At the end of July, Ireland's most famous band, U2, returned to Dublin for a long week of parties and concerts. To call it a once-in-a-lifetime experience is an understatement. A week of partying that leads up to one of the best concerts is, alone, a great experience. As if I needed more of a reason to be excited, a couple friends offered me front-row tickets. My wife is a huge U2 fan (as any red-headed Irish girl should be), and I had it all planned out.
Only one glitch. I couldn't go. My schedule was too booked and I had to turn the tickets down. The problem is that I've let my schedule get too filled up with little things that become big things.
We are all busy. When the economy is tight, we take on extra work to save payroll costs. When the economy is great, we are so flushed with work that it's a full plate. I've gone 12 years now with this business and each one has been busier and more time-consuming than the last. The lie we tell ourselves -- "When I finish this issue/event/project, I'll be free to work on that project" -- almost always plays out differently. Something always comes up and we get too engrossed in our fires to focus on what we need to. So, instead of taking advantage of a great new opportunity, we're mired in mundane tasks than we can pass off to others.
This situation I'm in is unacceptable and has to get fixed. Today, it's the front row at U2. What will I be too busy to do tomorrow? An important client meeting? A speech to a large group? A dance recital for my girls? A family emergency? I'm not sure, but damn it, I'm not going to find out.
So, what's an entrepreneur to do? In order to force myself to get more things off my plate (and thus to free up more time for bigger things) and be available for bigger issues, I'm going to take more and more off my plate. My goal is to get to a point of having no more than 10 planned hours of work every week. That way I have the rest of the time to focus on big issues. There are always big-picture items I can tackle, and the only way to be free to focus on them is to remove the little things. I've done a great job of hiring well, and now that the team is in place to handle my smaller issues, I can let go without fear. If I need more help, I'm going to hire more great people. (Check out our hiring site, where we're working to attract top talent.)
My plan is pretty simple -- I offer it up not as the best plan, but as a possible solution. I would love to hear your thoughts and maybe we can all learn from my loss.
Last updated: Aug 28, 2009
CLINT GREENLEAF is the founder and CEO of Greenleaf Book Group (GBG), an Inc. 500 company, and a leading publisher and distributor with several NY Times and Wall Street Journal bestsellers. Clint (a CPA) sits on the University of Texas Libraries Board, blogs for Inc.com, is a regular guest host on Fox Business Network and has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Inc. magazine, Fox, MSBNC, Money magazine, Men's Health, Forbes and Entrepreneur. @clintgreenleaf