How To Keep Your Sanity As A Busy Entrepreneur

by Silicon Valley Blogger on 2012-06-2017

Entrepreneurs, does multitasking get in the way of your focus? How do you maintain your sanity and focus on the work you are doing when you wear many hats?

Multi-tasking is an important skill to have, particularly if you are a small business owner. But can multi-tasking cause you to develop some level of ADD (or can it exacerbate an existing condition)? In some cases, I have read that someone with ADD can actually do well as an entrepreneur who wears many hats. Then again, in today’s job environment — particularly if you work at a startup — it is often the norm for employees to slip into multiple roles. Apparently, having attention issues seems to be a byproduct of us living in the Internet Age. If you’re constantly connected, you’ll need to seek a way to maintain balance, just to preserve your sanity.

Should You Diversify Or Focus?

A twin concern here is to determine whether you should “diversify” or “concentrate” your efforts into one project. Many entrepreneurs love to innovate and are often very creative. Goodness knows how often I’ve been hit with manic episodes that fill my head with business idea after business idea. Sometime ago, I’d have been tempted to pursue almost any business idea I hear about. If I surround myself with other Type A folks, it can become quite intense. For me, it’s always a game of trying to figure out which things need to take priority, as I always seem to feel that there’s just so much business to do and to try to fit within a limited amount of time.

A lot of business people like the concept of diversification. It’s the same principle as that used by investors who desire to make their portfolio less vulnerable to market swings. So imagine having a portfolio of businesses rather than investments (well a business is a type of investment — it’s your own company you are investing in and actively working on). Multi-tasking goes hand-in-hand with having diverse and varied projects. This situation can easily make you go nuts and may lead to burnout. While you are protecting yourself from the risk of failure by having more businesses, you are also increasing your risk of spreading yourself too thin and biting more than you can chew. This may lead to compromised quality across all your businesses rather than superior quality work applied to just one business. By concentrating your full effort on one thing, you can do a much better job on that one prioritized project vs doing a half-baked job on everything else.

Regardless of how you answer, you’ll want to know how best to keep yourself from burning out: the self-employment track is a marathon, not a race!

How To Keep Your Sanity & Manage Your Time As A Busy Entrepreneur

The best entrepreneurs have figured out how to keep their lives in balance. It helps tremendously if you can lean on others who can fill any gaps you’ve got (with regards to skills, roles, responsibilities and even financing). I would suggest finding a lot of support this way because frankly, running a business is a lot of work.

So how do you manage a business when you have so little time and so much work in front of you? Here are a few suggestions:

1. Get partners or hire your own staff.
Think about creating a partnership. Support for your business that’s financial, emotional and operational can go a very long way. Ideally, you’ll want to work with someone who’s as enthusiastic as you are about your project, but who complements your skills and expertise pretty well. Find out how you can share responsibilities with your partner. In some cases, someone may provide the funding while you do the work (or vice versa). In other cases, it’s all about sharing the sweat equity. You’ll eventually have to set up your company or business to reflect this arrangement.

If you don’t have partners, and you need help, support or resources, then think about becoming THE boss and hiring people to cover roles and responsibilities you can’t do yourself. Where are you going to get the money? While financing is one option, you may not want to start off with too large of a money pit right away unless you’re comfortable about the financing risks and are confident about the returns you’ll be generating. If you’re cash-strapped, then see if you can hire one person at a time and try them out. As your business expands, then add more personnel. Some businesses may require a large amount of startup capital to get going; this is particularly the case with traditional businesses. In this case, you’ll need to assess if you’re prepared to shoulder some debt or face dilution of ownership.

2. Always manage your business professionally.
Don’t cut corners. Often, the quality of your work will speak for itself. So use contracts, document your work, and use business tools to keep yourself organized. When you’ve got more people in your team in order to spread the work around, you’ll find that it becomes much more important to run things more formally. Documentation and organization become important: you’ll have to develop a system for running and managing your venture in order to make things flow smoothly.

3. Know when to cut back on projects.
This may be hard to hear if you are a Type A business owner. But if you’re not interested in diluting your stock through a partnership or company, or you’re not able to hire employees to help take on some of the work from your plate, then you’ll have to think about backing off some of the things that you’ve got queued up until you’re truly ready for new tasks and projects.

4. Prioritize your work.
It goes without saying that you’ll need to prioritize the stuff on your plate or risk spreading yourself thin.

5. Avoid overpromising and making too many commitments.
If you find yourself burning out, step back and de-stress. Nothing is worth your sanity and health! Financial success is great, but not at the cost of damaging your health and your important relationships.

How Are You Dealing With A Time Crunch?

Regardless of how much work you’ve got lined up, see how well you can maintain balance in your life. All too often, very busy people end up sacrificing a lot for their ambitions and dreams. Many of us feel that there’s never enough time to do everything we want. And for some, time constraints will mean giving up experiences with their family or sacrificing their health, if they insist on aiming high (or refuse to maintain realistic goals and expectations).

So how are you keeping your sanity? Do you find yourself having to give up some important things in life in order to pursue your major business goals? Do you prefer to run or juggle several things at once and spread your bets but also possibly risk producing mediocre results? Or should you focus on one venture and apply your full concentration, energy and time on it — basically giving your all and staking it all on one project? You may smite your competition if you can pull off a truly great job on one thing, but of course, there are no guarantees that this will happen. I think that age has some influence on your answer here — the younger you are, the more enthusiastic you are about multiple ideas and you may even end up committing the sin of overcommitment. Usually, more years under your belt and more experience tend to temper your plans a little and keep you more realistic about your prospects.

Created February 23, 2011. Updated June 20, 2012. Copyright © 2012 The Digerati Life. All Rights Reserved.

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Silicon Valley Blogger February 23, 2011 at 7:14 pm

Being booked solid and with so much happening, I’ve had to face the entrepreneur’s dilemma pretty often: should I multi-task or keep focused? Recently, I’ve decided to stay more focused on certain specific projects to keep things more manageable and in order to do the best job I can on stuff I’ve prioritized on. I prefer just doing one thing and giving it my best. Once I’m comfortable with its outcome, I may do something else and move on to the next project. While I believe I’m a decent multi-tasker, I don’t particularly look forward to doing a lot of stuff at once anymore (unless I have help or support of some sort). My work style jives a lot better with the “give it your all for one project” approach.

Squirrelers February 23, 2011 at 10:20 pm

In terms of multitasking, I think that there are varying degrees of ability to do this, from person to person. For me, I find that I can multitask to some degree, but prefer to focus on individual tasks to be more productive. Maybe each of us is wired differently in that way. That’s why I’m thinking about instituting some significant, regular blocks of time where I won’t even try to be connected online. Shifting gears and doing different things is often good all around.

airstream February 24, 2011 at 4:40 pm

I find that there is a limit to how much I can multitask and still get my priority goals accomplished. I recently took a day off (was snowed-in, actually) and I realized then that I’ve taken on too many tasks. My hopes of really getting anywhere with the things that I consider to be priorities is fairly remote without a clearer focus. I think focus is a good thing. At a certain point you have to enlist the help of others to help you attain your goals or pay people to help you. That takes organization and focus too of course.

krantcents February 24, 2011 at 6:08 pm

As a former entrepreneur, I was forced to multitask, but I kept my focus using lists based on priorities. Unless you have a larger organization, you are forced to multitask. As the owner, you are the only person who can adhere to your vision and make certain decisions. When it is all said and done, you are the boss.

Samuel February 25, 2011 at 6:02 am

Multi-tasking is a very great skill to have. You would need it when there comes a time where you need to do a lot of tasks ASAP. Doing this every day will not get in your way of focus if you are disciplined and everything is in balance like sometimes, just focus on doing one task then move on to the next afterward.

Vince February 27, 2011 at 2:39 am

If you are into (zone) what your doing, you want even know that you are multi-tasking.

Bill February 28, 2011 at 12:13 pm

Multi-tasking is a necessity for any successful business. Sometimes you can’t focus on everything so you have to prioritize.

Silicon Valley Blogger February 28, 2011 at 12:29 pm

I actually pride myself for being pretty good about multi-tasking — the whole “jack of all trades” profile lends itself pretty well to entrepreneurship. Unless of course, you’re great at delegation, so that you can get others to do the various other tasks you need to get done (thereby freeing you up from doing the work yourself). That of course takes some dinero! :)

Stephanie Taylor Christensen August 18, 2011 at 2:55 pm

I was always a cheerleader of multi-tasking, until recently, when a celeb entrepreneur gave me the advice that the only way you can succeed as a parent and business person is to keep the worlds separate. In other words, no more checking the Blackberry at the playground — or working while Nick Jr plays in the background. When you divide the worlds, you’re better at both!

Matthew Pelletier August 19, 2011 at 1:44 am

I can’t stress enough the importance of the first point you made about getting partners. I have been working my ass off for the past 2.5 years (and recently full time) building my online business and at this point I’ve recently started working with a partner. From my ~3 years of this journey to create a successful online business, it’s one of the most valuable tips that I would give ANYONE who is considering a similar path. Being able to talk about your ideas with someone who’s as excited about them as you are is in and of it self incredibly valuable. Even more valuable is the emotional support that you receive when times are tough (in my case, when an idea we invested in heavily didn’t work out), this emotional support is absolutely essential to succeeding.

Overall great post, well researched, very informative.

MD August 19, 2011 at 12:11 pm

I believe in hiring your own staff. There’s only so much work that one busy blogger can get done on their own. It’s amazing how far I’ve seen strong teams go together.

sophie August 30, 2011 at 4:12 pm

I’m lucky enough to have a partner in my spouse. And our income is shared so that means pure profits to us without any third party.

George Chenikov November 27, 2011 at 7:34 pm

I know exactly how you feel! I recently found myself working on an online business project that I think could work out – and before I knew it, my site went on without updates for almost 48 hours (with traffic plummeting as a result). Was quite a grim experience and an excellent reminder of just how important it is to maintain the right balance between commitments in my life – and how easily your gains can be erased by only moments of inattention (I reckon it might take me weeks to recover all the traffic that I have lost as a result of my failure to update my blog yesterday).

Silicon Valley Blogger November 27, 2011 at 8:11 pm

George — I’m trying to figure out how I can balance things more effectively as well, so that we can keep up with all our commitments online and offline!

Darrel Lyndstorm November 28, 2011 at 12:26 am

Regarding multi-tasking — I’m launching a few simultaneous online ventures. It’s a form of exploration — to see what else can be done out there and to see what’s worth doing. If there’s anything I’ve learned about becoming an entrepreneur, it’s to keep my mind open to potential opportunities. Let’s see if something comes out of these projects.

Now the danger, of course, is that if you spread yourself thin, it can be more trouble than it’s worth. Just read about this case study of a family whose franchise went bust while they continued to nurture strong careers. Perhaps they took on too much on their plate and bit off more than they could chew. Certainly, it’s something to ponder before you do too many things at once.

Spanky December 9, 2011 at 5:15 pm

I agree with this post. The biggest omission people make when creating a budget is time. I’ve had very successful projects that really consumed me in the start-up phase. Although my return was good, it’s hard to put a value on the time lost to being overloaded.

Silicon Valley Blogger February 19, 2012 at 8:00 pm

One thing about being self-employed, there’s no such thing as a “break” unless it’s self-imposed. That means, everyday is the same and you may or may not take time off when everyone else does!

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