There are no linear paths to true success. Everyone who has ever made it in a big way has travelled a journey more like a rollercoaster or a game of snakes and ladders.
Doing the same things every day for years probably won’t grow your business to new heights. But what will? Finding the ladders. Avoiding the snakes. Assessing your actions to cut out what’s holding you back and do more of what will propel you forward.
There are five everyday actions most of us do because we think they are productive. But they are not. Here’s why they are keeping your business small and here’s what to do instead.
1. Chores, errands and admin
Doing things far beneath our potential is keeping us playing far beneath our potential. If you saw a job advert for a taxi driver, cleaner or admin assistant, but you’re aspiring to be a multimillionaire, you wouldn’t apply for the role. Yet you’re effectively doing that when you run errands, tidy up, do your washing and wade through your tax return. As soon as you’re making more than £20 an hour it makes zero sense to do things you could outsource for less than £15 an hour.
If someone else can do it, don’t do it. Instead, spend the time resting and recharging or simply take on more clients or do things that will grow your business. There are no awards for the tidiest house, someone else could do your washing just as good as you, and your insistence on keeping hold of the little tasks is preventing you tackling the big ones. Outsourcing is the way.
2. Working all the time
Working non-stop in between your alarm clock going off and you being too tired to move might be costing your business success. Without resting, you’re never fully recharged to do your thing. Without switching off throughout the day, even if only for a few hours, your default mode network can’t kick in to sort through challenges for you.
Your mind needs rest and distraction for epiphanies and breakthroughs. Without intentionally switching off throughout the day, you’re always in beta brain waves, sorting through tasks without seeing the bigger picture. You’re ploughing away all day, head down and so into the trees you can’t see the wood. You’ll miss the opportunities that could help you leapfrog because there’s just no space.
Multi-tasking means trying to get the best of both worlds but winding up with the worst. Relaxing whilst checking emails, thinking about tonight’s run during a meeting that matters or scrolling Instagram at the gym are all a waste of time. Multi-tasking is less of a productivity hack and more of a quality zap. The cost of task switching is hours across a day, so starting something and sticking with it is the only way to go.
Instead of flitting between tasks or working all the time, carve out chunks of your calendar where you work intensely on one thing. Then rest, or switch, or reflect. Create your perfect repeatable day and plan your productivity cadence. There will be a perfect sprint duration that suits you, so experiment until you find it. Within that time, turn off everything else and don’t be tempted to check. Sit with discomfort until your attention span lengthens and you reach that place of flow.
4. Starting side-projects
If you’re not that bothered about your main venture, you should start side projects. If your business matters to you, side projects will cost its potential. Buying that domain name and registering that new business without an acknowledgment that your energy is now divided is a kind of ignorance that doesn’t lead to bliss.
One big business or loads of small ones. You decide. If you suffer from FOMO and like having your fingers in every pie, then carry on. But if you’ve got plans bigger than that, close other avenues and go all in. Keep a list of businesses you’d love to start, but don’t start them. Take the time and effort you saved and do more with your main business. Your future self will thank you.
5. Being too available
Being too available is keeping your business small because it means your team members aren’t progressing on their own. Rather than becoming resourceful, independent and useful people, they’re in your shadow, and can’t make moves without your consent. If you don’t trust your people, get rid of them. If you do trust them, leave them to it. Hanging out in the confused middle of being there for every query and assessing their every move is stifling their motivation to own their role and see what they can do.
If your ego can’t handle someone else answering questions and solving problems in your business, that’s on you. There are very few emergencies and you don’t need to be there all the time. Switch some of your office hours for time doing deep work. Swap some status meetings for meditating on your company vision. Create leaders, not dependencies. You’re a CEO not a babysitter.
Avoid the chores, errands and admin. Work in intense batches not nonstop slogs. Avoid the multi-tasking and say no to side projects in favour of all energy in one direction at any one time. Be less available so your team members become partners rather than employees. These everyday actions are easy to do and difficult to stop but doing so will remove the ceiling you might not have realised was there.