Managing "Busy-ness": The Shift


In this two-part post, I’m going to talk about managing “busy-ness,” or what Timothy Ferriss describes in “The 4-Hour Workweek” as “working for work’s sake.” As your business grows and your workload increases, it becomes more and more important to manage “busy-ness” so that you get the most important rocks moved and still make sure you have time for life outside of your business.

In this first part of the series, I’m going to talk about the shift that tends to happen to business owners once they hit a tipping point, that place where their businesses snowball seemingly overnight. One day, they’re managing their businesses a certain way, and then they come to a point where they have to make drastic changes in how they handle the increasing demands being placed on them.

Here are a few of the more well-known cases of business owners who’ve had to make drastic shifts away from “busy-ness,” in order to make the most of their time and see to it that the top priorities get the bulk of their attention.

Gary Vaynerchuk

Gary Vaynerchuk, founder of WineLibraryTV and author of “Crush It,” is a big proponent of working hard, putting in the time to build your business, and appreciating the people who support you along the way. He makes it a point to (attempt to) reply to every email he receives, or at least that was the case until this past  year or so. After his book published and things started becoming more demanding, he had to rethink his approach to email, and while he still has the intention of replying to every message he receives, his strategy is completely different. Now, if you email him, you get an auto-responder message along with a video explanation of why he had to change how he handled email communications.

Chris Brogan

Social media expert Chris Brogan had a similar situation. He wrote a book (“Trust Agents“), started a few new business endeavors, and became very popular over the past couple of years. Eventually, his strategy also had to change in order to manage his growing workload. He hired an assistant and developed a new way of handling email communications. Now, if you fill out his contact form, you’ll have to pick one of several options for why you’re contacting him, presumably so that his email filters can route those submissions to one or more people who can streamline those communications.

Leo Babauta

Leo Babauta is probably the most extreme example here, although that’s probably understandable, given that Babauta is a master of minimalism and the founder of Zen Habits. Over the life of his blog, he has ditched email (almost completely), turned off comments on his blog so that he no longer has to weed through comment spam, and made a variety of other changes in the way he handles communications and requests.

Timothy Ferriss

Timothy Ferriss is the author of “The 4-Hour Workweek” and believes in making the most of his time as a business owner. He has a virtual assistant handle a lot of his email communications and outsources as much of his work as possible so that he is free to do other things besides manage a business. A visit to his contact page will give you a glimpse into how he manages his communications and time.

Making the Shift

At a certain point, each of these business owners had to make a decision about how to improve the way they managed their time. Any one of these people might receive a couple thousand emails per day, as well as several hundred blog comments and social network messages. If they spent all of their time responding to these communications, they would hit a plateau with the success of their businesses and eventually burn out.

As a business owner, especially as the demands on your time increase as your business grows, you have to find ways to work smarter so that you make sure the biggest and most important rocks get moved. It’s not the easiest of tasks, but it’s definitely necessary, if you hope to have lasting success.

Have you experienced a shift in your business and in the way you manage your workload? What changes did you make so that you could ensure more time was reserved for the most important tasks?

Photo by Flickr user kamshots, licensed under CC 2.0

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Chris Brogan...

So, the contact form does a few things for me: it encourages specific actions which then lead to potential business. It also weeds out the “great post, dude” emails, which are wonderful, but I have to do other things to respond to them.

Yes, I have someone help me with contacts. Because I’m getting over 600 touches a day from email plus contacts, that would take 10 hours a day if I gave every message 1 minute of time (which, think about it, isn’t much time per email). So, I offload some of it to my helpers, and then I get back in the game if they can’t answer the questions, or if it’s something personal.

Scaling is something most people don’t run into until they hit a certain volume of contact. The moment that happens, I usually get this letter: “I used to think you were a jerk, but now I know you were just going through scaling issues.”

Great post, as always, Amber. I like your work.

Simon Mackie

Thanks for explaining your system and the motivation behind it, Chris. Managing the balance between being personal and drowning in too much email (and other comms) is a tricky one, but especially so for people like yourself who’ve made it their business to build connections with others.

Chris Brogan...

I just seek new ways to be helpful, Simon, and I determined that answering messages all day wasn’t as helpful as finding solutions to people’s needs. : )

Amber Singleton Riviere

Exactly the concern I’ve had in recent months, Chris, not wanting to come off as a jerk, and I’ve actually heard comments like that about folks who have had to find a way to scale their work, and it’s absolutely not that any of them want or intend to be jerks; there just comes a point when it’s physically impossible to keep up with it all.

Thanks for the compliment, Chris, and for commenting! I really appreciate you sharing a little insight into your system.

Comments are closed.