“Life is what happens to you when you’re making other plans,” John Lennon famously sang, a line to which most entrepreneurs, at some point, can relate. As we build our businesses, we ridiculously cram our calendars, causing us to miss social engagements and neglect our health with takeout food, forgotten exercise regimens, and sleep deprivation. The time we’d rather spend riding bikes with our kids or rafting through the Grand Canyon slips through our fingers, and that moment when the business is supposed to slow down and let us have a life rests stubbornly on the horizon.
We tell ourselves that all of this hard work is the price to be paid when building a business. We hear Mark Cuban’s voice whispering, “Work like there is someone working twenty-four hours a day to take it all away from you,” and “Do the work.”
So, who’s right, you might ask yourself. John or Mark? Is it possible that they both are? Make no mistake, running a business is hard work, but when it feels like it’s unmanageable and the workload is never going to lighten up, it may be time to take stock and ask yourself how you’re spending your time.
Are there tasks or entire projects you could delegate? The hardest thing for a business owner to do is let go of work for fear no one will do it as well as they will or they will spend so much time explaining to someone how to do something, yada yada yada.
And that’s actually what it is -- “yada yada yada.” You’re not really being honest with yourself when you say this because you’re never going to have a work life you enjoy until you learn to let go a little. It may seem counterintuitive, but the best way to let go is to build systems into your work flow.
Look for the areas of unnecessary repetition. Are you spending time entering duplicate information that could be solved with a smarter database or an option requiring clients to enter information into a website? Are you explaining similar information to employees that could be written up in an employee handbook or presented in a video? Are you taking notes with clients to remind you of follow-up tasks that could be collected in a worksheet and then delegated to an assistant? These are just a few examples.
“But thinking through this just sounds like more work,” you argue. Well…yes, it is. In the short term. But as you start to think through your work processes, your heart will lighten as those areas of duplication and inefficiency start to shrink. Engage your team to help build systems, and you’ll reap the rewards of synergy when better ways to perform the work emerge. Meanwhile, this collaboration will empower your employees, heightening their productivity and job satisfaction and freeing up your schedule to do higher level strategic thinking. Or take up racquetball.
While Mark Cuban speaks often of the virtues of hard work, he also says, “Love what you do or don’t do it.” So ask yourself, “Am I loving what I do? What am I doing that I really don’t even like?” That’s the place to start building your next system.