This vintage post from Men with Pens addresses a very big issue solo practitioners face; too many things to do, not enough time. The end result, lost time, brain drain and at a significant cost to your business and personal life:
Seven Ways to Battle Productivity Brain Drain
Too many ideas
at once dig into your mental and physical energy resources just as
credit cards dig into your money. Too much mental spending creates
debt, leaving you with a mess and feeling overwhelmed trying to stay
Financial advisors have the perfect solution. These
number-crunching pros have strategies that reduce conventional debt,
and these can also help reduce and eliminate idea debt and brain drain.
You’ll restore some balance in your life and actually get things done
with these seven adapted strategies.
1. Cut up your mental credit cards.
People who want to reduce debt cut up the tools that let them
accumulate more debt. The same applies to entrepreneurs – cut off new,
incoming ideas. Write those ideas on a list you can set aside (you
don’t want to forget them, after all.) Come back to the list when life
is back in order.
2. Uncover the real expense.
You probably have a ton of great ideas. When you put those ideas into
words on a list, it can be surprising to realize just how much work
might be involved. Make a list of each project, all related tasks and
subtasks, and get the big picture of just how much your ideas cost you.
3. Budget your mental spending.
With the big picture and the (long) list of everything each project
requires, it’s easier to see where you need to cut back the unnecessary
expenses that cost you time. Cut the spending, and apply the savings to
your mental debts.
4. Pay more than the minimum.
If the bill comes in and you only pay what’s necessary to stay in good
credit, it takes a long, long time to eliminate the debts – and you
also rack up interest, making the debt harder to pay off. When you work
a little on multiple projects, their progress is slow and you become
more tired plugging away.
5. Reduce one debt at a time.
Financial experts suggest tackling one debt fiercely (usually the one
with the highest interest) to eliminate it before working on
eliminating the next debt. Do the same with your focus and time – pick
one project and work on eliminating all the tasks to reach the goal.
Then move on.
6. Don’t spend what you don’t have.
People wake up when families are a mess, partners are complaining and
kids are neglected. These people suddenly realize they didn’t have the
available time to commit to their ideas in the first place. Know how much
time you have, and don’t commit more than you can invest safely.
7. Pay yourself first.
If all your time goes to your business, you never have a moment to just
relax and do something else. Rest your brain and set aside a chunk of
time for something besides business.
Solo practitioners, entrepreneurs in general, do not ‘pay’ themselves first. I’m not talking about money, I’m talking about time, attention to health, family and more.
And the most recent phenomenon with progressive solo practitioners: they are into TOO much, excited by so many potential opportunities the internet has provided, they are like octopi, their hands into so many things they end up with a lot of nothing, at least nothing of real or lasting value. Great ideas wither and die on the vine from lack of consistent attention because other fanciful ideas distract them from the money-making ones. Whether it is marketing or a new source of revenue, it doesn’t matter. We are distracted and wasting time with too many ‘opportunities.’ And worse yet, we defend our actions by categorizing them as necessary.
Step back, assess what is working for you today and what isn’t. Prioritize your revenue generating (or pleasure generating) activities, shelving those which simply cannot be accommodated today, and then focus on what is most important. This can’t be overstated. Or done too soon. Look at which activities promise the greatest return or greatest opportunity to leverage to help you achieve your goals and stay focused.
I know I am sometimes a victim of overwhelm and certainly of brain drain. I have to believe you have been, too. I know #7 resonates with me very strongly.
For instance, the summer is beginning. You’re thinking about taking a vacation and you aren’t sure if you can ‘afford’ to take one? I don’t mean money. I mean time away from your practice even if it’s just a ‘stay-cation’ away from the computer while you read your favorite book or clean out the closets. I remember before I became a lawyer I was working in a commission-based job. I had hit all my sales goals and felt ready to take a vacation. I went in to my boss and looked to book my time. He stared at me and was a serious as a heart attack when he said, ‘can you afford to take a vacaction?’ I looked at him and without missing a heartbeat said, ‘I can’t afford not to.’
Brain drain is real as is lost productivity from not taking a break. I promise, the world will continue to spin without you for a few days and (gasp!) a week, too! You just have to give yourself permission to relax and know that in doing so you are actually helping your practice.
I know this post is resonating with many of you. What have you done when you feel overwhelmed by too many great ideas and not enough time to fully explore them? What has it cost you? How did you fix it? How do you give yourself permission to take a meaningful break from your practice?