It wasn’t until last Fall, as I was planning to launch yet another new product when a coach (Lisa Carpenter) sat me down and asked, “Why don’t you just work on something you’ve already created?” Life. Changing. I realized that in an effort to serve my audience with more value, I felt the need to keep creating more stuff. More effective strategy? To improve what I already had and sell to more new people — not try to create new things for my current audience. It took that wake up call to realize that hobbyists start projects, entrepreneurs deliver them.
As a creative business owner, I’m willing to bet that you occasionally suffer with a serious case of shiny object syndrome too. (You know… when you are on fire and come up with more ideas for your business than you know what to do with.) If you’re constantly dreaming up new products and services or reimagining the way you run your business, it’s time for a little tough love. Those wonderful ideas you have? They’re probably distracting you from what you should be doing. And, if you let them completely take over, you’re going to fall into the #overwhelmed entrepreneur trap.
If you’re feeling a wee-bit stressed out because you have a dozen different projects going on at once and you’re jumping from one thing to the next, here’s how you can get it under control:
1. Let it out.
Goal: Be more organized with your ideas.
Grab a sheet of paper, dedicate a page in your bullet journal, or start a new Asana board. Gather all of the scraps of paper and post-its on your desk where you’ve jotted down some biz ideas, and write each of them on your shiny, new list. Use this as a running list of things you want to look further into or even implement in your business. You also want to be sure to keep your priority and To Do lists separate (it’s really hard to not turn every list into a To Do list, but you can try!). Make sure you get in the habit of logging all of your business ideas at the end of every day or week. I prefer to jot them down as they come up, which is why, like Larry David, I refuse to go anywhere without my notebook for ideas.
2. Let it go.
Goal: Evaluate, prioritize, and rank your ideas.
Someone once told me that the entrepreneur’s bane was “killing your darlings”, and it’s so true. You have these beautiful ideas for your business or your next product, but nobody loves your baby as much as you do, and, sometimes, as business owners, you need to kill some of the ideas in order to move forward with the better ones. But it’s so hard! Here’s how I try to be a little more objective and strategic with my ‘darlings’:
After your initial brain dump, step away from your list for a few days so you can come back to it with a fresh perspective. Block off an hour of your day, grab a mug of coffee or a cup of tea, and settle in to read item-by-item on your list.
You’ll want to start with a quick review of the entire list by asking yourself these questions:
From there, you should have a narrowed-down list of ideas and potential projects, but it still might be TOO LONG to tackle all at once, so how do you prioritize? Use the 80/20 rule! If you haven’t heard of the 80/20 rule (more formally known as the Pareto principle), it’s one of my go-to methods for, well, almost everything. In a nutshell, the 80/20 rule says that 20% of the inputs is responsible for 80% of the outputs. In our case, 20% of your time/effort should produce 80% of your results. Spend 80% of your time on the 20% of services, products or other things you offer that bring in the most income.
Now it’s time to go back to your edited list of ideas and ask yourself these two questions for each one: 1.) How much effort will be needed to implement this? 2.) How much benefit will I likely see from it once it’s in place?
Keeping the 80/20 rule in mind, you’ll want to rank your ideas starting with the ones that take the least amount of effort for the biggest return.
3. Focus and follow through.
I know it feels like you just spent so much time organizing your ideas, only to end up right where you began: with a list of projects you haven’t yet started… but cutting down the list of ideas and using a strategy to prioritize them is one of the best ways to prevent the burnout and overwhelm that goes hand-in-hand with taking on too many things.
Let’s tackle the first project on your list. It’s easy to start a project and then stop halfway through because no one else is there to keep you accountable. Start holding yourself accountable for your ideas, working on one or two projects from start to finish (yes, actually finishing what you started), and then move onto your next big idea by scheduling time to work on tasks. If you need to, it’s perfect acceptable to make a note about how happy you’ll feel once this task is crossed off your list in the scheduling notes.
One of the fun things about being an entrepreneur is being able to do what you want with your business, but you don’t want to let bad ideas, unfinished projects, and half-hearted endeavors pile up, or you’ll just be a hobbyist.