There are no linear paths to true success. Anyone who has ever made it big has taken a journey more akin to a roller coaster or a game of snakes and ladders.
Doing the same things every day for years is unlikely to keep your business from growing to new heights. But what will? Find ladders. Avoid the snakes. Assess your actions to extract what’s holding you back and do more of what will move you forward.
There are five everyday actions that most of us do because we think they are productive. But they are not. Here’s why they keep your business small and what you can do instead.
1. Chores, errands and administration
Doing things way below our potential keeps us playing way below our potential. If you’ve seen a job posting for a taxi driver, cleaner, or administrative assistant, but you aspire to become a multimillionaire, you wouldn’t apply for the position. Yet you do that effectively when you do your shopping, tidy up, do your laundry and go through your tax return. Once you make more than $20 an hour, there’s no point in doing 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 just taking on more clients or doing things that will grow your business. There are no prizes for the tidiest house, someone else could do your laundry as well as you, and your insistence on sticking to the small tasks keeps you from tackling the big ones. Outsourcing is the way.
2. Working all the time
Working non-stop between your alarm clock going off and you being too tired to move can cost you your business success. Without rest you are never fully charged to do your thing. Without shutting down all day, even if only for a few hours, your network in default mode will not be able to start solving challenges for you.
Your mind needs rest and distraction for revelations and breakthroughs. Without intentionally shutting down all day, you’re always in beta brainwaves, sifting through tasks without seeing the bigger picture. You’re plowing all day, head down and into the trees so you can’t see the forest. You miss out on the opportunities that could help you leapfrog because there just isn’t room.
Multitasking means trying to get the best of both worlds, but ending up with the worst. Relaxing while checking emails, thinking about tonight’s run at a meeting that matters, or scrolling Instagram at the gym are all a waste of time. Multitasking is less of a productivity hack and more of a quality zap. The cost of switching jobs is hours per day, so starting something and sticking to it is the only way to go.
Instead of flying back and forth between tasks or working all the time, cut out parts of your schedule where you work intensely on one thing. Then rest, or shift, or reflect. Create your perfect repeatable day and plan your productivity rhythm. 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 awkwardly until your attention span lengthens and you reach that place of flow.
4. Starting side projects
If you are not so concerned about your main business, you should start side projects. If your business is important to you, side projects will cost its potential. Buying that domain name and registering that new company without acknowledging that your energy is now divided is a kind of ignorance that does not lead to bliss.
One big company or many small ones. You decide. If you suffer from FOMO and like to get your fingers in every pie, keep going. But if you have bigger plans, close other avenues and go all in. Keep a list of businesses you’d like to start, but don’t start. Take the time and effort you saved and do more with your main activity. Your future self will thank you.
5. Being too available
Being too available keeps your business small because it means your team members aren’t getting ahead on their own. Instead of becoming resourceful, independent and useful people, they are in your shadow and unable to take any steps without your permission. If you don’t trust your people, delete them. If you trust them, leave them to their own devices. Sitting around in the confused middle of being there for every question and judging every move stifles 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 company, then that’s on you. There are few calamities and you don’t have to be there all the time. Trade some of your office hours for time for deep work. Trade 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 administration. Work in intense batches, not slog non-stop. Avoid the multitasking and say no to side projects in favor of all energy going in one direction at a time. Be less available so that your team members become partners instead of employees. These mundane actions are easy to perform and hard to stop, but doing so will remove the ceiling you may not have realized was there.