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How to actually execute your to-do list [PODCAST]


PreneurCast is a marketing + business podcast. Each week, author and marketer Pete Williams and digital media producer Dom Goucher discuss entrepreneurship, business, internet marketing and productivity.

This week, Pete talks to Dom about how important it is to focus on the tasks in your business where you add most value, and handing off the rest to someone else. They also talk about the mindset you need to adopt to make this happen.

Pete talks to Dom about what you need to focus on your business and outsource the rest

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Episode 068:
Getting Things Done, But Not Doing Them Yourself

Dom Goucher: Hello, everybody and welcome to this week’s edition of PreneurCast with me, Dom Goucher and him, Pete Williams.

Pete Williams: Hi, buddy! How are you?

Dom: Pretty good! Pretty good. A little bit of a special show this week.

Pete: It’s a little bit different. Yeah, we’re actually recording this. I’m in Florida, not Australia. It’s always like a bi-border show generally. You’re in Spain. I’m in Australia, but I’m Florida this time.

Dom: Excellent! And we’re going to get straight into this because I understand you’re actually live on air right now?

Pete: I am. I’m actually doing a livestream to Rich Schefren’s client base and audience showing how my work day works. We’ve spoken about how I manage all my staff on the PreneurCast podcast before and in previous episodes, which people can get at preneurmedia.tv. Show notes and lots of other stuff, we leave there. But we’re doing this live. So, I’ve got an audience for the very first time, which is kind of cool, mate.

Dom: Pretty cool! But a little bit scary for me. I’m not the public figure that you are. So, we’ll get right into it. Now, this week, I’ve got a big question for you. This is a big one.

A lot of people are out there and they’ve all got a lot of things in their life that they want to get done. We’re a big, big fan of David Allen’s book Getting Things Done. Getting Things Done is about – well, Getting Things Done. The implication is that you do it, but one of the things that you’re really good at is actually Getting Things Done without doing them.

Pete: Yes.

Dom: I just wondered if you could talk about that for a little bit.

Pete: Yeah, cool! Well, that’s a good topic for the show. I think part of what we spoke about prior to the show is making the topic how to get things done without doing anything. So, I guess as business owners, whether you’ve got an online business or a retail store or a telco like me or ecommerce sites, whatever it might be in your business, you as the business owner and entrepreneur should be focused on the outcome.

You should be worried about actually getting the result for your business, not actually doing the things yourself. That’s the overall context. We always talk about context at the start of the show. I really want to delve into that element of why that’s important, what the difference is from a mindset shift. Does that work?

Dom: Yeah. It’s connected to what we talked about before about looking at the core task of your business versus the mechanics of actually doing them. But it’s all well and good to talk about that, but I think there’s a mindset about actually implementing it. That’s exactly where I’m hoping you’re going to comment with this.

Pete: I think people have heard the topic before. You want to work on your business, not in your business. I guess this is another way of talking about the same sort of philosophy. So many people when they start a business, what they’re doing is they actually sort of go into it and they’re actually generally like a mechanic, you’re doing an apprenticeship, you’re a baker, you’re a car mechanic, an automotive sort of job, whatever it might be, you make it as an apprenticeship.

You know how to do the tools, you know how to do the mechanics, but you open up a door on your own business and it’s like hang on, to grow a business, you don’t need to actually necessarily worry about doing the core elements of getting under the hood of the car and fixing the motor or in an online business scenario, uploading the podcast.

We’ve spoken about this on the show before that I don’t upload the podcast to the website or to iTunes or anything like that because there’s no real value for me doing that as a business owner, as a contributor to PreneurCast. It’s better off that my time is spent adding value doing the core element and that is for me talking to you like this in the show and making sure that the actual podcast gets up on the site, that it is in iTunes, that there are show notes created. That’s the difference. It’s like making sure that stuff gets done, but not actually doing it myself.

Dom: Yeah. And it’s a huge change as you say. So many people get caught in this trap of when they start a business, they very often start it about something that they’re already skilled at. And so, they just carry on doing that job. It’s a natural thing to do. But if you want to grow the business, you want to scale, you absolutely can’t.

I think some people find it hard to let go. We’ve said this before. You know how I like my little phrases and one of them is just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

Pete: Yeah, you’re absolutely right! I guess I’ve been really lucky that with the telco company as we’ve spoken about in previous episodes, myself and my business partners in that company, we still have no idea of how to install a phone system.

I try to do it with most of my businesses. I deliberately go into places that I don’t know how to do the mechanics because it forces me to just focus on the sales marketing. That’s what drives a business. It’s basically sales and marketing. It’s traffic and conversions. Whether it’s foot traffic or web traffic, whether it’s online conversions or people opening their wallet in the retail store, that is actually what drives the business.

The actual delivery of the actual product itself needs to be good. You have to have a good product. That’s just inevitable. But you don’t have to yourself worry about that sort of stuff. You need to be worried about the core elements of sales and marketing. That’s what really drives a business that we’ve spoken about numerous times on the show.

Dom: Yeah, that’s absolutely right that there’s so much. If you actually stand back and look at the business side of a business, there are so many things that you need to do just to keep the business running. You’ve always got to isolate yourself from product or from delivery in order to get that part of the business done.

And as you say (that’s a great example you give there), you actually consciously not chose businesses to get into that you’re not involved in the doing. You’re involved in the business’ strategy, the marketing, the sales, the traffic, all of those important things from a strategy point of view.

That’s a great opportunity if you can get there, but I think a lot of people are already in the mechanics trap as it were. What would you say to somebody or what kind of things can we help people with to first of all change the mindset and kind of start getting out of that situation?

Pete: Before we get to that part, I’m going to try and answer that question a bit differently like I often do to you on the show, dude. Look, it’s really quite strange. If you look at a traditional business like a retail store or even a manufacturing company or something in the real world (which I know all of our listeners to the podcast actually have) is that what they’re doing is they know that they can’t do marketing.

They can’t do math to a certain extent. They actually outsource that sort of stuff. Not really overseas outsourcing in that context, but finding an accountant or a bookkeeper locally to do that sort of stuff. One of the things that continually surprises me as we grow our audience from the online world who have online businesses, for whatever reason, they seem to think they have to do everything in their business as online business owners.

They have to worry about the marketing and the traffic and the content creation and the uploading. You wouldn’t do your own sign writing in your real world retail store. You’d find somebody who’s a sign writer and do that. You wouldn’t go and learn how to actually paint the for sales sign or learn how to actually design the business cards and print them yourself in the real world.

For some weird reason in the online space, I seem to find that normal people feel like they need to know how to do the YouTube uploading, how to do the submission of podcast to iTunes. They feel they need to know all that sort of stuff. This is something we’ve talked about quite a bit. It’s trying to bridge that gap between traditional business ownership and the processes people go through to meet online business ownership and the processes people go through

Dom: Yeah! And I think really you’ve kind of come right away back to my little phrase because just because you can doesn’t mean you should really does apply in this online world because it’s becoming so accessible. Creating a website is relatively easy these days. It can be done literally at the press of a button. Uploading to YouTube gets easier every day for you to do it.

So, the temptation is actually growing. What people might see as a skilled job like sign writing or bookkeeping, the financial side of things, people are happy to let go of that and leave that to the experts, but they’re getting sucked into these jobs, aren’t they?

Pete: Yeah! I guess the mindset shift that you talked about earlier is that what people have to do is start realizing that all the successful businesses whether they’re online or offline are fundamentally growing by people working on their business, not in there and letting go of some things and not having to know how to actually do the YouTube upload knowing what the outcome looks like.

I know if the video has been successfully uploaded to YouTube because I can go to YouTube and see it there live. I know when the podcast has been edited and loaded to iTunes. I know when a blog post has been posted to the blog because I can go and see it. I don’t necessarily need to even know, care or want to know how to actually log in and post to blog post because I focus on writing the blog post or producing the core element of the blog post and then, having my team actually upload it.

Again, with accounting, I don’t know how to do debits and credits necessarily. I know what a balance sheet and profit & loss statement looks like. In the telco or the ecommerce sites or the outdoor store that I’ve got, I can just look at the financial statement and know that it’s in there. That’s the result. I can make analysis on that. I don’t sit there and actually ponder those details in because there’s no value that I’m adding to that process. The value I add is by looking at the outcome, assessing that and deciding what to do with that.

Dom: Absolutely. So, really, the first thing I guess to lock that mindset in is that observation. Where is the value? Where do you bring the value and where does you being involved not add any value? Is that right? It’s kind of the same?

Pete: That’s exactly right. We had this episode a few weeks back about Core vs. Mechanics. This is an extension of that. Any sort of element of a business, whether it’s a high level process or a particular small tactic, as the business owner and entrepreneur, you should work out what is the core stuff that you deliver or bring to the table for that. And then, what is the mechanic elements that you personally add no value to? That’s where you start leveraging your time and leveraging your team and leveraging tools and systems to do that stuff for you.

So, going back to an online example, things like the podcast or even just writing a blog post, one thing that you want to worry about, what you add to that is actually the theory, the arguments, the examples, your experience, your history into the core element of the actual article. The physical, i.e. cutting out the uhms and ahs and making the paragraphs actually be articulate and using the right type of English, UK vs. American, all that sort of stuff is just the mechanic elements of writing an article. I don’t personally add any value to that.

I’m Bill Gates’ student in that I love spell-check. I can’t talk. I can’t speak correctly because I’ve been brought up with Microsoft. For the Apple business out there, you probably love that, do you? That’s what I focus on – my experience, my expertise, not the formatting of the actual article itself. So, that’s the core element there. In business, that’s the other side of things that we’re doing, as well, worrying about stuff where I can actually add value and not the mechanical side of things, too.

Dom: People might say, “Oh, it’s well and good for you to say that, Pete. You stand outside and you look at a new business.” But I know something about you. We talked about this a little bit in Core vs. Mechanics. I know you’re actually capable of doing some of these online tasks yourself. I know you know a lot. People may not know this about you, but you know a lot about, for example, AdWords.

You can produce your own videos if you really want to and sometimes, you do and you do that for a particular reason, but it’s a conscious decision. You really have got yourself out of that by hiring people or finding people that can perform those point tasks when they need doing.

So, we’ve talked a lot about why. We told people why it’s not a good idea to be involved in these mechanical tasks first of all, in the Core vs. Mechanic show, but again, now from a bigger business standpoint. But I’m really interested in the what. What can people do first of all to shift their mindset and then, to just take a step.

This is the thing, people look at what we’re saying – and I know there’s probably people listening to this show now wherever they are because people listen walking the dog, washing the dishes, whatever – and they’re going, “Hey! It’s alright! You’re Pete Williams. You can hire anybody you want. Any time you want, just go hire somebody. Hey! Wow!”

I think a lot of people are afraid of this idea of, first of all, letting go of control and second of all, the difficulty that they perceive in hiring. I guess if you’ve never done this, the idea of hiring is – say, if somebody has ever gone for a job interview, then they may be equating that job interview experience that they had with the trying to get somebody to do a job for them, yeah?

Pete: Yeah.

Dom: Is there something we can talk about around that because I think that’s a big fear for people.

Pete: I think what you need to start out with this is hiring expert people for the actual task we need. Using the sign writer example that we spoke about earlier, what you’re wanting to do is find a sign writer who’s had experience in sign writing and hire them. You’re not going to go and buy the paint and speak to the guy at the local hardware store and work out what you need to do yourself.

So, if we take this in an online perspective (which I think is where you’re heading with that question) is that you go to places that have a plethora of people wanting to do jobs they’re experienced in.

Say, AdWords account. I used to do AdWords for some of my businesses initially just because of resource restriction. But now, I’ll find someone who can do AdWord and go and do that. It’s about knowing why something needs to be done, what needs to be done and then, just finding someone who can do the how-to. There’s no value you need to add.

So, it’s going to places like Elance, oDesk, asking people in your network, talking in forums. Just go to mastermind groups. We had that episode a while ago about the importance of mastermind groups. That sort of stuff is really important to do as a business owner, whether it’s a mastermind group from people around the world who jump on Skype on a weekly basis or you get together in a weekly sort of scenario.

We’ve spoken about this in the show before that what you want to be doing is just leveraging your friends and your relationships and saying who they know they can recommend to do your AdWords account or do uploading of YouTube videos or something like that. Was that what you were thinking about?

Dom: Before you carry on, I just really want to highlight that point. One of the thing is whenever you hire anybody to do anything, the ideal is to get a referral, isn’t it? So, the idea of mastermind groups is great because it’s a great way of building up a group of people who may have already experienced the good and the bad of any particular group of trades.

It’s not just about online. It works really well online because we can mastermind with anybody around the world using all these new online tools that we’ve got available to us. But you can just as a regular high street business join a business networking group, for example.

Rather than just doing it for the business networking opportunities – I mean, these things are set up for people to exchange leads and give people leads for their business, but the other opportunity that’s there, which I think a lot of people overlook is exactly that, that idea of being able to get a referral for a tradesman or some service provider to get a job done and get it done well without having to go through some lengthy interview or investigative process to find that person.

Pete: Yup! How about you just email to your group of friends and go, ‘Hey, guys! I need a referral for this particular task. Who do you know that can fast track that for me” and get them to give you that? That’s a great way of getting the how-to done without knowing how to do it yourself.

This is sort of a come back to what we spoke about at the top of the show. The whole idea is as business owners, we should be focusing on getting outcomes, being very, very clear on your outcomes. I think we should talk a little bit about being clear about outcomes because once you are clear about outcome, you know what the results you need are to get to where you want to go. You don’t get distracted at that point by all these how-to’s.

With the people that I speak to and consulting clients and things like that is that a lot of the reason people get distracted by the really granular how-to stuff is they don’t have a very clear outcome and don’t have a very clear path of what the actual steps or the road map is to actually get there. I think that is what the focus should be as entrepreneurs and as business owners, focusing on getting clear clarity on your outcome and working back with what are the actual steps that make that outcome achievable.

They just worry about hitting those road mark, pit stops or bench stops and actually then using leverage in an outsource team or in-source team or getting people for individual jobs to actually do the things they need to get you for the next actual pit stop.

It’s not about doing the stuff yourself because you can get really bogged down with learning how to do video creation and all that sort of stuff, but at the end of the day, if all you need is a video on YouTube, just do the core element and then, get someone else to actually give you the outcome or the actual intermediate stuff for the outcome you’re after.

Dom: I actually think that’s another great tip to highlight there. We talked right at the beginning about David Allen’s book, Getting Things Done. One of the things he says in there about defining a project is to look for what done looks like.

I think both from the point of view of not getting bogged down in the mechanics, but also a great way to start practicing specifying the job to someone else to get it done, if you start your project definition with what does done look like, then you’ve got yourself a very, very clear goal if you’re going to give that to somebody else. If you’re absolutely 100% clear on what does it look like when it’s done, you’re already most of the way there to giving that job to somebody else and validating that they’ve done the job correctly and to make sure also (and we’ve talked about this before) that when you give them the job, you’re giving them all the information they need.

Pete: I think that’s important, getting that clarity of what the outcome actually is. I think if you do get bogged down – hypothetically, if we use the online example, again, I need to do a video to promote something like a product, a web page or whatever it might be, that’s the outcome you’re after. Once they start learning about video, they start getting distracted by all these shiny objects of the different types of videos they can do and then, they just get confused. They just get confused about, “Okay. Well, hang on…” You get distracted by the outcome because you can’t see the forest from the trees.

Dom: Absolutely! Absolutely! This is exactly it. You literally picked up the exact example I was going to go with and it’s video. Video is my thing and that’s how we got to go in the first place, through all the media production that I do for you.

But to me, that’s exactly what happens. The thought process that most people go through (and you can map this to anything, but video is a really good example), when somebody says, “I need a video for something,” the first thing they do is they start looking at video. If you just openly randomly look up video production, oh wow! You will just get so much information. One of the big things that you’ll see, for example, is you can do green screen, yeah? Well, that’s great!

Pete: [LAUGHS].

Dom: The green screen is a great piece of technology to put in a fake background behind you, which is why you use this technique (but let’s not get bogged down in that), but if you start looking at the green screen, then you’re actually directing your mind towards an ultimate outcome without having defined the outcome in the first place.

The irony would be – for example, let’s define the outcome of today’s show on the live stream or a video produced in the live stream video. Let’s just forget about this live stream for a second. Let’s just say you rang me and said, “Dom, I want to produce a video and I need what look like blinds behind me, what looks like a window behind me because I just think it makes a really good scene for an office and I want it to look like I’m in an office.” I’m clear on that as a goal. You’ve got it clear that that’s the kind of setting you want. Well, honestly, the easy solution to that, stand you in front of a window with the blind shut.

Pete: I think it’s more than just that. I would take it a higher level and sort of say, “What’s the purpose of the video?” because if you’re very clear what the purpose of the video (i.e. it’s a training piece, you need to train somebody), then obviously, being face-to-camera for the whole hour of that presentation for that piece of content doesn’t really add value to the person that’s actually watching and taking on and devouring this content.

For example, a lot of the training programs and stuff that we produce together is very much Keynote by slides because it makes it easier for me to produce it. I’m worried about the core element, which is my voice in the message, but if I have to do it in front of the camera, I have to worry about looking right, having my hair done, being articulate and all that sort of stuff beyond just worrying about the core piece of content because there’s no real added value for me facing the camera the whole time on a particular piece of content.

So, knowing I want to do a video and what’s the reason for the video, who’s going to observe it and why it’s going to be done. If you’re doing a video just for backlinking hypothetically, does it need to even be you? Does it need to actually be doing that? Can’t you just have a musical track with text flying across the screen. There’s heaps of TV commercials that have that without even a voice-over artist.

So, think about my book, How to Turn Your Million Dollar Idea Into Reality, that audio book wasn’t even voiced with me. You can argue it, but in my opinion, there’s no real value that I actually add by voicing the audio book. We’ve got a new one coming out soon.

The value for the audience is the content. You could argue that it’s probably better off if someone who’s a professional voice-over artist actually narrates the book, not me because the outcome is an audio book. And then, the goal of that audio book is to teach people and get them actually educated about a particular topic.

By me doing the voice-over, there’s no value for me. If I have to do the voice-over, I’m going to learn how to do a voice-over. I’ve got to find a software that allows me to do voice-over. Do I use a teleprompter to make sure I pace it right. There’s a lot of how-to stuff that I need to learn to voice that audio book. That’s not really going to enhance the outcome for the actual buyer of that book.

So, for me, it’s about worrying about and focusing on how to get an audio book created and what that looks like is an audio book that I can listen to that matches the words that I wrote for the book. The audio, the technical editing of the audio file, the reading, all that stuff can be done by somebody else. That’s the how-to that I don’t need to worried about.

I need to worry about getting the audio book completed. That’s managing a team, highlighting what needs to be done. “We need to actually firstly find a narrator. And then, we need to make sure he narrates the book. And then, we have to submit it to Audible.” They’re the three high-level steps that I need to worry about to get the outcome, to get the thing done. How to actually submit to Audible, there’s no value that I add to that. Let’s find someone whether it’s a team member who can spend their team learning how to do it or we go to Elance or oDesk and get them to actually do it for them. There’s no value.

I can’t submit a form any better than someone else who can submit a form. I can’t type my name any more eloquently than someone else when they’re filling out the form. I can’t hit the submit button better than someone else can. There’s no value I add to that. That’s the how-to stuff that I don’t really care about. As long as the book is live and selling, the bank account details are correct and the royalties, that’s all I need to worry about.

Dom: Perfect example, mate! Those are two really good examples. You finished off my video example for me again very, very well.

Pete: [LAUGHS]

Dom: Exactly! You start with the actual final goal. And it’s not even the final object, is it? It’s the final goal. If you said, for example, you wanted to produce a piece of market leadership, then it’s more important for you to be in it or your voice to be heard or you to be seen onscreen.

But you’re absolutely right! With a video, for example, if the purpose for that, your goal for that is to train, to convey knowledge, to train, to give somebody something for reference, in fact, if you stand onscreen for an hour waving your arms around, you’re doing a disservice to the audience because they’re going to have to furtively be scribbling notes about what you say.

If we produce slide-based, presentation-based things with bullet points showing the key points as it goes along, there’s engagement and everything that you normally need in a video, but there’s something on the screen for them to reference. So, it’s absolutely beyond even what is the end product, but what is the goal of that product and then, working back.

And again, the audio book example was great because it showed how you set your goal, “Hey! I just need an audio version of this book. I’ve got the book, I just need it in audio version. Is there anything else I need? No? Okay! Well, in that case, the list of things that I need to get done is very simple, find a narrator.”

Pete: Yeah, exactly!

Dom: That’s it! It’s not even just about saving time because a lot of the time, people just think this is about saving time, but it’s about saving head space, about saving a lot of thinking, the learning you’ve got to do. There’s all these extra things that people don’t account for when they take on all these little tasks especially when they start at the bottom of the task instead of the top. And I think really, from a mindset point of view, if I was going to take something away from this and put it as a little summary, it would be that, start with the real goal in mind, yeah?

Pete: I think that’s the key. We talk about this so often on the show, just getting clarity and context. Being very, very clear about your outcome sand then, mind what the context is all about. It’s not about worrying about the how-to stuff. It’s like, “As a business owner or a marketer, this is what I need to be focusing on. This is what’s going to grow my business” and go from that.

Dom: Yeah! But we were into context, which is really important because without that context I think nothing’s going to happen properly. Somewhere down the line, something’s going to go wrong. Either you’re going to be wasting your time. You may be wasting the time of the person you asked to do the job. You may not even be able to evaluate the job properly because if you work from front to back or bottom to top, as you work bottom up for one of these projects, then it’s inefficient.

It seems efficient because you start where you think you can start. Most people do that, don’t they. Most people start where they think they can start. They start with a bit of Internet research and they go, “Recording audio for a book” because they’ve got this in their head and they didn’t think it through. So, let’s just talk it out.

Let’s compare your example which was, “I need an audio book. Do I need to be in it? No. Yeah, great! Okay! Get a narrator, done” to another example, which would be, “Okay, I need an audio version of this book. So, first of all, I need to research recording audio. Well, I’m going to need some equipment. What about microphones? Should I get a USB microphone? Should I get one that plugs right in? Do I use the one that’s on my computer?” I haven’t even started! I haven’t…

Pete: It’s too much headspace. It’s just too much headspace to take out to be productive for your business. It’s not going to help the outcome for you to know which microphone to use. There’s no value for that.

Dom: Absolutely! But so many people get caught in this trap, yeah?

Pete: Yup! Absolutely! Well, look, I think that’s a good place to leave today’s show because obviously, as we said at the start of the show, I’m on a live stream right now. Normally, episodes go for 40-45 minutes. We’re getting close to 30 minutes, so let’s actually just wrap it up right now. It’s still a good value show for everyone who’s listening.

The action point. We always have an action point at the end of every PreneurCast episode. I think today’s action point is to really start looking at the stuff you’re doing in your business. It’s almost the same action point that we spoke about in the Core vs. Mechanic show a few weeks ago. Really look at all the stuff you’re doing on a daily basis to grow your business and what are the things that actually help grow profits and grow your business compared to stuff that you’re just doing for the sake of doing and it’s not actually adding any real value.” I think that’s the action point for today’s show.

Dom: Excellent, mate! I think we’ve really hit some very, very good points for that show. Yes, we need to wrap it up because I know you’re live. But just to recap for people very quickly, that mindset thing is just go for the goal first. Don’t go for the mechanics. Don’t go for the how. Go for the why. I think that’s the best place to start. Okay! Great show as always! Let’s wrap it up. Everyone, we will see you next week!

Pete: See you next week, guys!


Getting Things Done – David Allen
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PreneurCast Episode 44 – Core vs Mechanics

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