One of the common refrains you’ll here in business, is that you need to work “on the business rather than in the business.” For many small business owner operators this is a challenge because of all the other needs involved in running a business. It’s the tyranny of the urgent, where what is most pressing overshadows what’s most important. One of the methods I’ve developed to combat this is with two lines.

My week starts with planning and thinking. In that process, I reconnect to the larger goals I have for the business. For me, these take the form of 6 week objectives that support annual goals.

In my journal, I draw two horizontal lines.

Under the left line I put the projects that support delivering value to our clients. These are operational needs. They’re functions that at some level of growth I would hire for. They’re “working in the business.”

Under the right line I put the internal projects that support our 6 week objectives. These are the “working on the business” items.

I use these two lists to answer the question, “What would make this an exceptional week?”

This frame puts our objectives on at least equal footing as all the noise in the business. It corrects my attention by moving it beyond the squeaky wheels to the activities that will matter.

That doesn’t mean I never choose to focus a week on operational activity. Just that when I do, it’s a strategic choice that accounts for the cost in lost momentum.

If you run into trouble keeping focused on what matters, this two line planning method can pull you back on track. It’s not fancy, but it’s easy to implement and works. The gold standard in my book.

Featured image is my journal from yesterday, when I started this week.