How to grow your business by focusing on your ‘killer’ activities

Successful freelancers and entrepreneurs know there are certain ‘killer’ activities that they do that significantly outperform all other activities in their business; and by focusing on these activities they can significantly boost revenue growth.

Indeed the Pareto Principle, an observation where 20% of the input creates 80% of the result, is often cited to demonstrate the ineffectiveness of many of the tasks that we allocate our time towards each day.

Knowing this is one thing, but putting it into practice is another and this guide looks at the process of identifying your killer activities, so that you can make them a core component of your daily working schedule.

Identifying your killer activities

To begin with you’ll probably have an intuitive idea of what works and what doesn’t, so it makes sense to explore the things you are currently doing and refine your focus on the areas that deliver the best outcomes.

The first step is to take stock of where you are spending your time and to determine how effective you think the different activities are.

Personal finance experts recommend creating budgets to track expenditure and the same approach can be used for productivity (the simple difference being time as the the unit of currency).

Start by keeping a daily log of the activities you are spending your time on. The longer you maintain the log, the more useful the data will be, but you’ll probably see some patterns emerging after a week or two.

Also rather than trying to capture every single activity that you do, try to group similar activities into categories, such as:

  • Product development
  • Writing proposals and tenders
  • Social media marketing
  • Improving customer service
  • Procuring stock
  • Line managing colleagues
  • Finance and accounts

Once you’ve collected your data, you can begin to assess the effectiveness of each category by considering the outcomes. Ideally you should use tangible metrics for your outcomes, such as:

  • Amount of revenue / profit generated
  • Amount of money saved
  • Number of new customers gained
  • Reduction in customer churn

Or problems that are prevented, such as:

  • Stopping the tax man from chasing me
  • Ensuring suppliers are paid on time

A simple table like this can be used to document your assessment:

Activity table

The next step is to place your activities into one of the boxes on this grid:

Impact grid

Activities that cannot be delegated are those that either require some specialist experience or a personal relationship that only you possess, making delegation too risky; or they could be activities that are too expensive to outsource, making the delegation non-cost-effective.

Realistically any activities in the ‘Low impact and cannot delegate’ box are not worth progressing any further and should be stopped, enabling time for other activities.

Activities in the ‘Low impact and can delegate’ box need to be considered carefully, because outsourcing and delegation still require your time to oversee, so only the highest impact activities should be considered.

‘High impact and can delegate’ activities are golden, as they give you the ability to scale your business by bringing in new staff or outsourcing to contractors. Remember too, that some activities will be mandatory (such as financial reporting, tax or payroll), so they cannot be ignored.

And finally ‘High impact, but cannot delegate’ activities are the best candidates to design into your working day. These are effectively your personal killer activities and you should schedule time to do these activities on a daily basis.

Experimenting to find new killer activities

Having gotten yourself into the position where you know what the two or three activities that make the most difference to your business are and then worked to ensure these activities are built into your daily routine, there is a second step in the process and that is optimising to find even more effective activities.

Say for example you’ve been trying to grow an audience on a social media network and that audience has resulted in a small handful of new business leads each month. This would be considered a good result, but what if you could put that same time and money into a different marketing strategy, could you double the number of leads you generate?

It could work, but you would need to test it and the trick is to be very strategic and scientific in your approach, so that you are not just randomly trying out different ideas or wasting time on things that are not going to help you meet your long-term goals.

Strategic experimentation starts with an ideas backlog, which you can add to as and when you think of new activities.

Having collected a group of ideas into your backlog, the experimentation process follows these steps:

  • Assess candidate ideas – review each idea for strategic fit and determine why you think it would be successful.
  • Create a plan to trial the idea – having selected an idea, work out a plan for testing it and measuring the outcomes.
  • Implement and evaluate – put your plan into action and set a reasonable timeline for evaluation.
  • Adopt, modify or drop – If the new activity appears successful then stick with it for longer and eventually adopt it as one of your killer activities; or if it is not going as well as you would have hoped, try modifying it and re-testing; and if it turns out to be real waste of time, then just drop it and try the next activity on your backlog.

Challenge: Can you design your working day to focus on your killer activities?

Ideally you’d focus all your time on two or three of your most important activities, but even if you can only free up half your working day to focus on your killer activities, you’ll still be able to clock twenty hours or more a week on the things that have the most impact, rather than wasting time on non-essential emails or task that could be easily outsourced.

So start now by keeping a log of what you are doing and use it to optimise where you invest your precious time and energy.

Good luck 🙂