.  While it seems simple it is actually very difficult to master.

Another one of my clients hosts a podcast.  There’s no editorial plan or a content calendar because she’s more comfortable creating episodes based on what is motivating her that week.   However, she’s consistent and manages to release at least one episode per week.  Because of that she’s attracted an audience of over 10,000 subscribers.  No fancy content strategy here, just consistent execution.

Execution is critical to the success of any business.  Here are 4 tips for better execution.

Tip #1: Under Commit

Back off trying to do everything.  Often stuff doesn’t get done is there’s too much stuff to do.  If there is only one project on the to-do list, what do you think will happen?  It will probably get done, right?  

Try this radical experiment.  Determine the top priority for your business; what’s the one project that that will have the most impact on your business.  Commit to that project and only that project like your life depends on it.  Then move onto Tip # 2.

Tip #2: Over Schedule

Another reason stuff doesn’t get done is there isn’t enough time.  Here’s how to have more time, make an assumption of how long it takes for a particular task or project and then double it.  Block out the specific date and time on your calendar to complete the task or project.

If you think it takes you 2 hours to write a blog post, schedule 4 hours.   By overestimating you give yourself a better chance of completing the tasks and projects.  Before you say this won’t work, quickly employ Tip #3.

Tip #3: Brain on Autopilot

Now that you are focused on one project and the necessary tasks to complete this project are over-scheduled in your calendar, you will start experiencing some execution success.  Tasks will be completed and you will see your project starting to move forward.  You are feeling like a star!

After a few days of this, I can promise you, the monkey brain will make it’s appearance and start questioning your plan.   It innocently inquires if this the right project, after all.  Perhaps, the monkey brain prods you to wonder if your target market is too saturated after seeing a course offered that is the exact same as one you are developing.  Or maybe it realizes that writing blog posts truly isn’t in your zone of genius after all.  And voila, your plans start to come unraveled.

Your big, beautiful brain is often the culprit in execution failure.  It’s trying to be helpful but really it’s getting in the way.   There’s only one way to solve this.  Once you create your plan, switch your brain to autopilot and laser focus on finishing the project at hand.   To maintain autopilot mode, it’s crucial you implement Tip #4.

Tip #4: Find an Executioner

To keep your brain on autopilot and stay on target with your plan, you need someone to hold you accountable. Otherwise, it’s too easy to stray off course.  In the corporate world this is usually a boss or a manager.  In the free flying world of entrepreneurship, accountability partners fill this role.  The tricky part with an accountability partner is they need the means to ensure you execute.

My commitment is to publish weekly.  I’m in Todd Herman’s 90 day year program and my accountability partner is Farrah.  Lucky for me she is a sword practitioner so if I don’t execute, I’ll be executed!

I’m also putting my bank account on the block as well.  To insure I meet my goal, I’m giving $10 Farrah each time I don’t publish.  I chose $10 because it’s small enough that I will pay her but it’s enough to annoy me.  I’ve added a kicker because while $10 will bug me, I know myself, if I’m busy, I can deal with paying out the $10.

However, this minor amount potentially sets me up for a bad pattern.  Shelling out $10, even for a few weeks won’t kill me.  Hence, I’ve added a kicker. If I miss a week then the price doubles.  $10 a week yeah, I can deal with that but $20, then $40 and possibly $80; I’ll definitely get back on the publishing track fast.

Don’t have sword wielding executioner readily available?  A paid professional who utilizes appointments and deadlines is an option for accountability.  I’ve done this with great success for a creative writing endeavor.  I hired a writing coach, Kristy, who gives me assignments that are due at our next meeting.  My homework is always complete (albeit sometimes at the last minute) because I don’t want to spend our meeting (for which I’ve paid good money) discussing why I didn’t complete my assignment.  I want to use the time to gain feedback and move my project forward.

Another strategy is to use website such as Stickk.com.  Created by behavioral economists, Stickk provides an online framework for goal setting and the systems to create financial and social incentives in order to meet those goals.

Try it out.  Commit to one action, over schedule it, switch your brain to autopilot, and then find someone to kick your butt if you don’t do it.

Be brave and execute.

P.S. Let me know what you are committing to and how you are going to build in accountability.  I’d love to hear your ideas.


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