Every business owner has probably read countless articles about working “on”, not “in”, your business.  And every business owner has struggled at some point to find the right balance between overseeing the whole operation and jumping in to get the work done.  

Why is it so hard? 

#1 Getting the “regular” work done is very satisfying.  

When you mail that shipment off to your biggest customer, or finish closing the books for the month, or send that “you’re hired!” letter to a job candidate, you’ve accomplished something concrete that feels good. 

In contrast, when you spend a few hours writing the beginning of a vision statement, or deciding which market to go after next, the results can seem a little less tangible.  In fact, it may even feel like a waste of time, especially when things are busy.

Although the visionary work does pay off long-term, in the short term, it may feel less impactful than the operational tasks.


Keep your eye on the prize.  Before you start work “on” your business, think about the goal, or desired end result, for your company. Focus on how this task will help you reach your bigger goals. Keeping that vision of a brighter future in mind as you do the work will help you stay motivated.

#2 The operational work is usually better defined, and involves fewer new decisions, than the planning work. 

Trying new things is hard. And sometimes a little scary. It takes a lot of brainpower to think about growing your company, and it’s easy to get tired or feel a little discouraged. It’s tempting to set aside the planning and visioning work in favor of doing specific tasks that don’t require figuring out.

Tackling the visionary stuff can seem very difficult because it forces you to come up with new ideas and new ways of doing things, which are likely a little risky. That sense of risk can trigger a sudden desire to avoid the issue altogether.


Try sitting somewhere different – a different room in your house or space at your office, or even outside.  This change of scenery reminds you to focus on your challenging “growth” work, instead of letting yourself get distracted. 

If you find yourself truly stuck, or waffling over a decision, ask yourself whether there’s any specific information that would help you make the decision. Write down the exact information you need, and brainstorm a way to get it. (To avoid using a lack of information as an excuse, ask yourself honestly whether the information is really crucial, or just comforting.)

#3 Your customers pay you for providing products and services to them.  

That’s a big motivator!  It can be hard to set aside customer-related work that generates revenue in order to do work that will only pay off further down the road. In fact, it may even feel downright wrong to put off a client’s work in favor of your own business. 


Set some time aside every week for the “on the business” work.  For example, three hours every Friday morning. That way, this crucial work doesn’t have to compete for your time, and you’re more likely to come to it ready to work at it. And doing this work consistently will soon show you real results.

If you’re truly overwhelmed with work, identify some “in the business” work that you really shouldn’t be doing, and get someone to help you do it (or automate it).  If you can get some of those tasks off your plate, then you can use the freed time to grow your business.

If you need some help identifying better ways to get work done in your business, so you can focus on growing it, contact Dunathan Consulting.

Photo by Seema Miah on Unsplash