Managing “Busy-ness”: What Gives?

In the first part of this series, I talked about the shift business owners have to make as they become more successful in order to make the most of their time, spend the greatest amount of effort on their top priorities, and avoid “busy-ness” (aka, “working for work’s sake”). Now let’s focus on ways you can manage “busy-ness” as your workload increases.

As more demands are placed on you, tasks that once seemed extremely important become trivial. You have one hundred things to do and a limited amount of time to do them, so you have to become very selective with what gets your attention, but the question becomes, what do you give up?

In many ways, the answer to that question is unique to each of us. It requires a lot of consideration and, most importantly, realignment with our intentions for our lives and businesses.

What to Expect

Before deciding on what to give up, here are a few things to expect when making the shift away from “busy-ness.”

  • Some tasks to give up are obvious. You probably already have a list of tasks you wish you could snap your fingers and have a genie appear to handle for you. Those tasks are probably low-priority or are simply not well-suited for your interests and personality. Outsource or eliminate them, if at all possible.
  • Other tasks to give up are not so obvious. For some things, it might not occur to you that they should be off your plate. You might underestimate or fail to even realize how much time they take you to complete, which is why it becomes important to track everything you do on a daily or weekly basis so that you have a better idea of exactly what tasks are hiding within your routine that could be outsourced.
  • Some tasks to give up are painful. Let’s face it. There are tasks that we think no one can do as well as we do them. While that might be true in some cases, usually it’s just our ego getting in the way, and we have to be willing to let those tasks go for our businesses to succeed.
  • Some tasks to give up require faith. Sometimes, it can be hard to let go of certain tasks out of the fear that something bad will happen if you aren’t the person handling them. At the end of the day, though, if we want to grow our businesses and not hit a plateau, we have to build a support team and have faith that things will work out OK.
  • Some tasks to give up make you feel like a jerk. Chris Brogan mentioned this in a comment last week, and I’ve struggled with the concern myself, but this is another good time to check your ego at the door and say, “I’ve thought this through, and this is not the best way to spend my time.” Accept that you may feel like a jerk and may even be called a jerk sometimes, but it’s very necessary for you to spend the bulk of your time adding value to everything you do. Is the task you’re considering giving up really adding real value?

What to Give Up

Once you’re OK with letting go, you have to decide what to give up. Here are some of the tasks you might consider.

  • Email. As I mentioned in the first part of this series, email is usually one of the first things that has to change when business owners make the shift away from “busy-ness.” Once your business reaches a certain level of success, you might consider routing some or all of your emails to an assistant or simply using an auto-responder or message on your website to manage expectations.
  • Blog comments. Many business owners choose to completely disable blog comments at a certain point, in order to eliminate comment spam and focus on the content. Leo Babauta and Seth Godin are just two examples. It’s a touchy subject with clear proponents on both sides of the debate, but managing comments and comment spam can be a real time drain. A word of caution before making the decision to cut out comments completely: Know that it may cost you some readers. An alternative might be to hire an assistant to manage comments for you.
  • Social networks. Many business owners are deciding to get out of the social networking game, whether partially or completely. Seth Godin, Darrell Etherington, and many others are leaving or never entering social networks like Facebook and Twitter, both for time management and privacy reasons. It’s definitely easy to allow social networks to overtake your work days; the more popular your business becomes, the more you have to keep them in check.
  • Requests. As your visibility increases, you’ll receive more and more requests to review books/products, participate in joint ventures, speak at events, or otherwise contribute to projects outside your business. It can become very hard to say no and stay the course with your own priorities, so it becomes increasingly important to be selective with the outside requests you take on.
  • One-on-one work. The bigger your business becomes, the harder it is to justify working with individual clients without charging a small fortune (leaving you seeming and feeling like a jerk sometimes). It’s a hard line to walk, but the best way to handle it is to be direct and upfront about why you have to work this way.

Deciding what to give up through outsourcing or elimination is a deeply personal decision and a hard one to make, but as your business grows, you’ll definitely have to modify the way you manage your workload or risk hitting a plateau or burning out.

What to you foresee having to give up as your business grows?

Photo by Flickr user flik, licensed under CC 2.0

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