Are you making yourself sick to succeed in business? Trying to do it all and wear all the hats because you don’t trust anyone else to do it the “right” way? Maybe you’re even feeling overwhelmed, stressed, and at some level of burnout… or heading down that path?
The good news is that you don’t have to make yourself sick or burn yourself out to be successful. In fact, working longer and harder doesn’t even guarantee success. It’s more about strategy. There are lots of ways to work smarter, not harder. I couldn’t possibly fit them all into a blog! But here are 4 things you can start doing now to go from overworked and overwhelmed to revitalized and flourishing.
- Setting priorities based on your values and vision for your life and business
- Streamlining your time with delegation, systems, and processes
- Reducing stress
- Building a support network
Let’s look at each of those now.
Be Aware of and Honor Who You Are When Setting Priorities
There are people who do just fine with devoting all their time and energy to their business. They love what they do, it never feels like work, they work best under pressure, and their need for personal time is limited. And that’s great, if that’s the case for them. But you need to know what’s right for you.
Success can mean different things for different people. We all can have different needs and goals. If you honestly look at your situation and don’t like what you see, I would encourage you to do a little soul searching. It’s okay if you’re not that person who thrives on stress and is solely driven to build your business. It’s okay if you want more balance between your work and personal life. You just need to decide what your ideal balance looks like for you.
You may also want to consider what’s ideal for you in terms of your tolerance for stress. For example, if you have kids, you may decide you want to devote more time to your business during the school year (while your kids are in school) and you’re willing to accept that it will be more of a challenge to juggle it all. You’re willing to do that knowing it will mean you can shift the focus to your kids when summer break comes and that feels ideal for you.
You may be at a point in your life where you want to be more aggressive and make some sacrifices in the short-term to get the business on a solid foundation. You know pushing for a two-year plan will be intense, but you’re willing and able, and you feel it will be doable. Just keep your values and priorities in mind and don’t be afraid to lay out a less-aggressive longer-term plan if that would be better! There’s nothing wrong with setting a five-year plan where the business grows more slowly, as opposed to implementing a more aggressive two-year plan.
Whatever your situation, just think it through and use what you learn from an honest assessment of your values to plan and set priorities that fit with your values.
Work Smarter, Not Harder With Delegating, Systems, and Processes
If you want to work smarter, delegating or outsourcing tasks is a great place to start. Are there tasks that eat up a lot of your time? Could/should someone else do them? We all have these types of tasks in our businesses. Delegating and outsourcing those tasks frees up your time, so you can do more of what you love and do best.
That leads me to implementing systems and processes for delegating and repeatable tasks, activities, and operations.
I know some of you may be groaning as you read this. I get it! Many entrepreneurs resist the idea of systemizing and building processes into their daily operations. You might be afraid that implementing streamlining measures will suck the fun out of being a business owner, squelch your creative side, and cost time and money to get it all up and running. Or you may just not know what you need and what options are available. Whatever the case, I can assure you that streamlining will help you with the tasks you let go of as well as the tasks you keep.
With respect to systems and processes being fun and creativity suckers, I can promise you the opposite is true. You’ll have more time to do what you love. You’ll be more focused on daily tasks that make the most of your strengths. And you’ll be spending your time doing the things that actually increase your profits. Now that’s FUN! And all around, that makes it worth the effort to figure out what you can streamline and get it done.
When you work smarter, not harder in this way is it’s a win-win for everyone. Even if you love long hours and putting everything you’ve got into your business, you’ll have more time to add more of the things you love doing and do well into your schedule.
If long hours don’t appeal to you, you’ll make the time you do spend working more efficient. And if you’re looking for more balance between your personal life and work life, you’ll have more time for life outside of your business to use however you choose.
Work Smarter, Not Harder by Reducing Stress
The idea of taking breaks or time off to improve productivity and work smarter, not harder is something I’ve talked about for years. And it seems to be a big topic of conversation these days. I’ve seen some interesting articles on this in recent months.
This takes us back to the idea of having systems and processes in place, since those things make it easier for you to take the time off occasionally. But it’s also important to make the mind shift to the fact that taking time off is important – for both your mental health and your productivity.
There are also things you can do in the day-to-day to take care of yourself and ease stress. For example, meditation only takes about 10 minutes, but it relaxes and recharges you. Going for a 10-15 minute walk not only gives you a little exercise, it also gives you a little downtime. And being intentional about scheduling your time can also help. Just looking at a calendar that’s overloaded causes stress for many.
Make sure you schedule time for those breaks – both vacations and in the day-to-day. Put them on your calendar just like you would other tasks, projects, or a business meeting. Also, be realistic about your time. Say no to things that aren’t a priority for you – and do it without guilt! And be sure to schedule some time for things like having lunch with friends, colleagues or other small business owners who are also on the journey. Don’t think you can spare the time? Think of it as a sanity saver or a chance to share your journey. Support is SO important!
Which brings me to my final suggestion…
Don’t Fly Alone
Think you don’t have time for building relationships in the entrepreneurial community or actively increasing your knowledge base? Don’t let busy-ness keep you from investing in yourself and your business. Isolation can really sap your energy and lead to burnout. You can learn a lot from the struggles and successes of other business owners. You can also benefit from their lessons learned and share what you’ve learned too. So, get out there. Celebrate your successes and help them celebrate theirs! Make strategic networking a priority.
In the St. Louis area, we have a great organization called Experts 4 Entrepreneurs. The group meets once a month and the morning features speakers who address topics that help you live a more balanced life, run your business more efficiently, and achieve sustainable growth. Members get new, actionable ideas and information for how to run their businesses better. It’s a small investment of time and money with a big payoff!
The relationships developed at these monthly meetings are also invaluable. I’ve not only found connections for affiliations and partnerships, I’ve also made some lifelong friends. And there’s no question that the support I get from this group lifts me up and recharges me every time I go.
You could also consider joining a mastermind group. A mastermind group is another great way to bounce things off other business owners and get and give that critical support small business owners need. And they’re everywhere.
All that to say there are ways to work smarter, not harder. It might even be easier than you think! You can do more, in less time and with less stress, just by some meaningful shifts in how you’re thinking and what you’re doing.
Whew! Maybe I should’ve just said that – along with call me. 🙂
Cathy can be reached at 314-267-3969 or Cathy@TheProductivityExperts.com