Effort is Required

Contrast between messy ink buckets, and incredibly clean ink buckets

How has your effort been lately? You know, the amount of work that goes into something.

In businesses in this industry, I see all too often a challenge in that people optimistically believe that something good will automagically happen to them. While they may hope and wish for a certain outcome, the outcome doesn’t match their desired wish because little or no effort is actually exerted.

You have to roll up your sleeves and put the work in.

Zig Ziglar has a great quote: “Don’t be upset by the results you didn’t get with the work you didn’t do.”

Whether you are trying to hire employees, increase your sales, clean your shop, train your staff, or any number of the thousands of things a small business needs to handle, the actual step of taking action is needed to begin to see any result.

That’s Effort with a capital “E.”


Procrastination is not something new, by the way. Business owners are smart people. Deep down, they know there must be some action behind things to improve.

So, for example, if you know you need to increase sales, why aren’t you doing sales-oriented things?

If this sounds familiar, don’t worry. Since the beginning of time, human beings have been procrastinating. (In fact, I’ve wanted to write this article for about three months now. Even I’m not immune.)

The Greek philosopher Aristotle had a word for this, Akraisa.

This is when you do one thing, even though you know deep down that you should do something else. I’m positive this is why all middle school science fair projects start around 8:30 pm at night, the day before they are due, sending one of the parents on a frantic trip to the store for artboards and markers. Much to the anxious dismay of parents everywhere.

Akrasia can be described as either a lack of self-discipline or full-blown procrastination.

We know better, but doggone it; we will do that dumb other thing anyway.

Blame Akrasia when you clean your desk instead of making sales calls.

Instead of printing job #123456, due tomorrow, you print job #123490, which isn’t due until next week because the client brought in doughnuts. (why do small bribes like this work?)

I’m sure there are a million examples in your shop. Now you have a name for it.


The Expectation Gap

According to the Small Business Administration, only about fifty percent of small businesses will see their five-year anniversary. There are probably many reasons why companies don’t last, but each and every one of them began with an entrepreneur with an optimistic dream. These folks started their ventures with high expectations. In their mind, they envisioned rapid growth, loyal customers, and rock-solid profit.

Reality is much different.

I believe the expectation gap between the “entrepreneurial vision” and “reality” can be attributed in part to the fact that many small business owners underestimate the avalanche of effort it takes to build success.

The delayed effort often becomes the catalyst that hinders any sort of positive growth.

  • People put off making sales calls until they run out of work.
  • Preventative maintenance isn’t scheduled until the machine breaks down.
  • Training doesn’t happen until someone is on vacation or is sick and coverage is needed.
  • There never is enough time. Literally. For anything.

Plan Your Effort

Let’s take on that last one. “There never is enough time.”

There always is time. It simply wasn’t prioritized. When something really matters, it gets done. For example, if a clean space is important, it is either kept clean or the cleaning is built into the work.

You are what you repeatedly do.

Artists create art. All the time. Salespeople sell. All the time. Clean people have clean environments. All the time.

The intended outcome happens with the effort built into how they operate. Want better results? Let’s take a look.

First, Reduce the Friction of Getting Started

You want to create habits that are easy to slide into. Take a closer look into what is blocking the intended action.

Break things down into much smaller ideas and begin. Spend a short time thinking and preparing for what you want to do. What do you need to get started? Get that out of the way.

For example, you want to increase your sales with a new marketing campaign. A great place to start may be to define your customer focus. Simply narrowing down your audience will enable you to channel your efforts better. At first, spend about fifteen or twenty minutes with a pad of paper and a pen, jotting ideas down about your customer’s point of view.

You aren’t starting with the sales pitch or creating some sort of Instagram post. Just listing customer problems and ideas on how to solve them. Don’t try to make it spectacular. Simply write down your thoughts. Include everything.

The act of brainstorming and writing ideas down is the action step that starts your momentum. This is what you will build on.

Secondly, Define Your Intentions

Next, what is the outcome you want to achieve? You have to want to plant that flag on top of the mountain. You work backward from this to build out what you need to get there.

Write this out in a complete sentence somewhere visible.

“I will create a sales and marketing campaign (focused on that customer problem) ready to launch on all company social media channels by May 31st.”

Or whatever your goal could be. In his book Atomic Habits, author James Clear states, “…implementation intentions can make you 2x to 3x more likely to perform an action in the future.”

You have heard of the term ROI before, right? You may think that it means “Return on Investment.” Let’s flip the script on that term, use it here, and call ROI “Return on Intent.”

Label your intent in big, bold red letters on a highly visible whiteboard. Get it up and in front of your face. Put a due date on it. And, if you want to get crazy, add a bullet-point checklist for some milestones underneath.

Why is this Effective?

Because it is visible. Make it the elephant in the room so it is difficult to ignore.

Then, get started making the magic happen. You’ll gain momentum with your effort to knock out those bullet-pointed checkpoints, and the overall effort won’t seem as daunting.

Remember, the goal isn’t starting. The goal is completing.

Your results will be 100% congruent with the effort that you exert.

“Happiness lies in the joy of achievement, and the thrill of creative effort.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt.

“For every disciplined effort, there is a multiple rewards.” – Jim Rohn

“If I am a cup maker, I’m interested in making the best cup possible. My effort goes into that cup, not what people think about it.” – Denzel Washington

Help Support This Blog

While I may be goofing around with AI for some projects, this blog and its contents have been created by me, Marshall Atkinson. For this particular article, I did use ChatGPT for a small part of it, an AI tool…but it was me using it and directing the results.

Why am I writing this? To remind you, dear reader, these words are backed by a real person. With experience, flaws, successes, and failures… That’s where growth and learning happen. By putting in the work.

If you are reading this and it is not on my website, it has been stolen without my permission by some autobot. Please report this to me and/or publicly out the website that hijacked it. And if you are trying to copy and use it without my permission, you are stealing. Didn’t your mama teach you better?

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Also, my basic elevator pitch to you is that I help with “Clarifying effective change.” If you are dissatisfied with your business’s current results, maybe I can help.

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