Perfect entrepreneurs know, “If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself”. But there is no such thing as a perfect entrepreneur, even you mam or sir. You probably know this, if you’re a perfectionist yourself. Perfectionism is not just having high standards. Often it means setting impossible standards because of your fear of what it will mean to release something to the world that’s not perfect.
Smart entrepreneurs know that sometimes you need to get out of your own way and you can’t do that if you’re a control freak. Aka the perfect entrepreneur. Let’s face it… if you’re a perfectionist, you like to be in control. Consider successful entrepreneurs like Richard Branson, Mark Zuckerberg, Oprah Winfrey and Arianna Huffington. All extremely intelligent and capable people, who at some point had to get out of their own way and let someone else take control of something.
Every week, I meet business owners who tell me they’re super busy. They know what they need to do for their business but they’re too busy working in it to step back and take care of the bigger picture. Often the more staff they hire, the busier they get. They’re probably even high achievers and excellent at what they do.
Sadly, I’ve seen so many businesses die, even though the owner is great at what they do. You can’t build a great business if you keep ignoring the big picture. Many of these clever, talented, high achieving people kill their businesses or even more tragically burn themselves out.
You might believe to your core that if you want something done right, you need to do it yourself. But you need to consider something else. You might be capable of doing anything but you can’t do everything. Time will not allow, no matter how competent you are. You need to decide what’s crucial for your success and learn to let go of the rest.
I don’t care how capable you are, how sophisticated, how organised, how anal -you will need to decide where to focus your time and energy. If you want your organisation to grow beyond you or if you want to build something that’s valuable long after you die, you will need to stop doing everything yourself and concentrate on the essentials.
You’re not Superman. You’re not Wonder Woman. Even wearing your undies on the outside of your pants won’t make it so. Sooner of later, you’re going to feel overwhelmed and be reminded you are human. In most cases, it’s physically impossible for you to do everything. In an extreme case, you might even burn out (most likely for high achievers).
So, you probably get the point I am trying to make by now. You can’t do everything yourself nor do you need to. Work out what’s essential for you to do and those other things you need to get off your plate. Once you clear your plate (metaphorical) of the non-essentials, you make room for what matters.
Stop. Before you start working on anything that lands in your desk, remember, smart entrepreneurs play CARDDS. CARDDS is an acronym that stands for Complete, Automate, Redirect, Delegate, Dismiss and Schedule. These are the CARDDS smart entrepreneurs play to help them win the day.
CARDDS is an acronym to help you remember your options when dealing with anything incoming that lands on your desk, in your tray, in your email inbox or otherwise gets your attention as something that should be done.
Notice I used the phrase should be done, instead of needs to be done. Other people’s expectations can often be a trap when we’re deciding how to best prioritise our time. When you use the CARDDS acronym, remember to make these decisions based on your own priorities and needs, rather than someone else’s “shoulds” and expectations!
How long will it take you to complete this task?
If it’s important and can be completed in under 2 minutes, go ahead and do it. Make sure it’s not interrupting your most important work when you do it though. Don’t even give these things your attention until you have enough time to complete these small tasks and organise the bigger ones.
How often will you need to complete this same task?
Automate any action you will need to repeat frequently. Consider how long it will take each time you stop to repeat this task compared to automating it once. Unless you’re a robot, doing mindless repetitive tasks is not the best use of your time.
Does fulfilling this request contribute to your core business?
Redirect anything that distracts you and your colleagues from fulfilling your core business. A simple and polite redirect is just a matter of pointing someone to a helpful source or someone who is better suited to help them, than you. You’re trying to be helpful but make it clear this is not your responsibility.
Important: Do not treat this as a recommendation or endorsement. If you recommend someone, you may end up being held partially responsible for your endorsement -even though you have no control over the outcome. So you might just subtly suggest by saying, “Have you tried…” and leave it at that.
What if no one else can help but this is still not your core business?
Nothing becomes your responsibility by default. It is not your fault or your problem if no one else can help, unless this request directly contributes to your core business. Sometimes you will need to say a polite but firm. “No”. Say no to anything that is unimportant. Remember your core business, your most important work and who you work for are paramount. Everything else detracts from this focus and should be dismissed.
Is this your core business but not your own responsibility (or strength)?
Delegate anything that contributes to your core business but is not your personal responsibility (or strength). Ensure whoever you’re delegating to has the appropriate skills, confidence and authority to take care of the assigned task or project. Before you delegate, make sure you consider if this assignment will be the best use of this person’s time. Do not delegate anything if it will detract from this person’s contribution to your core business.
Do you need to bite the bullet and do something yourself? If it is going to take longer than 2 minutes, remember, you may not need to do it right now. Schedule an appropriate time in your calendar and treat it as though you would any other commitment. Make sure you stick to it.
Stop trying to be the perfect entrepreneur. Think of yourself as a conductor, curator or someone else who concerns themselves with the big picture. Your most important role as an entrepreneur is to make sure all of the parts of your business work well together. That’s essential if you want to make something great.
Next time an email hits your inbox, a piece of paper lands on your desk or a client makes a request, pause. You need to decide which of these incoming requests is the highest and most valuable use of your time.
Play your CARDDS to make sure you clear your plate of anything that distracts you. Remember there are many options to get back in control of your time and work on what’s most important.