In all but very large businesses all of the resources that are important – money, people, attention  - are scarce and must be managed carefully. For example, let’s say you’ve figured out that you have a few additional dollars above repeating costs. If you chose to spend a dollar on development, that’s a dollar you can’t spend on marketing or quality assurance. The trick is to figure out all the places you could usefully spend money and prioritize them by how much value they will add to your business.

Your attention is a key and scarce resource that should be managed carefully. In most small companies there’s only one owner or key executive and very little else in terms of management resources. The good news is you can focus real attention on managing your own time. The bad news is there’s only the one of you to do all the things required and no one to tell you what do. The hard part is figuring out what will give you the best return on your time. Chances are it isn’t to be found in the interrupts that keep appearing at your door or in the list of things you’re used to doing every week.

The most important things you need to be doing require a minimum threshold of effort to provide a return. For example, if you spend an hour thinking about product quality only infrequently, or only when a client complains, you’re unlikely to improve product quality. That would take a lump of attention in the beginning to formulate a plan, then another lump to solve problems and get new processes in place and finally, regular little lumps to make sure your plan is still working. Set aside uninterrupted blocks of time to think about a few important issues like the quality of your product or service and how to improve the value of your company.

Every addition to your product line – models, features, services, software tools  - requires money, time and attention to create and support. And money, time and attention are limited. While adding offerings seems like an obvious way to increase revenues it is often less effective than focusing more attention and resources on what you are already doing.

Speculative conversations, like those about things you might do or directions you might go in, divert attention from other more important tasks and are often unproductive because no one in the conversation has sufficient information. One solution is to make a rule set that limits the number and length of such conversations and design processes to acquire the information required to resolve common conversations more fruitfully. For example, if you weren’t thinking about a potential order you don’t really know how to fulfill, you could be designing better marketing or making sure your product  was reliable.

People, like money and attention are scarce resources that must be managed carefully. You only have a few key people. Your most important job is to allocate your key resources. In the case of people, that means you being sure each one and you agree on their activities and that you check regularly to make sure they are doing what you agreed (and it’s still the right thing). Just like you need to guard against unplanned interruptions from them, you should protect them from interruptions from you. Organize your interactions into brief, planned meetings with written advanced agendas.