When you own your own business, no one is telling you what you have to do. You get to set your own agenda.
The challenge with this is when you get to send your own agenda, you just don’t set one project at a time. Instead, you set 20 or 30. That’s where the problem is. When you have too many things on your "to get done" list, nothing ever gets done.
I get it. Running your business is often like putting out one fire after another, and if there are no fires, there are too many opportunities you’re trying to take advantage of.
When you have too many things to do, you freeze. You don’t know where to turn first, and before you know it, you’re spending five minutes here and ten minutes there, and nothing useful is ever getting accomplished.
Think about this way of categorizing the activities you need to do.
Stephen Covey wrote a popular title The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. When you start thinking about these quadrants, you’ll look at your activities differently.
The four quadrants are:
Urgent and Important. These are the things we can’t ignore. If we don’t take care of them immediately, we will have big problems. The challenge with this quadrant is that you’ll often put things here that aren’t urgent and important. They might be for someone else in your company (like your #VirtualAssistant) but not you. When you’re in this quadrant, you’re being reactive and losing money.
Important and not urgent. This is the place you want to live. You have important activities you want to do, and nothing terrible will happen if you do them today or tomorrow. The challenge with this quadrant is it’s easy to put stuff off. If you do, what used to be important but not urgent just might become urgent. The other issue with this quadrant is you’re going to put too many things in it. So if you have more than one or two activities here, there’s a good chance you won’t get them done well.
Urgent and not important. This is often where others are trying to make their tasks urgent and important for you. For example, it might be pressing for someone in your company. If this is true, you must have them complete the task or project.
Not urgent and not important. If you find yourself in this quadrant, ask yourself if you need a break or feel burned out. This is what I see when this behavior rears its ugly head. If you need a break, that’s great. Take one and then get back to work. But, on the other hand, if you’re feeling burned out, you need to find a way to bring excitement back into your life.
The most important skill you have to learn is: Saying the word no. Without no, there is no room to say yes to the right things.
Having to say no might mean disappointing someone.
Time is a finite resource. If you fill your day with tasks that don’t move the needle in your company, you’re never going to do the tasks that can add value.
After owning a Virtual Assistant company for 15 years, I've seen what works and what doesn't. The best system for avoiding burnout is called now, soon, and later and this is how it works:
Start by writing down all of the projects you have on your plate.
Then, put them into the quadrants of urgent, important, etc.
Finally, move all of your projects into the following three buckets:
Now is for things you have to work on right now. There should be no more than two items in this bucket. Soon are things you’ll consider as soon as you complete the projects you have in the now bucket. You can’t consider them till you cross off something from your now bucket.
If you do this system while hiring a Virtual Assistant, you’ll avoid spinning your wheels, racing toward burnout and bouncing from one activity to another. If you do these two things instead, here’s what you’ll get. You’ll get your most important things done first and move faster than you thought possible.
This is really the secret sauce that keeps our clients focused on what’s important and not urgent.