You know exactly what I’m talking about.
You go to a party and introduce yourself as a self-employed window cleaner. You get one of two reactions:
1.) They look at you as if you’re one step away from being a homeless person who lives in a cardboard box on the side of the road. (I don’t know why, but I get an insane amount of joy out of this reaction…)
2.) They look at you in complete jealousy– their eyes expressing how much they wish they had a super easy job and a super cool boss, like themselves, to work for.
Ha Ha Ha! Both of those responses make me laugh so hard.
The funny thing is that you’re anything but some ambitiousless homeless person. And you certainly are not a cool boss to work for. In fact you probably hate working for yourself. You force yourself to work long hours. You sometimes forget to pay yourself. You don’t give yourself any vacation time. Sick time? Hilarious.
Kind of funny being self-employed, isn’t it?
Under the harsh conditions of self-employment live many different advantages, though. Interestingly, I often tell people that even though I’m self-employed, I’m NOT my own boss. I tell people that I have 1,205 bosses–or whatever that happens to be at the time. Having so many bosses (or clients), means that you are able to diversify your risk. Unlike most people who are hired by one boss, if the job dries up, they’re out of work. With us window cleaners, if we get fired by one boss (for whatever reason) we hope that all the other ones can keep us busy.
In any event, being self-employed means wearing many hats. And this means that we must be efficient. Groundbreaking, huh? I know you already knew that. But it’s difficult to be as busy as we are and still maintain a high degree of efficiency. I know I struggle with that all the time myself.
So I’ve distilled down my reasons for inefficiency into three categories:
1.) I’m burned out. When I get burned out I can actually feel it. It’s hard to get out of bed. I don’t smile as much. I dread when the phone rings, even if it’s a customer just begging to give me work. I can’t wait for the work of each day to be over. I’m not a doctor, so I can’t offer you a pill for this, and I don’t have a great way to help you avoid ever having this happen — but I can offer you some advice: For me, burn out is typically brought on by the next two items in this list, so if you can fix the next two things, you’ve got it made after just a little bit of rest and relaxation to get back into the groove.
2.) I have no goals that day. Lack of direction will send you into a tailspin of inefficiency quicker than you can say: “Getting Things Done” (yes, that was a David Allen innuendo). If you don’t know what you’ve got to get done, and you don’t have a list of things you’d like to accomplish each day, you have no choice but to be inefficient, right? I mean, if you aren’t prioritizing what you’d like to get done– and what you’re willing to do to get there– or who you need to talk to in order to get there; there just isn’t any other answer than inefficiency. I like to structure my day so that at the end or the beginning of the day I start writing goals out (or to use a technical term: “to-do’s”) so that I have a clear and defined path in reaching my bigger goals. My goals are often times small and achievable in and of themselves — but more often than not my goals are more of a vision. This vision ranges from my window cleaning company being a “customer service company… that just happens to do windows”, to making improvements within ResponsiBid to improve the lives of those who use it. I look at these goals or visions as I write my to-do list for the next day. Because my memory is so bad, I oftentimes will even include my bills or tax filings and whatever things are important to get paid into this list of things to do. These “action items” typically have no problem filling up my day with work.
3.) I am not being realistic. Sometimes my ambition is my worst enemy. I have no problem coming up with plenty of ideas, solutions, or other items to put on my list of things to do. But sometimes my “I want it… and I want it now!” attitude is what comes between me and my success. Burnout is often caused by what Stephen Covey refers to as, “not sharpening the saw.” The principle here, is that if you keep rubbing the serrations of the saw back and forth at breakneck speed without taking breaks to sharpen it — you end up with a really hot, energy sucking, dull piece of metal that is not getting you any closer to your goal. The answer here is to make sure that you plan each day with realistic expectations as to what you can accomplish in a reasonable amount of time. I’m as guilty as anyone who works too many hours each day, but I can tell you that if you schedule yourself to work no more than eight hours per day and make it a priority to squeeze all the important things into those eight hours, you will simplify your life in a big way. (And improve yourself at being a husband, father, or community member!)
In the final analysis, I have found that time management is rooted in goal management. Whether you’re a one-man band, an administrator of several crews, or just thinking about starting out on your window cleaning business. I know that when you are able to delegate tasks that pull you away from the really important ones you will discover a new found freedom of actually OWNING your business rather than being OWNED by your business.