It’s the time of year when many people are trying to figure out how to make the new year better than the last one. “Better” means many things to many people, so just focus on what it means to you. If you aren’t sure, that’s a good place to start: Decide how you’d like to improve the new year as compared to last year.
If you’re looking for an idea to get the process started, start with focus, triage, and simplify.
Have you ever used noise-eliminating headphones on a flight?
If not, ask someone who uses them what’s different about flying while wearing them. More than likely, they will tell you that they arrive less tired or less mentally worn out than they used to. That low, almost inaudible engine thrum wears you down, but you don’t realize it’s happening until you eliminate it.
Having too much going on & too little focus has the same impact.
Solo business owners wear all the hats. We know we have to do everything, but we can’t focus on anything long enough to do it really well. You feel like you’re running around the room to catch the next spinning plate that lost its momentum and is about to fall off the stick.
I describe this as “doing 100 jobs poorly” because that’s how it feels when you’re doing too much, trying to fit everything in, de-prioritizing nothing. Result: You’re giving nothing what it deserves.
In order to focus on something, a decision must be made: What will you stop focusing on?
Sometimes figuring out what to discard or delay is harder than actually focusing, because we think we want it all. Once we get it (or think we do), then we wonder what in the world we were thinking when we decided that we wanted it all.
Making the decision to do away with (or delegate) a task requires triage.
Before we can focus on something, we need to put the “sorting hat” on and determine what our attention will be zeroed in on. Allowing ourselves the freedom to not do something requires that we deal with that item, or it will feel like that thrum that wears us out.
Two weeks ago, we talked about eliminate, delegate, automate. You should already have a list from that exercise, but if you don’t – this is a good time to handle that.
I’ll ask the question again: What can you teach an employee to do in 30 minutes or less today?
If you don’t have any employees and you’d like to keep it that way, consider a virtual assistant (VA). They don’t have to be in a third world country. There are people in your town who do this work. Look on Craigslist and NextDoor. Ask your friends. Put the word out at Rotary, Kiwanis, Elks, and the Chamber, etc. Ask your customers who own a business.
*Someone* will know of one, or will be one.
You can find them online, but I suggest starting local. Solo business people seem to latch onto the benefits of VAs. Before long, a VA could be running errands for you that used to syphon the life out of your day. It’s more than just getting time back. It’s getting the mental load off your shoulders and giving you the headroom to focus on what’s left and do it better. Remember “better”? We started this conversation with that in mind.
Don’t worry about finding the perfect VA the first time. Budget two or three hours a week with them. Let them build your trust in their ability to make things happen.
Making a complex thing simple is hard. Sometimes simplifying a task is as simple as documenting it. Once a task is documented, others can often handle it for you.
There are things on your list that only you can do (at least for now). That’s why we’re eliminating other tasks.
Simplification and focus is also about reducing interruptions. How many times a day does your phone ding at you with an inane notification from Facebook (etc)? Are any of those notifications and the interruptions they create more important than your biggest challenge this week?
Disable the notifications from your “noisiest” app for a week and see how it changes your work day.