Time Poor, Stressed and Overworked? Here’s How to Stop Doing Everything in Your Business

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The saying goes “if you want something done right, do it yourself.” This is a trap that small business owners often fall into.

Remember the early days when it was just you setting everything up and keeping your business moving forward every day? This routine could’ve become a habit for you, leading you to including yourself in every daily operation–down to the smallest tasks.

As your business grows, it’s tempting to still do everything by yourself because you want specific results. This tendency is rooted in the mindset that only you can do things the specific way you want them done. This might also come about because you haven’t built up your training skills yet or you haven't found the time to educate others.

I know this from experience. In my custom cycling wear business, Seight, I was trying to do everything all the time. I was working long hours, about 60-70 hours a week, answering emails in the evening and working over weekends. I couldn't sleep at night because I was stressed and I had so many things running through my head. Because I spread myself so thin, my relationships deteriorated and my wife ultimately asked for a divorce. 

You don’t need to let things get this far. It's helpful to remember that you’re in business to offer a service or a product that will bring you income and free up your time instead of having to work 60-70 hours a week.

It’s important to adopt a mindset that has you step away from doing and, instead, into leading, because only then can you work on actually growing your business, not just keep it plodding along.

Why you need to stop doing everything

Having a hand in all your business’ operations is bound to run you into the ground because there are a tonne of tasks that make up each aspect of it. 

As a business owner and manager, you need to focus on steering the ship–planning, organising and ensuring you’re on track with objectives, these areas are where your expertise matters most. That bigger task is less obvious when you’re juggling multiple priorities at the same time, because you’re likely to make costly mistakes as you’ve lost sight of your goals trying to have your hands in everything. 

This is not to say you should hand off all the tasks you deem “unsavoury” to your employees–it just means you don’t need to be the only one taking them on. Your team members are more engaged, communicate more openly and exercise their creativity when they get to try new tasks at work, provided you give them the right amount of guidance so they don’t feel you’re micromanaging them.

Trying to do everything messes with your work-life balance as well because drawing clear boundaries is more challenging with a laundry list of tasks that you feel only you should do.

Having a long task list may feel satisfying as you’re ticking off each item, but keeping your head above water isn’t ultimately the reason why you started your business—you want to succeed and give yourself the freedom a business owner should have.

3 ways to get things off your plate (the right way)

Moving from the mindset that you need to do everything yourself to a collaboration mindset is a process, so the following steps are three ways to get you started. 

1. Only prioritise what you need to do

People are generally more likely to prioritise tasks with a deadline over tasks without one, regardless of their long-term gains, because it keeps them focused on the clock. These are assignments that often fall under housekeeping–set up a project, attend some meetings, follow up with a supplier, check in with a client and so on–and when you tick them off your list there’s a sense of accomplishment at the end of a work day.

It’s crucial to identify the tasks which don’t need your specific attention so you can use your time efficiently. One method is qualifying tasks in terms of their time sensitivity and their immediacy, which is where the Urgent-Important Matrix comes in:

Image Credit: Todoist

Important and Urgent tasks are those you can’t avoid or train someone else to do; these are business owner-level responsibilities or crises elevated by your team members because they don’t have the skills necessary or the experience to deal with them (but you do). 

When you make your to-do list at the beginning of the week, it’s easy to lump everything as quadrant one “do it” tasks, but when you ask yourself which of the tasks need your particular attention and perspective, you’ll find some of them can be delegated, especially tasks that you’ve done a thousand times and can easily train someone else to do

2. Delegate tasks based on the skills a team member needs to learn

For the tasks you’re delegating (or in the case of simpler tasks like scheduling, automating) you need to assess which team member would be best for the task. 

Given an employee’s current skill set, you have a baseline idea of what they can do and it helps to ask what else they’re interested in doing. If you have tasks on your list related to other services or operational areas, invite them to observe how you work, provide examples of the result you want and set aside time in the week for check-ins.

It sounds time-intensive, but team members build specific skills when they are trained, shadowed by employers and allowed to accomplish tasks on their own. When you delegate tasks, you need to give them complete instructions, encourage them to do their best and work together on polishing the output to the standard you need. You hired good people, so it pays to trust in their ability to follow instructions and learn new things.

Delegation creates an environment where everyone is learning, so employees thrive and feel supported when they make suggestions, creating a more engaged work culture overall.

3. Know your people and commit to helping them develop

Finding good people and trusting them to perform is only one part of building a great team. Delegation is effective when you know what your team members are capable of–having that yardstick of where each employee is coming from, skill-wise, lets you refine how you’re going to support them.

Assess your employees based on their level of expertise:

  • Low. These team members have very little experience with the task, so you’re better off having them shadow you so they can eventually pick up the skill set and take on the task in the future.
  • Moderate. Employees at this level have handled many lower-level tasks and some high-stakes project items, so maintaining regular check-ins help these team members deliver on time.
  • High. A team member at this level has understood the details of a task, can lay out particulars, can take action on the needed items and will revert at the end of the project with its outcome. It’s important to smooth out all the data with an employee at this skill tier.

Once you’ve made your assessment, it’s important to match your employee’s skill level to the kind of support you give as the manager and business owner. Handing off a task to a team member can be uncomfortable at first but that’s part of positioning your business for long-term growth, and it eventually becomes a habit once you’ve gotten used to putting your people in the right places to learn.

Wanting to do everything in your business is tempting because you need it done the way you see it, but getting lost in the daily tasks and keeping your team from exploring what else they can do isn’t the way to the results you want. With delegation and knowing your team you can free up time for yourself and get your business where you need it to be.

If you want support putting out the fires in your to-do list, book a call with us. Our business sherpas can guide you back to what’s important for your long-term goals.

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