Work. You can expect to do a lot of it as a small business owner. After all, success doesn’t happen by itself. On the other hand, it’s usually work you enjoy doing. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have built your business around it.
A heavy workload is typically considered a sign that your business is growing. But, it may well also be working against you. More isn’t always better, especially when it compromises stamina, mental sharpness, and other aspects of your health. If you feel tired, stressed, or burned out, you’ll likely become less productive and more mistake-prone. Extending your workday or sacrificing weekends and holidays may sound noble, but it only perpetuates the cycle until something breaks—your business, your health, or both. There’s no upside to any of these outcomes.
How can you tame that beast known as a heavy workload? Here are some tips:
Inventory your time. Keep a log of your daily activities over a week or two, recording time devoted to projects, administrative issues, calls/emails, and interruptions—both external (e.g., a call or question from an employee) and internal (pausing to check email or surf blogs). You will no doubt find opportunities to designate certain times of the day for specific activities, such as saving email correspondence for after lunch. Set aside specific hours to focus exclusively on the most important tasks, and make sure your phone is muted or set to voicemail. These steps may require a measure of self-discipline, but they’ll soon become habits.
Negotiate. It’s OK to ask customers for extra time as long as it doesn’t become a habit, especially with the same people. Repeated extensions can have a domino effect, pushing your heaviest workload further out without you ever really catching up.
Delegate. Assigning specific tasks to qualified employees will ease your workload, and help develop potential leaders who can take on more responsibility as your business grows. However, don’t just “dump” a job you don’t like onto employees. Make sure they have the necessary training and interest to take on these assignments and meet with them regularly to monitor performance.
Have a back-up plan. Networking will help you identify other small businesses that provide the same services you do. When you find yourself with more work than you can handle, see if they have the time and capacity to take on some of the overflow. You’ll keep your customers happy, and those colleagues will likely reciprocate when they need outside help.
Don’t overcommit. Sometimes, you have to say no. Even a promising new opportunity will soon lose its luster by making a bad situation worse. Thank the customer, apologize for not being able to help and recommend a colleague who you feel can best serve their needs. Everyone will benefit, including you. In addition to maintaining a manageable workload, you’ll be remembered by the customer as someone who is honest and upfront about his/her capabilities, and worth contacting again when an opportunity arises.
For more information, contact the local SCORE office in Gainesville @ 352-375-8278, and online @ http://northcentralflorida.score.org. Or, call/email Doug Crotty, Certified Mentor and Media Contact for SCORE @352-213-2555, [email protected].