Stop Overworking & Start Leading
Like clockwork, I open my eyes at 3 a.m. and check my email on my phone. I count how many orders have come in since I went to bed at midnight, and if I'm not that sleepy, check the rate of international orders and the amount median.
My mind races as I think about "The List." This is the internal check list that, like most busy people, I make before going to bed. But then more things occur. I'm too tired to write them down, so I repeat them over and over again in the hopes that I will remember when I wake up. To my conscience's chagrin, I begin to obsess about what the day will look like in the morning, what potential crises could occur in the different departments, and how I could help avoid them. I have a million balls juggling in the air, and even in my sleep, I try to balance them all at the same time.
Because I'm a sadist, I check the Customer Service email account (which I also receive on my phone) and read the emails, which generally include delay complaints, important questions from sales leads, or details on customer accounts that need to be correctly edited before orders ship.
Then I fight with myself to get the few remaining hours of sleep I need.
Tomorrow is a big day. Well, all days are pretty big days now. We are growing at a dramatically fast pace, exceeding our projected expectations, and becoming the company we always dreamed we'd be. However, I'm more stressed and frantic than back in the day.
Becoming the Do-It-All-Queen
As our company grows and new employees come onboard, I find myself getting busier. Now not only do I have to keep track of my entrepreneurship duties, but the tasks and progress of another dozen or so "new millenial" employees (let's refer to them as that, and expand on dealing with a 23-year old's ego later). My office looks like a revolving door of employee questions or issues, as I frantically try to explain the importance of working together, follow-through, and big picture consequences.
I am the Problem-Solver-In-Chief. The Do-It-All-Queen. And I'm exhausted.
I long for the days when I had the time to sit and think, dream, and to develop innovative strategies through creative ideas. Reminiscing, I realize that some of the most effective strategies were created before the business was profitable, and some of those strategies, surprisingly, have carried us through even to this day, when our "innovation" time is limited to, let’s be honest, places like the shower.
For the last few years, virtually all of my conscious and unconscious hours have been essentially dedicated to putting out fires. I spend my days helping out the gals I pay to help me out, because ironically, our corporate model lacks the structure and personnel to have these issues be someone else’s problems.
It hadn’t dawned on me until I attended a recent Inc. Leadership conference of one important thing: this shouldn’t be my problem, it should be someone else’s.
Yep, you read right. The time had come to pass on the baton of the dirty work to--horror of horrors--someone else. For the last five and a half years, I’ve approached my business as a longing mom would her first baby. You think that no one else can love it the way you do, care for it as you would, or know exactly what it needs and when. And part of that is true.
However, at the risk of sounding like a teenager at a Justin Bieber concert, I can’t help but rave at the sea of insight that arose as a result of the Inc conference, out of merely interacting with other entrepreneurs that go through the same exact thing as I do.
As I listened to some of the respected speakers, I had an epiphany, and the simplicity of the revelation lies in that at that time, I realized that I am not only allowed to have the grunt work delegated to a competent individual, but that it is my duty as the head of the company to invest my time in what will produce the greatest results for my business. In essence, I am doing a disservice to my company by continuing to invest time in the minutiae of the logistical process, and delegating vital tasks, such as the high-impact marketing strategies, to a less senior member.
At some point, you got to let go. Trust. Put the “Do not Disturb” sign on your door. And bury yourself into carrying your business to the next step.
If you’re too busy to listen, step back, and get inspired by like-minded people, you’ll end up being the parent that’s still changing the diapers of her tween daughter, who’s now going through the awkward growing phase.