It’s so easy to get caught up in all the goals that don’t matter. Both in life and in business it’s almost impossible to stay focused on the things that really matter most.
I spend quite a bit of my time hanging out in online groups for moms of autistic children. The women I meet there just understand my world in a different way than most. Every day we welcome new moms to our circle — they join us when their children are diagnosed and they usually come in worried about when their children will learn specific skills (like talking) and they want a plan to meet those goals. There are endless stories of success, milestones met, independence gained… but I always chime in with a reminder that the goal isn’t to get our children to a neurotypical normal. Our goal is to support them in being the happiest they can be. Period. All the other stuff is just icing on the cake.
This weekend I spent some time thinking about what goals actually matter for myself and my business. I’m the first to admit that I am very results-driven and love to check to-dos off my list and push my revenue and profit higher.
But those aren’t the goals that really matter.
My real most important goal is to provide for my family — but that means more than just making money. The money part is important, don’t get me wrong, but I also need to provide them with my time, my attention, my energy, and my love. It’s pretty hard to do that if I’m always focusing on getting work done and driving more sales.
So, how does anyone work less time, conserve more energy for their family and still keep the lights on? Here’s what I’m doing that works for me:
- Time Blocking
- Identifying the Most Important Thing Each Day
- Saying No
- Doing Fewer Things
Funny thing is, these techniques also help me get more of my to-dos done and have improved my revenue.
Ah, time blocking. I honestly don’t know how I ever survived before I started taking this approach to managing my time. It’s probably easiest to understand if I show you, so check out this quick video of how I manage my weekly list of stuff to do and get it all worked into a 25ish hour workweek.
Identifying the Most Important Thing Each Day:
If you haven’t watched the time blocking video, go do that first. The idea of the most important thing is that even on days when everything goes completely sideways, if I can get the most important thing done for that day done, then I can call the day a success. Now, obviously, there are many important things I need to do every single day, but my job is to identify just one thing each day and make sure it happens.
This might sound a little like eating the frog, but the difference for me is that I’m looking at what is most important for the day, not what might be the most difficult or painful to get done. I’m a hopeless procrastinator and I know that leaning into my procrastinating ways will get me much farther than fighting against it. So, I’ll let myself put off boring, unfun, stressful, and just plain ugly tasks…as long as they aren’t the most important thing for the day.
I’m an “acts of service” kind of person. I like saying yes, I like being the helper, I really love taking the burden off other people. So for me, it has taken years of practice to get good (ok, somewhat good) at saying no to things I shouldn’t or don’t want to do and delegating as much of my workload as I can.
Saying no is hard to do, but saying no is the only way to free yourself up to say yes when it really matters. Saying no is what gets you out of your office and home with your kids on time. Saying no is what builds the boundaries that you need to conserve your precious energy. Saying no is what keeps you from feeling overwhelmed, overstretched, and up all night worrying about getting all the things done.
The question I ask myself when I know I should say no to a project or request for my time is “what’s the worst that can happen if I say no?” The list of consequences use to be overwhelming, but now it’s usually “they find someone else to do it and then I don’t have to”. Practice saying no and you’ll be surprised how easy it gets and you’ll find much better things to say yes to.
This can be another tough one, especially if you’re a solo business owner or you don’t feel you have anyone on your team you can delegate to. I say, start small. Even saying no is a form of delegating (you’re basically reassigning that task right back to the person who asked you to do it).
Some ways I’ve gotten better at delegating are:
- Hiring a virtual assistant team who can handle pretty much anything I can document for them. They do anywhere from 5 – 25 hours of work for me a week of all the tasks I just simply don’t want to do.
- Partnering with other service providers who can handle overflow or take on the kind of work we no longer do. When we scaled back our offering to only do website services, we relied on our colleagues to help our clients with their other needs.
- Letting the people I pay actually do the work I pay them to do. You may not have a team, but you probably at least work with a contractor or two. And if you’re like me, you find yourself stuck right in the middle of the work you asked them to do…slowing down the process and creating roadblocks where there really shouldn’t be any. Delegating is so much simpler when you get yourself the heck out of the way and let your team actually do the work you’ve hired them to do. You may even find that they can do it better and faster than you could anyway.
Doing Fewer Things:
This was a tough one for me. Making the decision to only offer website services took some real courage. See, I was afraid that my peers would think I wasn’t good enough at this whole business thing to keep offering a full suite of marketing services. I was worried that clients would choose to work with agencies who can do everything under one roof. I was terrified we would miss the revenue from all the services we would no longer be offering.
But, instead, my colleagues have responded overwhelmingly positively. Our new website clients appreciate the straightforward approach and quality we deliver. And a simpler offering is actually easier to sell (I know, that one should have been obvious) so revenue is up and we’re more profitable than ever before.
What are the goals that actually matter to you? How can you change your habits and your work style to bring those goals into reality?