Real talk? You're probably a bonafide expert at running yourself into the ground. You pick up the slack, burn the midnight oil and the word "no" gets flipped to a hearty "yes" whenever you're in a ten-foot radius. But odds are that even through all the long hours, your work efficiency is skimming subterranean levels. And when it comes to winning leadership strategies, caffeine can only do so much to compensate for being bone-tired and wrung out.
If you're ready to make the hours you work matter more so you can stop working more hours, consider making yourself your first client every day.
Yes, it's counterintuitive—much of what's floating around in business culture screams, “Clients! Clients are king! Make the clients happy!" But the hard truth is that spending more time working won't necessarily help you better serve your clients or the people who support your quest for better client service like your employees and your family.
Check out these work efficiency tips from business owners in the know. They've all burned the candle at both ends. Now they're sharing how they keep from burning out.
Figure out your “more"
“The biggest misconception about 'more is better' is the definition of 'more'," says Scott Roelofs, owner of RCG Valuation & Monetization, a specialty tax and business valuation firm based in Scottsdale, Arizona. “Is it more hours? More days? More clients?"
He offers another way to think about “more." “More should be more of your best."
When Roelofs was starting his business, he was excited. He wanted to ramp up quickly so potential clients would take him seriously. This meant getting everything—from office supplies to employees—fast.
The only problem was that his business didn't have the revenue to pay everyone and everything yet. This led to stress. The people Roelofs care most about suffered, including his family. He knew something had to change.
That's when he decided to figure out his “more." Roelofs knew that he wasn't going to get the level of work efficiency he needed to make his growing business thrive by working more hours. He'd already tried buying more technology for the office and hiring more people. He had to whittle things down. Focus on what was essential for growth. Decrease his stress levels so he could fully focus on his business while living a life beyond its front doors.
“Your clients will be satisfied and so will your family, as long as you give them 100 percent of the time you spend with them. That is true even if you spend less time or fewer days [working]," he says.
Roelofs became his own first priority, making the time he spent on each task focused and meaningful as opposed to frantic and scattered. Seventeen years later, that strategy has served him, his family and his company well.
Find your accelerator
Jeb Ory, CEO and cofounder of Phone2Action, a Virginia-based technology company that helps drive civic participation, has a tip for those wondering how to increase your work efficiency. He recommends finding your accelerator—the thing that has nothing to do with work that makes your work better.
Why? Because it's easy to get lost in the quest for the next peak on your journey to the top.
“Ambitious, driven business owners always see that next peak, just at the edge of possible. You strive to reach it before you take a rest. But when you get there, the next peak comes into view. This mindset both spurs us on as leaders, but also means that other things don't get attended to," says Ory.
In Ory's case, that meant his newborn daughter. When his family welcomed its first daughter, he took six weeks off of work to spend with her and his wife. When his second daughter came along, he shaved that down to two weeks. He knows this has affected how he's been able to bond with her to date. And he also knows he needs to find ways to be better outside of work so he can be better at work.
Until you stop and put yourself first, you are running someone else's business and someone else's life.
—Laura Gassner Otting, author and chief catalyzing officer, Limitless Possibility
In addition to carving time out for his family, Ory's now focused on the one activity outside of work that always increases his work efficiency: fitness.
“I know that when I work out before work, I am in a better mood, my mind works better and I generally perform at a higher level," he says.
He's looking for ways to tap into his “accelerator" activity on a flexible schedule so he can still spend meaningful time at work and with his family. Interval training gyms with classes held several times a day as well as in-home cycling may be just the ticket.
When you're so caught up in the getting to “more" or reaching that next peak, it's easy to forget why you started this work you're doing in the first place. That's why Laura Gassner Otting, author of Limitless and chief catalyzing officer at Limitless Possibility, a Boston-based executive consulting firm, advises those who follow “servant" leadership strategies to slow down, pause and remember the “why" behind what they do. Servant leaders are those who follow a leadership philosophy where the role of a leader is to serve and help others first.
“Servant leaders, a category into which many business owners fall, burn out because as their businesses grow, they prioritize the 'servant' part of the equation over the leader part of the equation," she says. “That leads to nothing but running faster and faster, and losing sight of actual success metrics. They begin to resent the very businesses they've started."
You didn't get into business to end up resenting it. Gassner Otting wants you to dial your frustration back to the why that got you started and remember that you're the one who had the vision to get your business off the ground.
“Remembering why you got into this work—what you're really working towards—allows business owners to put themselves back into the equation as leaders," Gassner Otting says. "Perhaps you are working to maximize profit, perhaps to maximize flexibility, perhaps to maximize impact. Until you stop and put yourself first, you are running someone else's business and someone else's life."
Which is a perfect note to wrap-up this discussion on putting yourself first in your business each day. These three tips can help you slow down and remember what's absolutely essential for both your personal and business success. When you're fulfilled outside of the work you do, it's a lot easier to fulfill your responsibilities at work.
Who knows? You might even get back to enjoying the fulfillment.
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