I’ve been talking so much about freeing yourself from your business that I’m surprised no one has said to me, “Okay, Jim. How? How do I free myself from my business? Because I’m so not-free from my business I can’t imagine how to get there.”
Maybe it’s that word free that’s keeping people from asking. Free is a bird soaring through a beautiful sky, unburdened by gravity. Uncatchable. Whereas you probably feel very much burdened by gravity and very catchable. Your phone has probably buzzed several times already while you’ve been reading this article as coworkers or clients try to catch you.
So maybe the fact that no one has asked me yet isn’t because no one is interested. Maybe it’s because the idea of being free is so hard to imagine. Let me demystify this for you and show you how you absolutely can free yourself from your business, and you don’t have to be a hawk—or a superhero—to do it.
#1: Remind Yourself Why You’re in This Business
I hope I’m not starting to sound like a broken record, but I can’t emphasize it enough: Before you do anything else, you need to know—really know—why you’re in the business you’re in and what you want out of life. If you don’t know these things, then you’re just getting out of bed every morning to slog through another day. You’re not driven by purpose; you’re not motivated to achieve. You’re going through the motions so you can make enough money to keep you going through the motions, forever.
When you have a purpose behind the business you run, you understand why what you do is valuable to others, and you want your business to succeed so you can share that product or service with everyone out there whose life will be changed by it. When you have a passion for life—things you want to accomplish— the money you bring in isn’t used just to keep things grinding along. It is used to enhance your life.
It sounds so simple, but I can’t tell you the number of times that just uncovering someone’s purpose and passion changes everything for them. When someone I work with understands why they do what they do— the value they bring to clients—and they have something they want to do with their life outside their business, they get excited about business and life both. That excitement is what is going to drive you to make the changes you need to make to free yourself from your business and start living life.
#2: Let Go of Things
If you’re anything like me, you like control. You like to know things will get done because you’re the one who is going to do them. I get it; I really do. But I’d like to go out on a limb here and suggest that there really are other people in the world who are responsible and results-oriented enough to satisfy even you. Finding one of them can be a huge first step in freeing up some time. (I know this is true! Thank goodness for my assistant Tessa!)
Letting go of things doesn’t have to involve a human at first. You can incorporate some technology into your day (not more Facebook!) to help manage and automate some of your tasks. You can try a virtual assistant. But I do encourage you to consider a human assistant. For as little as $200 a week, you can bring in someone who can get some of those little but time-consuming tasks off your desk. It’s amazing how much freedom can come from having someone manage your calendar or organize the calls you need to return.
The key to letting go of things is to be patient with yourself. I was hanging out with a former client recently, and she shared with me that she’s trying. For her, trying consists of not checking her phone first thing in the morning and not taking a call that comes in after dinner. Does she always manage it? No. But she’s trying because she wants to spend more time with her son, and she doesn’t want work encroaching on that. Even a small step is a step.
What are two or three ways you can break free? Can you hire a part-time assistant? Draw more solid boundaries between work time and life time? How about delegating to others? That’s #3.
#3: Start Developing Your People
When I started working with one of my clients in Texas, the first thing I said was that I thought one of their employees would make a great division manager someday. They were floored; they honestly said they didn’t see it in the employee. Of course that employee couldn’t step into that role right then; what I saw was potential. With some training and mentoring, that employee is well on the way to growing into a reliable, dynamic leader who can take some critical tasks off the owner’s plate.
My point is that if you look around your office right now, you might not be able to immediately identify an obvious number two. If you think about it, though, you didn’t always know how to do all the things you do. Whether you were trained or mentored or got where you are in a trial by fire, you have skills and knowledge now that you didn’t have when you started out.
That’s true for all of us. Someone who is a bookkeeper today might become a controller next year and a CFO down the road, if they have the right people helping develop them.
So how do you develop people? You help them become who they can be. Recommend books in their field and that relate to your industry. Have monthly mentoring meetings where you set specific growth goals. Most importantly, know what it is that they want from their jobs. Where do their interests lie? Where do they see themselves in the future of the company? Your employees are hidden gems; don’t overlook them just because they haven’t been cut and polished yet.
#4: Seek Out Support
Speaking of developing, you have developing you can be doing, too. The same way you might have an employee who might not know—yet—how to be a great division manager, you might not know—yet—how to organize your business so that you can free up some time for yourself from it. Seek out coaches, consultants, mentors, colleagues and friends who have been there, done that. They can serve as sounding boards to help you flesh out and improve the ideas you have and to suggest things you haven’t thought of.
They can also help keep you accountable. If you’re trying to put your phone down more often, like my friend above, maybe you need someone to check in with you every couple of days to see how you’ve been doing with that. (Maybe they should even test your willpower by giving you a call after dinner one night!) The same way that people stick to an exercise plan better when they have someone to exercise with, you’ll stick to your free-yourself-from-your-business plan better if you have someone keeping an eye on and encouraging you. Better yet, find a two-way partnership where you’re keeping an eye on and encouraging each other.
#5: Get Something for You On Your Calendar Today
What is one thing you would like to make time for today? Is it a date night? An afternoon snack with your child? Coffee with a friend? A yoga class? An hour to play guitar? Whatever it is, put it on your calendar now. You don’t have to start with a two-week vacation or even a weekend away. Start small. Start with something that’s manageable but valuable to you. But do it now.
Back in December I wrote about a client of mine who felt guilty about taking time for himself; you might remember the beautiful leather knife sheaf he made when he finally did take some time for himself. (If you missed that post, check it out here.) I said then that I recommend that everyone take a break at least every 90 days. Well, we’re nearing the end of the first 90 days of the year, so now is the time.
And in case you need someone to be accountable to, I’m glad to volunteer. Please post what you’re doing for yourself on my Facebook page. Have fun with the hashtags! Try out #havingfun, #giveupcontrol, #freeingfrommybusiness or even #jimromanwasright.
You can do it! Start today.