When You’re the Bottleneck
A reflection of realizing that when you run your own business you become the bottleneck for everything that happens. And being okay with that.
The holidays are over, the vacation time is winding down, and for most, it’s back to business as usual. For small business owners, I’m confident the gears have still been turning for the last couple weeks – to varying extents.
I had a lot of conversation with relatives and family friends I only usually see a couple times a year, if that. One common conversation point came up – the fact that my business is a balancing act of my time and energy, and the needs of clients. The phrase I used went something like “it’s a game of how much I want to pour in gaining clients, marketing, and day-to-day operations and then how much gets sacrificed on my professional development, research, writing, and personal items, and the balance there”.
And that’s the reality. I am the bottleneck for my business. If something needs to move forward, I have to (inwardly) say yes, then do it. And so that conversation point had me thinking deep down of how that balance has shifted back and forth in the past year, and how I can better manage myself to therefore manage my business better, and then my clients, my life, and all the things that come with those two pillars.
The ultimate decision in the last couple weeks was that I needed to give myself a bit of breathing room. And what better time to do it, than over the holidays? Well, now that time’s over and I’m feeling like it was mostly worth it. But if you’re like me, you felt guilty taking a few deep breaths and letting your finger come off the pulse a couple times. So – first and foremost – did you relax over the holidays? Did you feel rushed? Should have you relaxed at all? Are you going to? You are the only one who can answer those questions. Because ‘resting’ looks different to everyone. One indicator you’re rested is that you’re ready to fire the engines back up…that is, you’re eager to take on 2020’s challenges.
That said, I felt like I wanted to take note of a couple things I’ve done to help get my engines fired back up, get eager for the year to come, and why I think that anticipation is important.
Something that’s been critical in creating a sense of excitement, anticipation, and willingness to get on the runway has been things I’ve already booked weeks, months ago. And hopefully you had the foresight to plan some key items in your schedule to give you some structure as you get back into work. Did you? Are you feeling a bit lost as to what January holds? What could’ve you planned?
The mindset behind booking items in January in advance (even if they’re just pencilled in) is that you avoid unnecessary anxieties. Think about that Sunday evening anxiety before the work week you might get (and many get it) – and amplify that on a month long scale. That might’ve hit you in the last couple days – is just setting in, or you’ve totally avoided. This is where the balance in being the bottleneck is important – because managing the day-to-day stuff was just as important as avoiding anxiety via booking stuff in the future.
So booking stuff in January, even if they feel like odd jobs, is important in firing your engines back up – because you can appropriately gear down and gear back up in a way that makes sense for you, and not in a way that feels like you’re drastically shifting your balance as a bottleneck.
When I come across a gig that really excites me, or a project that I can’t wait to work on – the engines fire themselves up. That’s not to say I build this thing up to be disappointed (which brings it’s own set of challenges) – but instead I start to plan, in my head, for those things. And that mindset loops back to “keeping your business hat on” – the idea that you should keep your business hat on when you probably least need it. Read that blog post here (please). I start to plan the shots that might make that thing look cool, or how to achieve a certain look, or even what I’m going to write about. And just in that little moment that happens before bed, or when I’m driving, I’m unknowingly adding some fuel to engines that is my business getting ready to take on 2020.
And if you’re like me, you need to talk through some ideas, so naturally, I brought up some upcoming work in conversation over the holidays and that allowed me to build some excitement, to get some clarity for myself, and to feel marginally more prepared for that next thing I planned.
So, when balancing your time as the bottleneck for you business, excitement plays an interesting role – because it can be overwhelming, anxiety-inducing, or can shift your time the wrong way, or a blend of those items. For me, excitement in projects help – but only because I know to balance those emotions with logical, thoughtful planning.
The final big-ticket item that helps me get the engines fired back up (and probably the easiest) is to zoom out and look at the potential a year holds. The challenges, the trials, the moments and memories, everything that the future holds gets me raring to go. It scares me, and it intrigues me. This mix of emotions I have towards the things planned and unplanned encourages me to be prepared as best as I can for them – and so my business and myself need to feel balanced in a way that I can feed each challenge into a funnel of time.
The only logical way to feel ready for everything that comes in a year, in a time of unpredictability, opportunity, adversity, and growth is to just be ready to catch the balls as they get thrown at you. And the key to that is balance.
So I took a deep breath for my business, for me, and for my balance. I didn’t write for a bit. I let the engine cool off. But it’s time for the pistons to start firing. It’s time for 2020. I may not be great at writing normally, but I’ll continue to try and balance life, work, pleasure, and running a growing business in an industry that is changing every day. I’ll let my passion, my talent, my gut guide me. And I’ll let the engine run until I sense the balance shift.