How to Identify the One Key Thing your Business Stands For

your business stands for
What is the main purpose for you being in business? Is it clear or do you have to think hard?

How about taking away all the unnecessary “stuff” you do and stripping the business back to the bare minimum?

What is it your business stands for?

I recently read a short book by Simon Hartley called Two lengths of the pool. He regularly holds “Parkinson” style events with Olympic athletes and coaches, which is where I met him.

“Surely your job is simply to swim 2 lengths of the pool as fast as you can?”.

His book describes how he was coaching an Olympic 100m breaststroke swimmer who was overwhelmed by the many conflicting things to deal with. Simon said to him in passing. “Surely your job is simply to swim 2 lengths of the pool as fast as you can?”.

The swimmer initially felt undermined but it became the cornerstone of their approach. It was evident that simplifying down what they were seeking to achieve delivered laser focused clarity.

This approach to sport can be applied to business.

Take a look at the diagram which divides work you spend your time doing into the 4 segments. The vertical axis represents increasing importance whilst the horizontal axis represents increasing urgency.



These are the tasks you need to stop doing. If no one is chasing you for completion and you keep putting it off, surely it falls into this space? For new tasks falling into this segment, learn to say “No” without giving offence.


You will be continually faced with interruptions which prevent you from achieving your core goals. The skill is in managing the expectations of the requester by scheduling it for a future time.

Using productivity apps can help you better prioritise the less important tasks.

Learn to say “no” without giving offence

Important Goals

These may be tasks with a far away deadline but the consequences of not doing them are great. Things that spring to mind are the year end accounts, keeping up to date with legislation, ISO as well as achieving personal goals.

They are pushed out because of a lack of time and the need to focus on the high priority and more highly important tasks. Consider delegating to staff or sub contracting the work.

Critical Activities

These are your “2 lengths of the pool”. To deliver them you need self discipline in scheduling the tasks, avoiding distractions like email & social media and delegating or subcontracting as much as possible.

If you’re overwhelmed by workload with not enough hours in the day, take a read of Simons book for inspiration. Try to divide up your tasks into the 4 segments to strip back your business to the basics. Find out what your business stands for.

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