Do any other entrepreneurs struggle with the feeling that they have nothing to do, while simultaneously having an endless list of things that aren’t complete?
I sometimes find myself dancing between this irony: On the one hand, it feels as if I’m doing my job correctly (i.e. managing my team); consequently, I really don’t have that many tasks to do. My team is taking care of it.
On the other hand, there’s this instinctual voice inside, telling me that there’s work to be done; of course, while I may delegate and manage well, there’s always work that needs my attention, beyond just “busy work.” Yet that visceral feeling continues to resonate, telling me that I need to work on thinking and brainstorming, to focus on and to find opportunities for future growth and development of my business. In short, I have to make a concerted effort to dedicate time toward the big picture.
Creating efficient systems and delegating effectively is what I believe it really means to be an entrepreneur.
Essentially, I put the pieces of the puzzle together, but I’m not necessarily the one doing much of the daily work.
Case in point: It’s 9:30 am, on a Wednesday, and after 3 hours of intense work in setting up my team for the day, my “To-Do” list is all crossed off. I’m somewhat confused by the fact that even though there are thousands of things that need to be done, that could be done, I feel as if I have nothing to do in this moment.
It’s that brief feeling of contentment right before desire creeps back in.
I check my Trello again.
Sure, I could do something that is theoretically due next week and get ahead, but aside from all my deadlines being arbitrary to begin with, it just doesn’t feel as urgent as going out and meditating on the big picture.
And as I sit in this limbo, waiting for my team to finish, I’m left taskless.
Think of that: the taskless entrepreneur.
I could of course, create a new project. Find a new creative way for ConscoiusPoker to make money by selling merchandise or more course material. I could create more poker training videos for the site, thereby improving the membership library. I could grind social media, and go on the hunt for new readers.
Why stop there? I call myself an entrepreneur. Someone with that title could launch a new business entirely, find an influencer with a huge following and help him create an online business—essentially replicating the system I use—and apply it to him.
There are a million things I could do, yet none of them feel like what I should be doing.
– Anantara Layan, Phuket, Thailand, Jan 2017 –
And so I’m here writing this blog, a petty little thing, about my search for an important task in my business.
Some part of me feels like this is a success, a testament to the efficiency of the business, and its ability to run on systems, without needing continual oversight from me.
Some would argue it is excessive stubbornness. Part of my tasklessness comes from my refusal to do something for the sake of keeping busy (checking email, for example, when I don’t need to), out of sheer respect for time.
In short, in confused times like these, I look for the highest productivity item (HPI), the task that only I can do in the business, that single project that, without my presence, could not be done.
As I reflect on what I actually spend my time doing, I realize that it usually means one of two things: managing the team in some way (growth by hiring, strengthening relationship, improving communication, increasing efficiency), or developing the business by finding innovative ways to grow our revenue.
As of now my team is set, which only leaves time for the latter. And most of that time it means doing one thing: thinking
If I’m being honest, much of my time is spent reflecting, pondering, and postulating.
I can see how it can seem incredibly arrogant even mentioning something so ludicrous as attempting to justify thinking as work, let alone have the audacity to call it something fancy like “highest productivity item”—did I mention giving it an acronym—but the truth is I believe that it’s an important, under represented part of what it takes to create a business.
Having the primary role in the company means creating business (i.e. ideas). Practically speaking, that means I need to find a way to make time for thinking.
In this way, it feels like I hardly work; in another way, it feels like it’s all I do.
While I acknowledge it’s quite pathetic to include thinking in my job description, one of the challenges of my role is that it requires non-stop mental activity, in order for me to be effective.
I don’t take a break to wash the dishes, take a shower, or go on a walk; I do these activities so my mind can be free from the tasks of the business, and have space to think about innovating or solving problems.
– Hyatt Cambodia, April 2017 –
One of the biggest challenges I face is staying present or finding time to relax. Even while I’m watching TV, half the time, my mind is drifting to a problem in the business that needs attention.
And so it seems prudent to not only find dedicated time to think, but to think effectively; in other words, to be aware of your own habits, and finding innovative ways to optimize your creative time.
I’ve tested out various things, recently, to find out what works best for me. Personally, I spend a lot of my time with pen and paper—in silence, at coffee shops—to get inspired. I go on long walks. I exercise. I listen to music.
In short, I engineer inspiration and create space/time into my life, so I can think about creative solutions to grow my business.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t sit in a chair an emulate Buddha all day, waiting for an epiphany. In fact, I estimate that I only spend 20% of my time doing what I call, “creative problem solving,” and the other 80%, implementing. Nevertheless, when I’m at my best, I have a great balance between these two things, and the time I spend innovating comes naturally, because there’s enough space in my life to let the creativity flow.
I try to avoid situations where my time is overly weighted toward doing (working on tasks, even if it’s not busy work), while neglecting creative brainstorming and seeking new opportunities.
Striking this ideal balance has proved to be quite hard to achieve; it requires a disciplined effort, on my part, to carve out time for these creative brainstorming sessions. (I try not to literally calendar my time, because then it doesn’t feel spontaneous, but I’ve known CEO’s who do this to force themselves to find space. I personally find that not scheduling things allows me to have free time on my calendar. Then it’s about having the discipline to not do “busy work,” or work-for-work’s sake, and actually dedicate the time, allowing yourself space).
I find that being up early works particularly well, because the silence of the morning gives me space and mental clarity to spark ideas. I’m also not bombarded with daily problems that hinder my creative spirit. Finally, exercising early does wonders, as the endorphins get flowing and that’s often when my best ideas come to me.
I hope this inspired you to find creative ways to carve out time for thinking about the big picture in your business. I’d love to hear what you do to cultivate space and give yourself time to think.
How do you get inspired? What’s your thinking routine?