The One-Week Manager – Managing Small Business Stress

Delegating responsibility is by far the favored management approach these days. The person at the top is there to make sure everyone else is supported as they accomplish their responsibilities. When this approach is fine-tuned the super boss should be free to move about while watching, listening and encouraging the whole management force to make the operation whir at warp speed and peak efficiency.

The smaller the business the more such an approach becomes unworkable. In the very small business setting such an approach becomes completely unworkable for the simple reason that there is no management staff, nobody to whom anything can be delegated! You are the boss and there is no one else to help you be the boss! That being the case, managing by the minute becomes impossible. Your only choice is to manage by the week.

What does it mean to manage by the week?

First and foremost it means that in any given week you select priorities. From all the tasks needing to be accomplished, which ones must be accomplished? Which ones cannot wait? Which ones are most important and therefore sit at the top of the priority list of things to do?

Secondly, it means that sometime during the week, certainly before the week has ended, you get the priority tasks finished. The rest of the time you pick away at other tasks as time allows. “As time allows” is the key concept: the smaller the business the more vulnerable it will be to interruptions. These might be phone calls, persons walking into your place of business, personal events or even such things as breakdowns of your computer or other equipment. In other words, you do not control each minute or any minute of the week.

There is not sufficient buffer between you and all the persons and happening that can interrupt your work without warning. There is no staff to handle the various happenings that need handling. You squeak out what work time you can for priority tasks. The rest of the time you “go with the flow.” You manage by the week, not by the minute.

Third, it means you pick your spots for concentrated effort. Some times are less vulnerable to interruption. These might be very early or very late in the day. There might be certain days in the week that are relatively quiet. Lacking enough of these spots, simply pick a time to shut down to the rest of the world in order to finish the work you must finish. Put the phones on automatic, lock the front door and post reduced business hours. Close the blinds and get to work. If you work at home, put up the Do Not Disturb Sign and do not answer the phone. Only leave your office if it is on fire.

The “manage by the week” approach is not particularly efficient but, when push comes to shove, it is the only approach that works without undue stress. It is based on reality: there are limits to what a one-boss business can do. When the boss cannot get the work done the business is history. Reality dictates the limits within which to work. That’s the secret to stress-free management in small business:staying with reality.

No need to feel pressured, inadequate or incompetent. Start out by admitting you are incompetent as compared to the big business manager who has a cast of thousands. So do not make the comparison! It is not a crime to be small. It is torturous, however, to be small but hold one’s self to standards that apply to being big.

The one-week manager accomplishes very little. Just make sure that what gets accomplished are the vital tasks. Then go home and sleep the sleep of the just.