As a small business owner, parent, friend, adult child, sibling or neighbor...Your plate can get incredibly full. Small Business owners tend to have more on their plate than most, honestly. Add the unexpected addition of life when you least expect it, and your plate can and will start hitting maximim capacity.
This past month has been one of those months for me. I run 2 pretty exciting businesses - both are full steam ahead and I'm definitely being rewarded for all my hard work over the years! More importantly, in the past month I've had to not only manage what life throws at you as a dual small business owner and single parent, but also something far more challenging: cancer.
Oddly enough, both of my parents have been recently diagnosed with cancer. Sadly, my dad's fate is imminent and my mother's diagnosis is not to be taken lightly either. It appears my family has a challenging road ahead.
Why do I share this? Quite honestly, I wasn't going to. I actually had been advised that it would add concern to my clients and team. I can see why. When you learn tragic news it can sweep your feet out from under you and take your breath completely away. That's where Chinet comes in.
You have 2 choices in life when your plate gets full - and it will, because everyone's does. Life happens.
So Option 1: Run like hell or take a juggling class. But as we all know, even a professional juggler can't keep all those plates spinning forever.
Or the option I prefer:
Option 2 - Your plate's full! Figure out how to manage it.
I believe this is the difference between good and great business owners and leaders. A good business owner might make excuses for missing things, leverage the outside world and organize empathy. Not really productive. No one really wants to hear your woes. To my advisor's point, it just makes them worried that you can't handle the job.
A great business owner is going to get out the Chinet! You're plates full, so now it's time to take things off of it.
Imagine a plate of food. There's cookies, protein, dairy, brussel sprouts, startch and a gigantic scoop of ice cream. Food is literally dripping off each end. As a business owner, your plate may look like that every day. It's time to take control of this plate of yours!
Organize everything you have on to several disposable Chinet plates and start throwing out or giving away what's least important.
Whether you literally write down your tasks and concerns on physical plates (lol!) or just on paper, it's important to take that time out to manage your time. For me, I happen to be managing some life altering, high priority things. I actually found, I needed to temporarily add another disposable plate to help me better focus on the things that I couldn't neglect - namely, my customers and family.
First plate to find is the one for the emotional grizzle. This is the stuff that takes your focus away from what's important. Its the stuff that you can't always change but that is changing you. Whether its illness, finances, children, divorce or any other mentally consuming derailer, it's important to find a place and a home for it so that it doesn't hurt the other important facets. How you can do this takes many forms. Whatever form you choose (meditating on the pain and releasing it, therapy, exercise, throwing darts at your exes picture,) you have to put the pain on it's own plate so you can throw it away. Even the Navy uses box breathing to help soldiers with overcome stress.
By adding 30 minutes of intense jounalling each morning about my parents' cancers, I am forcing myself to overtly focus on that for 30 minutes out of the day first thing in the morning. I found that by doing this, I could then release my brain of it so my full attention was back on my other priorities.
The other plate you need to throw away are the starches. People or projects that add no benefit to your life or business, they just seem to need and pull on you. They're kind of like mashed potatoes. They may be somewhat enjoyable while you're eating them, but they just stick to you and weigh you down unless you do something about it. You need to learn to say "No! I can not help you right now. I'm sorry." Don't feel guilty. Feel liberated.
Next plate, brussel sprouts. I chose brussel sprouts because they do happen to be very good for you; but, they are also one of the least likely food groups to be found on MY plate! These are the priorities. Not always fun, but put them all together, do them first, get them out of your way when you're fresh... Just do them! Unfortunately, in times of stress, you're least likely to want to do them. Just eat those darn things! Your business will be better for it and I promise, you'll be glad you did.
Now the ice cream. Hey, business is tough. Every one deserves a little ice cream, right? Let me tell you what happens in times of stress, though. We as humans start to justify why we need to reward ourselves and make ourselves feel better. It really doesn't work that way. When you start justifying doing all the fun things, you start losing time to do the important things. Just like your dinner plate, too much of a good thing can be detrimental. Reward yourself, recognize yourself, and love yourself... but prioritize first.
Lastly, invite Pareto for dinner. I think we all know Pareto's Law. At Small Business CT we really leverage it within our marketing program (http://SmallBusinessCT.org) to help give you time back and double your productive efforts. Pareto says that 20% of your plate will reap 80% of the reward. Chances are, when you look at your workload, much of the 'stuff'' you do every day is not producing the results you are earning.
I have a client who blogs like a madman. His blogs are terrific, value added and worthy of almost any business owner to read. Unfortunately, they are posted on an isolated website with nothing to drive traffic to it. By focusing his energy of taking his existing blogs and spending time marketing what he's already written, he's now getting more clients each day and business is soaring.
Our marketing program has a fantastic webinar dedicated to time management that's easy to follow. The work we do with clients around 'marketing right' verses 'marketing everything' is powerful and helps identify how you're wasting time. I also love Walt Hampton's book, "The Power Principle of Time Mastery." Whether plates, our program (http://SmallBusinessCT.org) or Chinet, take time to take time back.
I hope I've inspired to take some things off your plate. More importantly, I hope I've inspired you to see that no matter how hard life gets, you've got this!
To your success,
Colleen Ferrary is the proud owner of Small Business CT/USA (SmallBusinessCT.org) and supports the growth of businesses throughout the US with exceptional results.