“Daddy, watch! No, Daddy - keep watching! Watch, watch, watch…”
Why does my young son neurotically repeat “watch” through the duration of his latest trick? It’s heartbreaking, really. He has learned to fight for my attention. But, who is he fighting against?
Sadly, it’s me.
I am a small business owner. I love my family, and I love my work (usually). As a business owner, the world’s current technology is incredible, because it allows me to blur the line between work and home, and I am accessible to my business 24/7. This technology is also crippling. Because it allows me to blur the line between work and home, and I am accessible to my business 24/7.
But this isn’t an article about being a better father. (We already know being less busy would make us better parents.)
This is an article about being a better business owner. Being a guy or gal like me, out there with his nose to the grindstone, working it out, getting this small business off the ground, keeping it afloat, or finally seeing growth and just trying to keep up. No wonder we’re busy! I mean, it’s practically in the job title: business owner… busy-ness owner…
Busy means better. Busy means money. Busy means successful. Busy means accomplishment. Busy means fulfilling your business goals and dreams.
Actually, probably not.
Busy-ness, even as a business owner, is a disease: the dis-ease of a jam-packed schedule and mind, void of margin.
If you suffer from the Busy Business Owner Disease (or want to prevent contracting it) these 3 tips will help:
3 Tips for the Busy Business Owner
Why did you start your business? Why are you still in this business? Keep these answers in front of you: they are your Why. Whether in words, in pictures, or a combination, keep your Why in front of your face. Your Why may be your family. It may be a cause you want to champion. It could be any number of things, and your Why will not be the same as someone else’s. Keep a Why reminder in your calendar; tape it inside a paper calendar (yes, I know some of you still use those), or set it as the wallpaper on the electronic device you use instead. Keep a Why reminder where you make decisions about how you spend your time and your resources; this could be your desk, your car, or even the shower. Identify your Why, own it, and keep it in front of you so you remember it when deciding how to spend your time.
“When deciding how to spend my time?” Yes, I know - especially as a business owner - it can often feel like you don’t really have a choice. There are things you just have to spend time doing. But even when responsibilities loom large, do not lose sight of your ownership: ownership of your business, yes, and ownership of your time. You have been entrusted with a certain amount of time on this earth; it is yours to invest, and the hard truth is this: how you invest your time reveals your priorities.Take the phrase, "I don't have time for that," and replace it with, "That is not a priority right now." If the sentence is still true when you say “it’s not a priority,” then you're right: you don't have time for it. But if "that is not a priority" doesn't sit well with you, then - if that thing/person/activity truly is a priority right now - you must find time for it (which may mean you don't have time for something else).
Don’t get me wrong: I am not saying you ought to only spend time on things you want to do. On the contrary (and again, even especially as a small business owner), we will often do things we don’t want to do -- but we ought to be doing those things because they are critical to what’s important to us. I don’t want to pay taxes. But not going to jail is important to me. So I pay taxes.How do you decide what’s important? You remember your Why and prioritize accordingly.
You’ve identified your Why, plastered pictures and quotes to remind you everywhere you look, and even your spouse is inspired on the daily. You’ve replaced, “I don’t have time for that,” with, “That is not a priority,” and have realigned your calendar to more accurately reflect your true priorities.
But you still feel BUSY.
When something comes up, you’re still scrambling. And to be honest, your Why was top-of-mind for all of three days. So here are the final hard questions: did you schedule time to remember why you started your business? Do you have space to remember who and what are important to you? Or are you too busy getting it all done?We can look to the design world to illustrate my point. Consider the most impactful websites, magazines, and newsletters -- and even the most impressive artwork or interior design. They all utilize what’s called white space. It’s the margin. It’s the space between. It’s the space in the room or on the page or the screen or the canvas that is just that: space.
White space appears to be unused, but really, it is extremely useful. Editing to include white space helps the page or the room appear less cluttered and creates room around the things that are there. Editing doesn’t mean to cut something out just for the sake of cutting it. Good editing, in this sense, makes room -- white space -- and allows the page to “breathe.” Ultimately, effectively editing and utilizing white space makes the difference between highlighting what is most important or having what’s most important get lost on the page.
Even as a business owner: more is not necessarily better. Busy is definitely not better. Just like editing on the page, when you carve out white space on your calendar and in your mind, your life has room to breathe, and the activity that remains has greater impact.
If you’ve run out of time to remember and prioritize, it’s time to edit.
Sam Casey is the Chief Creative Officer and Managing Partner at Banyan Creative.