Think Backwards

Over the years, I’ve worked with many small business owners who are often put off from doing a task because they feel they need to have everything in place before they can move forward. 

Take one client who wanted to run some workshops for her business. Sounded like a great plan, but she didn’t want to do any marketing for them until she had completely planned out the workshop and knew exactly what the presentation would look like. 

Another contact didn’t want to do any marketing for their business until their website was in place – even though it could potentially take months to do. 

If you find yourself stuck on a project because certain things are not in place, there is one piece of advice I’m going to offer you… 

Think Backwards 

You see, while our client could have spent a great deal of time on getting the presentation looking perfect or our contact could have taken months on his website, none of this is going to help you get any business through the door. 

Instead, my plan taking the workshops as an example, would be to concentrate my time, energy and focus on filling the seats for the workshop. Why? Well, you could have the best presentation ever but if you have no-one to deliver it to, then there is very little point spending a lot of time on it.

Believe me, if you know you’ve got a room full of people to deliver that training too, there is no greater incentive to get your presentation up to scratch before the event. 

With the website example, yes I can see that the website is important, but it’s more important to start getting your marketing messages out there as quickly as possible. A website can always be put in place later or worked on slowly over time and is not an excuse for not getting on with things. 

So, here are my top tips to thinking backwards and making sure you move forward with your business. 

  1. If you’re stuck on a project, think “what’s the immediate next step?” as David Allen advises in his book Getting Things Done. In other words, what is the very next thing you’ll need to do to work on your project? And then just do that one thing. I was talking to someone a couple of days ago about her website and she said the immediate next step was to choose a template, which she’s now done. Once you’ve completed this step, you can then think about the immediate next step and so on until the job is complete. 
  2. Ask yourself what the minimum amount you need to do is to get cracking. List these actions out and then start working on them. We’re doing some telemarketing for a client at the moment and know we need to put together the list to call, a ‘script’, a follow-up email and a newsletter for them. Once this is all done, we can get cracking. When you don’t list things out, often the task seems bigger than it is – so writing them down will often make you feel better. 
  3. Switch your focus to thinking about the priority. As in the workshop example above, yes the presentation is important, but it’s more vital to fill the room, so her attention and focus should be on the marketing of the event and not what happens on the day. Remember, you can concentrate on other tasks when you’ve completed your priority. 


Thinking backwards can make a huge difference in your business. Try it and see what happens.

About the author:
Exceptional Thinking provides advice and help to small businesses on their marketing and to people setting up in business.
My website is at:


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