sharing the workload

Sometimes our lives go more smoothly when we learn to let go and let other people handle some of the workload. As I wrote last week, I’m in the process of writing a textbook. The book is on how to create a freelance, contract and/or entrepreneurial career, and each chapter has case studies of professionals that exemplify key points in the chapter. Over and over again as I interview people in a variety of industries, the same thing keeps coming up: the importance of knowing when to let go and let others shoulder some of the workload and how doing so helps businesses grow.

As entrepreneurs, small business owners or solo practitioners, we often try to do everything ourselves. We handle billing and customer relations, answer all of our own e-mail, keep our own financial records, manage our social media accounts and messaging, order supplies, plan and execute our marketing strategies, schedule our meetings and do everything else associated with running a business. We may allocate a certain amount of time per week to such tasks, or we may resort to after-hours or weekend upkeep of the management side of maintaining a business or private practice. And sometimes facing these tasks, we may feel frustrated, anxious, overwhelmed or inept. The business part of a running a business can be a lot of work. It’s why PsychCentral and other websites have articles that ask experts how they manage their practices or businesses.

But maybe the question we should be asking, besides how others do it, is why we are doing it? Why do we place all of the onus for every task on ourselves?

The main reasons we often try to do everything ourselves is because it is our comfort zone, we want the control or because we are fearful. (And if you’ve just read this sentence and thought, No, it’s because I don’t have the money, look at the underlying reason behind that thought.)

We Are Comfortable

There’s a certain comfort in doing things the way we’ve always done them. We know what to expect and usually those expectations are met. (This is one reason why chain restaurants work so well). Change or not knowing what to expect may make us uncomfortable, cause us stress or make us feel unsafe. Kristie Burns, CEO of The BEarth Institute, said in an interview for my new book, “…I focused too much on the self part of self-employment and put a lot of pressure on myself to do everything. I was earning a modest income at the time and felt ‘safe’ doing hard work….I resisted allowing my work to grow because I felt comfortable.” Burns said taking a risk and getting herself out of her comfort zone was the best decision she ever made because it forced her to get more organized, take herself and her business more seriously and ultimately earned her more respect from those around her. Burns realized she could hire a student to run her social media campaigns and if she had others she could subcontract work to, she could produce much more than she could herself and work with many more clients.

When we embrace change we harness our growing power and we learn. Take a moment to think about areas of your life and your business where you’ve grown comfortable in a way that may not be in your or your business’ best interest. What could you do to stretch yourself beyond your comfort zone?

We are Controlling

Another reason why we may not have others help us in our businesses is that we like having the control over the way things are done. Wanting control may or may not be something we’ve even admitted to ourselves. But think about it, how many times have you said aloud to someone or thought, “Oh I’ll just do it myself” in response to the question of why you haven’t let someone else do whatever? We say this often at home when we could “outsource” a task to our children but don’t and do it ourselves when we don’t think they will do it right, well enough, without a lot of instruction or without a lot of hassle. This idea of if we want a task done right, we have to do it ourselves seeps quietly into our mindset and keeps us from making space in our workloads by delegating certain tasks to others.

But keeping control of every aspect of our business wastes our time and money. Take a moment and do the math. How much is an hour of your time worth? $50 $100? $200? Or maybe you charge lawyer level rates. Almost always you can hire someone to basic tasks, such as filing, social media maintenance, scheduling, ordering supplies, responding to e-mail or billing customers for much less than you make per hour. And you could use that new found time to either book more clients or to take some time out for self-care…but only if you’re wiling to give up control.

Burns admits that in order to keep things up to her company’s standards, she created a 63-page manual of how things were to be done so that all employees and contractors and herself would be on the literal same page, and this is one way to provide direction while ceding some control and helping business grow and flourish.

We are Fearful

And the other main reason we may not be willing to hand over some of our work to another person is that we are fearful. Fear itself wears so many guises and takes many forms. We may be fearful of failing and of taking others down with us. Fear can be wrapped in the cloak of mistrust of others. Fear can be shrouded in what ifs (i.e. what if someone else learns about my business and steals my ideas or my clients). Or fear can be related to the first two points, as in what happens if I give up control and uncomfortably let someone else handle my billing and scheduling and they do it wrong? Then what?  Or what happens if I give up control and push myself beyond my comfort zone and miss out on something?

When we are willing to share our workloads and let others handle noncritical and critical tasks for us, we and our businesses can go from being busy to be truly productive. We are freed to focus on our business’ or practice’s mission and to do things that serve that mission, and we can then expand our businesses and ourselves in strategic and beneficial ways. That’s the power of collaboration and sharing the workload.

Photo by aronbaker2