You got me…busted.
The guy who helps people with their overwhelm and distractions is feeling a little overwhelmed and distracted; having trouble setting priorities.
There’s been a lot of changes in life; in the way my work day is structured, in the way I think about things. I find myself wasting time, doing things I know I’m not best suited to do.
I too am a victim; falling into the continuous trap of being consumed by noise and administrative burden.
We’ve all been there.
There's certain tasks that need to be done and we just can’t stand doing them.
There’s others we’d like to do, but convince ourselves we don’t have the time to do them.
Inherently, we know there’s a better way. We could be using our time more wisely, but we fight it.
I still fight it at times.
I’ve become quite adept at conjuring up grandiose justifications for how I can do it all myself; how I can save money if I “go it alone,” how I’m not ready to spend my time on my value-added tasks yet.
Maybe I’m not ready.
Maybe I need a little more pain before I pull the trigger and pivot...
That’s how I was feeling. Thankfully, I had the foresight to reach out for help.
How I Knew it Was Time to Get Help
It comes back to making clear decisions about how I want to spend my time and what I’m realizing may be even more important, how NOT to spend it.
The “To Do” list can seem overwhelming, but the “Stop Do” list is downright scary.
It feels like we’re quitting, like we’ve failed.
Yet, if I quit my comfortable, six-figure income to start my own business and I’m sitting here earning money as an entrepreneur spending entirely too much time working on tasks that don’t fulfill me, have I succeeded or failed?
Sometimes we need to muscle our way through a painful process in order to understand what needs to be done. Sometimes it’s a long-term strategy and the benefits aren’t apparent.
Other times, we’re fooling ourselves and it needs to be offloaded.
Understanding What it Takes is One Thing...
During the launch of my podcast, I deliberately made a decision to do it all myself.
I wanted to see what it takes to do it “right,” and get a feel for the commitment necessary to deliver quality content, how disciplined I need to be, and whether I can get the show and everything else done in 25 hours per week.
The answer was, and still is, a resounding “no.”
Why 25 hours per week?
Well, I’m grateful for the fact that I currently consult for a fabulous client who has me on retainer for 20 hours per week. We worked out a retainer contract that guarantees work for a minimum of 20 optional hours per week.
I start my day at 5AM, but work doesn’t get cranked up until 6AM, after I pray, read and journal.
As such, I have the ability to work a 9-hour day without issue.
If I hold to my commitment of not working nights and weekends, there’s an additional 25 hours left if I am to leave (in my case, “stop”) work on time.
During the weeks leading up to the launch of my podcast, it wasn’t difficult for me to get everything done, meet my retainer hours and support my client’s business needs as originally intended.
Yet, as time progressed closer and closer to my podcast launch date, it became increasingly difficult to get my productivity coaching, training, podcasting, and blogging work done in 25 hours; not to mention taking any time at all to develop new products.
Back when I left my comfortable, six-figure income, my wife and I agreed that I would build a business that gave me more hours with my family and that removed the burden of my long commute and days in Corporate America.
I got into this entrepreneurship gig under the premise of working less, freedom-filled hours, and I made a commitment (whether reasonable or not) to cap my hours at 45 per week.
My number one responsibility is being a good husband and parent, not build a business.
Refuse to Settle for Less
I’m living my dream right now, and dang it, and I don’t care if building a business is hard work, or if it requires overtime.
I have a dream to live a certain lifestyle, and I'm committed to doing whatever it takes to make it happen!
I believe in productivity, and I won’t accept or settle for indefinitely long workweeks!
My commitment, my mindset drove me to my first strategy.
To get it all done on time, I began borrowing hours from my guaranteed 20 per week, and not billing my retainer client.
I thought I was making an investment in my productivity business.
Yet, what I was invested in was a wake-up call.
Not billing my guaranteed number of hours gave me a very specific, measurable, and unquestionable resource that gives me a crystal clear report, every other week of whether I’m working productively.
When I don’t have enough time to do retainer work, I don’t get paid. My bank account shrinks and there’s absolutely no denying it.
This strategy has proven unsustainable.
Sure, I’m making up a little of the difference through my productivity coaching business, and that’s what I should be doing. I mean, it’s the reason I do what I’m doing, to help people!
It was time to execute another strategy.
Yet, it’s all the peripheral stuff that needs to go; this is the stuff that’s costing us money and sucking my energy dry!
The hilarious (but sad) fact is that I could actually hire an assistant to perform my peripheral tasks at a lower hourly rate than what I’m currently sacrificing by not billing retainer hours!
So now that I understand what it takes, HOORAY!
Ok, so what am I going to do about it? [crickets]
So, understanding what it takes is one thing...
Executing What it Takes is Quite Another
I began an exercise of relentlessly tracking how I spend my time each day and I was shocked, at how much time I was spending on podcasting - up to 8 hrs per week!
I couldn’t believe how long a 1-hr face-to-face meeting took from my day. I most cases, it was around three hours!
So there’s actually two overarching solutions I’ve identified to get my time back.
Two time sucks that need to be addressed, and surprisingly, it’s not email or social media.
It’s a much more complex problem, one that takes time and preparation to solve...
...one that requires making tough decisions.
The thing is, if we want our time back, we need to decide what to (1) stop doing and (2) let someone else do.
Such a beautifully simple concept. So taxingly difficult to execute.
Here are two few commitments I’ve put into practice that have helped me save time and execute more effectively.
1 - Commit to a “Stop Do” list
No one likes to say “no.” No one likes to stop doing something, even when it’s obvious to everyone around us but ourselves, we don’t want to quit.
We don’t want to feel like quitters.
"The old saying is wrong - winners do quit, and quitters do win." -Seth Godin
Winners know when to quit and when to stick.
I’m quitting the majority of my face-to-face meetings. Unless I have something going on in an area and the meeting directly contributes to my goals, I’m limiting face-to-face meetings to Wednesday mornings, that’s it.
It’s convenient because I already meet a study group at 6:30AM, every Wednesday morning.
Since I’m already out, traveling time is already accounted for and a one hour meeting can remain a one-hour meeting.
There are plenty of other “stop do’s” to commit to, but face-to-face meetings is the biggest time suck for me that I know if I stop doing, will automatically generate at least four additional hours per week and get my schedule back on track.
Further, if you read last week’s post on “My Kardashian,” starting small is key. I’m not going to overwhelm myself by biting off more than I can (stop) chewing.
2 - Commit to Outsourcing
This is a really scary thing for me as well, as I’m sure it is for most people adept at “doing it all.”
It’s somewhat like sending your kid off to Kindergarten on their first day of school…it’s tough to let go and trust someone else to take care of your baby.
It also forces us to put our money where our mouth is.
If we’re going to spend our hard-earned dollars letting someone else do our work for us, we’ve got to make up the difference and then some by working on higher-value activities.
For me, I'm fortunate because it’s rather easy.
If I spend less than my retainer fee on a third-party contractor to handle my peripheral burden, I free up real time to work more hours for my retainer client.
This will result in my goal of billing my retainer client for a full week’s work, while still getting everything done in a given week.
For others, it may not be so cut and dry.
If we’re spending time on administrative burden and we know we could be more effective doing higher-value work, we need to develop a plan to perform and get paid for that higher-value work!
Without a retainer client or part-time job, the time freed through outsourcing must be used on activities that will generate more revenue than what’s spent on outsourcing, not just on doing tasks we enjoy instead of those we hate.
For example, the time liberated through outsourcing can be used to create more relationships with potential clients or to develop products faster.
For me, I now outsource the majority of my podcast editing activities.
I use my outsourcing strategy to free time for more retainer work, but I could also use it to free time for additional coaching, or to develop my coaching business.
Outsourcing is a fantastic strategy, if the future payoff is commensurate with the benefits gained. Executing an outsourcing strategy and “stop-do” list takes deliberate thought and planning - both of which are difficult in practice.
Do you need someone to help think through your personal outsourcing strategy and “stop-do” list?
Please let me know what you’re up to by leaving a comment below. If you’d rather talk in private, send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
There’s freedom in productivity; there’s power in community.
I encourage you to reach out and connect with someone who can help you achieve purpose.