And stop running at full speed just to stay in place.

Murtaza Manji
Murtaza Manji is an award-winning Business Coach and the founder of Kaizen Consulting - the first ActionCOACH firm in the Middle East. In the last 6 years, he has worked with over 400 CEOs, Directors and Business Owners from 15+ industries in Dubai and London to achieve higher profits, greater productivity from their teams, and sustainable growth by creating efficient systems and structures.

Last month, I touched on ways to get off your hamster wheel. And as this long year draws to a close, here are two more tips to get yourself shooting forward in the new year.

Differentiate between ‘busy’ and ‘productive’

The first, and perhaps most important thing to do is distinguish between what is keeping you ‘busy’ and what you are working on that is ‘productive.’ Anything that is the latter is probably the former—if it’s helping growth in some way, it’s worth dedicating the time to it and focusing on it. But is ‘busy’ always ‘productive’? Based on the hundreds of clients I’ve asked this question to: No. In fact, it’s sometimes (usually!!) the opposite. After all, what usually keeps you busy? The regular, day-to-day, running the business stuff. What will help you grow? Doing something different, something you haven’t done before.

To see how your time is being utilized, track it for a week or two. Catch yourself when you fall into the ‘busy-but-not-productive’ zone. If I may be allowed to make a prediction: once you get into the habit of staying productive and not just busy, tasks that don’t support growth in any way will bug you, then annoy you, and then no longer be graced with your limited—and precious—time and attention. And the best part? You’ll probably end up working fewer hours too!

Focus on one (growth) initiative per quarter

One major reason why the ‘hamster wheel’ scenario is so common is that it is almost the default route that many businesses take. What I mean by that is, once the company has grown from being in the red to a level where it is surviving, the sense of urgency for further growth diminishes. Now, the ‘if we keep doing what we’re doing now, we’ll always be ok’ mindset may begin to set in, and focus is not sinking, rather than growth. In a perfect world, this would be fine too. 

In the real world, it’s not; unexpected issues crop up, a team member performance drops, clients don’t pay on time, suppliers are late, legislation changes, new taxes mean higher costs, and on it goes. Now, to stay in the same place, you need to run faster…and faster. And it gets exhausting.

Perhaps the best way to overcome this mental plateau is to be creating new, quick-implementation-high-impact targets constantly. These could be either very short (90 days) or short (6-9 months) growth-focused goals, and they will help the business to focus on becoming better consistently. 

This quarter it could be reducing collection days from 95 to 85, next quarter could be implementing a feedback system, or getting a better overview of material usage. A 6-month goal could be bringing finance costs down by 2%, or you leaving the office at 5:30 instead of 7:30.

The goal of the suggestions above is to stop the default becoming your norm. Let others work hard; you work smart. Let the competitors struggle to keep up; you get your golf game in every week. And let everyone else be short of time when you have plenty.

To your success.

This is the second part of the series “How to get off your hamster wheel” by Murtaza Manji.

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