Have you read the The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey? If not, I highly recommend it to anyone who is running their own soulful business. He had really soulful principles to life and to work and I read it over again when I need a little boost to help me out.
One of the key principles he mentions in the book, is something I was taught by one of the most influential bosses I ever had in the corporate world.
The lesson is this: we will never have enough time to do everything, we will never get through our to-do lists, so when we prioritise our tasks and our time, we need ensure that we spend most of our time doing the things that are important for our business and actually generate our income.
So many of us get caught up doing unimportant tasks, because we confuse urgency with importance.
Once upon a time I had a long career as a sales executive. I had a yearly sales target which was quite significant and my job was to achieve it. It was as simple as that. I also had lots of other responsibilities, such as managing the legal contracts, the finances and accounts, sending marketing materials and so on. I had colleagues and an assistant to help me with a lot of it, but they were sometimes busy too so I would often hold onto all the admin work because it was “quicker to do it myself”. I was always overworked and stressed, I dreamed of working for myself one day.
Then I left the corporate world in 2014 to become a full time photographer thinking I would be the boss of my own time and that I would finally have so much freedom. This time, I didn’t have colleagues so I did have to take care of a lot of extra work myself, but I ended up working more than I did before. I started spending way too much time doing admin, editing, marketing, fiddling around with my website and changing it every few months. I spent most of my time at my computer, not taking photos and doing what I loved. I burned out after 5 years and was in debt, because I didn’t prioritise my time better and I didn’t trust others to help with anything.
Then I got a job as a part time studio manager in an architects office to help pay the bills. But that was so stressful because the owner was a perfectionist and would obsess about such unimportant details, including the font I used on the invoices I sent out. He would actually make me resend invoices if I had used the wrong font type.
They wanted me to make the office more efficient, so I tried to start using the automated functions of their online accounting software – which sends invoices and logs payments automatically. But he refused to let me send invoices out via on the system, because it didn’t have their favourite font, and he didn’t like the way those automatically generated invoices looked.
He kept asking me to help make the office more efficient, but would refuse to embrace the tools at our disposal because it didn’t fit with how he felt he wanted it to be done. It was an impossible task. So I quit one afternoon after another frustrating meeting about improving the efficiency of a spreadsheet that was going in a similar direction.
But I had been no better than him when I was a sales manager or a photographer. I was also a perfectionist and had also wanted to do everything myself and the way I wanted it. But it was often to my own detriment.
Can you think of places in your life where you might be doing the same?
And you know what, most of the time, the things we obsess about might seem significant to us, but make no difference to other people and don’t benefit the business in a valuable way.
Those invoices? The office managers receiving them would never have even stopped to notice the font, they would have only been interested in making the payment correctly and making sure the accounts were correct, then they would have been filed away.
Taking time to reflect on the ways we might be getting in our own way is an important step to freeing more time up for the important things.
It may not seem urgent, but it is so important.