"Help me! I’m too busy and something needs to change..."
I get it. Being ‘too busy’ isn’t sustainable and doesn’t serve you or your clients. It may even be getting in the way of you growing your business.
The good news? It’s fixable, so grab your to-do list and ask yourself the following questions.
Question 1: Does this really need to be done? (If yes, now or later?)
We often have things on our to-do lists that either:
Don’t need to be done at all – they are ideas, maybes or "wouldn’t it be nice ifs". They are things we are thinking about, but that we haven’t actually made a firm decision on yet. Ideas are not to-dos – create a separate idea list and get those things off your to-do list!
Don’t need to be done NOW - if you aren’t strategic about planning ahead, then as a default everything on your to-do list feels like it needs to be done NOW. Work through each item and ask yourself – when does this really need to be done? Could it be put off until next week? Maybe even next month or next quarter? Take your list and put realistic due dates beside each item. (As an OBM I always start by creating a plan for my clients, so that we can be clear on realistic timelines and not feel like it all needs to be done ‘now!’)
After answering this question, you should be left with a list of things that are due in the next week or so – and a list of things that aren’t due yet (or are ideas and are no longer on the list!)
Question 2: Do I need to be the one to do this?
If you are like most business owners I know, as a default you feel like you must do everything. You are good at what you do. You are used to being the one to get it all done, but now things are starting to fall behind and slip through the cracks.
Run through your list again and ask yourself – could someone else do this for me? Be aware of the following when you answer:
"Well yes, someone else could do this for me but I’m the only one here so I have to" If you don’t have anyone working with you right now this could be true, and you also have the power to change that. Growth dictates that you will need to hire help at some point – when you do it is up to you.
"But no one can do it as well as me – so I have to be the one to do it" This is a dangerous spot to get stuck in, because as long as you believe it to be true, it is... and it could be your biggest barrier to growth. Yes, you may be the best at doing something but that doesn’t mean you can’t train another person to be as good as you or find someone who does it already and bring them on board. (As an OBM I work with my clients to ‘download’ everything from their brain into documented processes so that we can confidently start delegating.)
The goal here is simple – identify the things that others could do for you. It doesn’t mean you have to hire a bunch of people tomorrow, but at the very least you can look to give more to the people you have already and plan ahead for getting more support (which becomes a light at the end of the busy tunnel!)
This second question can be a doozy as it brings up all kinds of stuff – it might make your inner control freak have a bit of a fit. If you go through your list and still have your name beside every task, let’s talk. An outside eye can often see what you can’t.
Question 3: How can I create more space?
At this point you should have a realistic list of what needs to be done in the next week or so. Now you want to ensure you have the space and time to get it done. Here are two of my favorite tips:
Plan ahead –book the time in your schedule to get stuff done. You might book in specific tasks, or you might book in time for types of tasks (ie: writing time, client time).
Set boundaries – distraction is the death of productivity. Be it team, clients, family or social media – every time you get distracted it takes you off track, and for many people it happens all day long! Close your door. Shut your inbox. Turn off your notifications. Let people know when you aren’t available and when you are. And get really good at saying no (because they will test your boundaries!)
Question 4: Do I need to renegotiate any deadlines?
If you are truly in over your head and can’t get everything done, then you need to revise your deadlines with clients, team members or whoever may be waiting on you. I get that this sucks and you may hate having to do it, but it’s better for you to own up to something ahead of time vs. having people get upset with you because they are waiting/asking.
To simply say to someone "Hey, I got in over my head here and that’s on me. I won’t be able to get X to you until next Monday and wanted to let you know." Yes, you might need to make concessions for being late if this affects their timelines.
Even if they are frustrated, people will respect you for stepping up and being real with what is going on – and quite often they are OK with adjusted timelines if they know ahead of time.
The beauty of these 4 questions is that you can use them over and again. Work through this process every time you find yourself too busy, and ideally overtime you won’t need to anymore.
If you are looking to get off the hamster wheel of always being ‘too busy’ - let’s talk. As an OBM this is one of my specialty areas and I’d be happy to hop on a call with you to identify 5 things that could come off your plate immediately.