WorkWise: Overextended business owners regain footing

culp@workwise.netOctober 1, 2012 

Beth Johnson, CEO of Johnson, Richards & Associates LLC in Brighton, Mich., went into high gear when a client’s patients needed attention.

“I found myself back in scrubs,” she says, “working with patients in inner-city homes. Not something I would ever have predicted I’d be doing as a consultant to health care organizations, but patients needed care.” That led to 16 consecutive 18-hour days, minus one two-hour break.

Business owners, busy enough during the normal course of their work, can become overextended by simultaneous, competing demands. Licensed professional counselor Michael Salas of Vantage Point Counseling in Dallas, Tex., cites some specific warning signs of feeling out of control: “snapping with people at home, being a little more impatient or not getting things done there you normally do.”

Robert Preziosi, professor at Huizenga School of Business, Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., shows how, from a business standpoint, to make practical changes.

PULLING BACK

“We’ve all had periods in our work lives where we work incessantly and begin to wonder about the purpose of it all,” Preziosi remarks. “During these times we’ve stretched ourselves so thin that a strong wind would blow us away.” He maintains that it’s possible to keep working while restoring your energy if you use his “pull-back” method.

Two quick tips will help you begin to pull back immediately. When you’re feeling absolutely overwhelmed, identify “the three most important actions my business needs me to take right now,” Preziosi says. Follow through. Bring telephone conversations to a timely conclusion by asking customers or vendors if there’s anything else you need to discuss.

Preziosi indicates that putting some thought into how you’re spending your time can reap dividends. “Almost 100 percent of it should relate to the productivity of tasks, quality of the end result or service continuity/excellence,” he explains. He suggests developing a grid with four columns – “productivity,” “quality,” “service” and “other” – with relevant tasks listed under each. Don’t leave a single one out.

When you review your grid, you’ll see that “other” is filled with tasks you can reorganize or assign to another person. “A few reasonable adjustments will have a solid impact on you while not overwhelming others,” he points out. You might even have to drop some old behaviors, such as multitasking, in favor of more efficient ones. For example, whether you have employees or not, look for tasks you could drop altogether without harming the business.

He says it’s the rare business owner who gets everything done. You might remember a task you didn’t do a month later, only to discover that the time to do the task has passed and “it obviously didn’t need to be done, because nothing happened,” he notes.

“The bottom-line suggestion for the business owner is to look at the ‘to-do’ list’ and ask about each one what would happen if it weren’t done,” he advises. Restore yourself by making a pact with yourself – and sticking to it – not to do things that no one will notice. You’ll regain time you uncovered.

AWARENESS

Although you might be a one-person business, people around you can help. Encourage them to be involved and comment “when you’re not setting good boundaries,” Salas says. “Make sure you keep getting feedback so you don’t get too (overwhelmed).” If you become defensive, look for the kernel of truth in what they’re saying.

Many of his clients install separations in their day to assure boundaries, such as marking the end of the work day by going to the gym or taking a walk. Otherwise, he believes, “It’s hard to know where the work day ends and the personal day begins.”

Dr. Mildred L. Culp welcomes your questions at culp@workwise.net. © 2012 Passage Media.

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