“People are fatigued and angry about always being on and never done.”
How many of you can relate to this statement? As a startup, I can tell you first-hand how much I struggle with getting through my constantly growing to-do list. From overseeing the technical development of Ugenie to making sure the VAT is filed on time, I feel like no matter what I do, my task list just doesn’t get any shorter.* As someone who likes to feel a sense of accomplishment, it can be very frustrating to never get to the bottom of the list.
There have been times when I tell myself that when Ugenie grows, things will get easier as I will have more help. But what I have seen by working with our clients and speaking with other business owners is, that no matter what stage a business is at, everyone can feel overwhelmed with the amount of things that need to be done. And fundamentally, instead of hoping to one day ‘outsource’ my stress, I should look at developing better skills to manage the overwhelm.
So now, three years into building Ugenie, here’s what I have come up with:
1) Prioritise the tasks that are most important to your business objectives
As a tech founder, I have become very familiar with working in sprints, which is a set period of time during which specific work has to be completed and made ready for review. Prior to each sprint, my team and I look at our development plan and recent client feedback to determine what we would like to see built in each sprint and then discuss it with our CTO. He then gives us an idea of what can realistically be achieved in the next sprint. Many times, he will say that there is no way to build everything on the list, and ask ‘what is a need to have versus a nice to have?” Essentially, this question ensure that we prioritise the features which will add most value to our business objectives and serve our clients.
Although the above is a specific tool for technical development, I believe that its’ principle can be applied to my general task list as well. Once I have all my tasks listed in one place (which is very important), I work to prioritise the ones that carry the highest value for my business, or are fundamental for hitting my business’ goals. I put the ‘nice to have’ things at the bottom and try to organise the ‘need to do’ things in a time critical order. However, it is also at this time that I start to think about the second big lesson that I have learned. What tasks can I outsource or automate*?
2) Outsourcing makes you money in the long run
As a business owner, there will inevitably be things on your task list that don’t fall into your area of expertise, but you try to tackle to keep things ‘lean.’ Outsourcing is easy when you don’t have the ability to do the task at all, like code an app. But you may, like me, be able to use tools like Canva to make social media posts for your business (something I actually enjoy!), or Quickbooks to do your books.
However, could a graphic designer (which you can hire for a relatively reasonable price on Fiverr or Peopleperhour), not only do a better job at creating your brand’s social media campaign, but also free up your time to do something that would create more value in your business. I guess the questions to ask are, “how much is your time worth?” and “would it be more beneficial for your business if your time was spent on something else?” If it’s worth more than the person who are outsourcing a task to, or your time should be better spent on another tasks, then in the long run, won’t outsourcing that task make your business more productive and profitable?
3) Scheduling time for particular things
If you are anything like me, then your business is an extension of yourself and you want everything you do to be professional and perfect. However, if you do not schedule set times for specific tasks, you can end up spending 2 hours on Canva creating a graphic for social media when you should have been working on the business plan or following up on sales leads. Thus, scheduling blocks of time for each task on your list can be very important to make sure that you don’t fall down a long-time consuming rabbit hole.
Finally, managing and scheduling time is also vital so that you can achieve some sort of work-life balance. When building a business that we are passionate about, it is very easy to neglect to schedule any time for non-work related things (family, friends, fitness etc). But eventually, this will cause burn-out which can ultimately be very costly to the business as you recover. Further, taking time away from my business definitely prevents me from getting caught up in the day-to-day tasking and ensures I focus on the long-term objectives of the business.
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