I had been working with a web designer on and off for the last few years. I found her on Rent-a-Coder when she was willing to do much work for little reward.
I knew she was good … too good to remain my secret weapon. Now this web designer is juggling more clients than she can handle. And she wants a life, too.
The same thing happens when you’re in the corporate world. “When you’re known as a competent, dedicated professional, you’re on a lot of teams,” one executive says.
Many of my clients say, “I don’t know what happened! I used to have time to do everything.”
Well, what happened? Their businesses grew. Their priorities shifted.
But their time management system hasn’t changed since they were still starting out.
When they get snowed under, they consider taking a step back. I’ve had clients ask wistfully, “Can’t I get a lower level, lower stress job?”
Maybe. Usually, though, stepping back will add even more stress.
Here are a few ways to think about expanding time as you expand your life:
(1) Recognize that everything takes more time when you get bigger.
Recently I asked “Michelle” to redesign my business card for what seems like the millionth time. “Sure,” she said, “I can do this. Give me a day or two.”
Days passed. No card.
Michelle forgot the rule: as you get busier, you need more time. I’m not her only client this week. She could say, “I need 3 days notice to start a card, 7 business days to schedule a website.”
When you’re busier, you get more queries from prospective clients and colleagues. You get interruptions from people with questions. You get invited to do interviews and serve on special committees.
(2) Your time becomes more valuable as you move up.
I once knew an executive who earned $200,000 a year plus bonuses. One day I asked him, “How was your weekend?”
“I painted my garage door,” he said. “And I mowed the lawn.”
I was stunned.
I asked him, “Why don’t your hire a lawn service? Or hire a college kid to mow your lawn for a few bucks?”
“He said, ‘I feel like it’s something I should be doing.’”
This “I-can-do-it-all” mentality will kill your revenue growth. Many people don’t realize how much help CEOs and other top executives get in their everyday life. When Martha Stewart was on trial, journalists raised eyebrows when witnesses revealed her housekeeper, assistants and others.
But Martha Stewart was doing nothing unusual. Read Claudia Kennedy’s book, Generally Speaking. When she held a top 3-star general post in Washington, the Army assigned a sergeant to cook her meals and care for her home. You’ll never see generals shining their own shoes..
(3) Cut back on freebies.
Everybody gets asked to give away the store.
Coaches and consultants often give away half an hour (sometimes a full hour) as a sample for new clients.
But as you get busy, even a get-acquainted call represents an investment of time – an opportunity cost, as accountants say. Often you can offer a paid small sample of your work, such as a single hour or a mini-project.
My system allows clients to deduct the cost of the initial call if they move on to a bigger project. We both win if we achieve the client’s goals in an hour or two.
Don’t want to charge for the first call? Give prospects a task — a series of questions, a mini-project or a special assignment – to complete ahead of time.
Additionally, your website also helps you screen prospective clients. When you invest in creating content for a compelling website, you save hours of your own time down the road.
You can let visitors know who you work with and what you need to get started. My best clients sign me up without a preliminary or “discovery” call.
To be honest, most time management challenges aren’t really about time. They’re about recognizing you, your priorities and your style. Learn more at