How to Choose Which Activities to Focus On in Your Renaissance Business
Photo courtesy of Thanakrit Gu.

How to Choose Which Activities to Focus On in Your Renaissance Business

Written by Emilie

Topics: Renaissance Business

Today I’m going to answer a question that was sent in by puttypeep, Matt.

Matt writes,

“I’ve spent the last two months working full time on my two blogs and whilst satisfying, for the most part, I find that there always appears to be so much to do, from design, to promotion, planning and so on. There always seems to be so many ‘things’ that are essential and necessary.

What do you see as the essential tasks that you need to regularly do? Are there things that you never do and instead outsource or delegate? What do you consider the key time wasters?”

A Common Problem

One of the great things about blogging as a medium, and the reason it works so well for us multipotentialites, is that there are many different components to it: writing, design, marketing, building relationships, multimedia, etc. But while this can satisfy the multipotentialite desire to do a variety of different activities, it can also be one of our biggest challenges.

When you’re a talented little scanner, who picks up skills relatively quickly and loves learning new things, it becomes tempting to do everything yourself. It’s easy to perform tasks simply because you know you can, and not because you’re excited about them. That’s when the trouble strikes.

For the longest time, I tried to do everything myself. To be honest, I probably still do way too much and should be outsourcing more. That said, I feel pretty happy with my balance right now. Here are some techniques I use to determine how best to spend my time.

Decide in advance which activities have the highest ROI in your business

I have a category of activities that I know are important. For me, this includes any products I’m creating, my coaching work, puttytribe emails, and blog posts. I consider these to be “high ROI” activities because,

a) they have a major impact on my business,

b) they bring me the most joy, and

c) they are activities that only I can do.

This type of creative work requires that I be in a peak productive state. I need to be creatively inspired and able to focus. The other type of work that I consider important is community engagement (but more on that later).

Ritualize Your Meaningful Work

Each morning I wake up and decide between one of these “high ROI” activities. I’ll either draft up a blog post, write a puttytribe email, work on my new book or prepare for a coaching call.

Sometimes I need to get a new post out by the following day or I’m meeting with a new student that afternoon, so there’s no question as to what I’ll be doing. Other days, I can choose. But it’s always a choice between these important activities, not between say, creating a product, and answering emails.

As long as I get one meaningful task done per day, I’m happy. Then I can move on to the other stuff.

If I find myself answering emails, tweeting or doing other non-creative tasks during my prime productivity hours, I know I’m in trouble. I prefer to save that stuff for later in the day, when I’m feeling less creative.

Decide what sorts of activities are most meaningful to your business, and then plan out a chunk of “sacred time,” each day to work on one (or more) of them.

Keep a List of “Less Important” Tasks to do for Later

Just because you’ve consciously decided upon the high ROI activities in your business, that doesn’t mean that you should leave all the minor things by the wayside. Instead, add them to a file on your computer or make a list somewhere.

Later on, when you’ve gotten your meaningful work done for the day, you can pull out the list and knock off a few things. Or if you have no interest in doing these things yourself, you can outsource them.

It’s really important to keep a list though, because you want to get all of these minor tweaks and tasks out of your head. You don’t want to be remembering that you need to add that testimonial to your sales page while you’re trying to write your next book.

Ritualize and Batch the Community Engagement Part Too

In addition to my morning ritual where I do the deep, creative work, I also set aside a chunk of time in the evening for engaging with my puttypeep. I’ll take an hour or two and just reply to emails, blog comments, and do my tweeting.

This stuff may not seem as important as creating content for your site, but you can bet that treating your peep right, being appreciative and showing your community that you care, is incredibly important for business.

Every little interaction creates an overall impression of who you are and what your community is about. After all, your main goal is to help people, right? Set aside a special time for this.

My General Rule

If all else fails, and I’m still stuck on how to best spend my time, I will simply ask the following questions:

  1. Among these options, which action would truly have the greatest impact in my business?
  2. What would happen if I didn’t do this task right now? If the answer is “very little,” it’s probably not that important.
  3. Which activity would be the most FUN to do right now?

If you’ve already done your meaningful work for the day, and nothing is truly urgent, then go with what’s most fun.

Your Turn

What tips do you have for deciding between the essential and non-essential work in your Renaissance Business?

25 Comments

  1. Hey Emilie,

    absolutely perfect. Thanks for giving me such wickedly practical advice.

    Matt

  2. Colleen says:

    I tend to get caught in the loop of “whatever comes to mind first.” Which is, er, not a particularly workable system. Thanks for the bullet points to consider. Now all I have to do is keep them in mind. :)

  3. simone says:

    All of Emilie’s advice is golden. I can’t add a thing.
    Maybe, except a small reminder that if something isn’t making your heart sing (or going directly to to serve something that makes you heart sing), it may be time to re-evaluate whether you should be doing it at all..

    • Emilie says:

      I actually had a line that got deleted in the edits that said nearly the exact same thing. Those high ROI activities should also be the things you love. Otherwise your biz may need some restructuring.

      Thanks for pointing that out, Simone. :)

  4. jennifer says:

    I am printing this post out and gluing it into the Moleskine notebook I carry with me everywhere. Seriously, this helped me immensely. Thanks!

  5. I love doing every little bit and piece of my blog, but that’s probably because I have the design and programming skill set and passion in addition to my passion for the blogging, community, etc. For me, sometimes I forget that it’s more important to focus on the money making tasks such as blogging, developing my first program (hoping to launch in Feb!) and list buildint, vs tweaking my site and graphics.

    Having a list is totally key to keeping up with the small tasks that aren’t a priority. I use the software Things on my phone and computer because it syncs up through wifi automatically. Then when I’ve got some time, I filter through all the projects and tasks and bang some things out.

    You’ve got excellent tips Emilie! xo

    • Matthew says:

      Stephanie,

      You said it well, just as Emilie has, that there’s nothing with the little things, so long as they’re kept in perspective – which, if I’m truthful, they were not. They’d started to take over. But with a little bit of time and effort, the focus will be back in no time.

    • Emilie says:

      Sounds like you’ve got a good system worked out, Stephenie. I can also relate to enjoying the little tweaks from time to time, and I think that if you get enjoyment out of them, then it’s totally cool to do them yourself. But it’s like you said, gotta keep an eye on the big picture and maintain a balance between the big and smaller tasks.

      Thanks for sharing your tips. Oh and I look forward to seeing what you get up to with the course!

      xo.

  6. Hey Emilie,

    Ok, so it’s day one taking your advice and productivity is really going well. I’m a bit Mac fan and used to have Mac Mail running and my iPhone and iPad on the desk near me. Talk about distraction heaven. :-(

    Well today, the sound notifications in Mail are off, the iPad’s not near me (replaced with pen and paper) and the iPhone is muted (and turned face down) during my creative times. I’ve got to hand it to you, it’s really helped. I’m getting back on track with the important parts of my business, making great headway.

    Matt

    • Emilie says:

      That’s wonderful, Matt! I too have struggled with Mac Mail. I removed it from my dock, so now to open it, I have to go to my Applications folder and manually double-click. It’s less automatic and makes me feel slightly ashamed if I’m supposed to be working, which is good. Haha. I’m able to keep the program closed while working now, but I will admit that it’s tempting to check during breaks.

      Still, I figure there’s no need to get extreme or feel too guilty. If you find something that works, go with it.

  7. Ethan says:

    It can be really helpful to talk with a friend or mentor about prioritizing activities. I work a full time job in addition to running my website. So I really only have time for a handfull of things, and it’s important that those things that I choose to do are the high ROI ones. Yet it’s easy to lose perspective about which activities are actually high impact or not. Whenever I get a great idea for something to try or implement, I write it down (in evernote, of course). Then I go through the list with my coach and we prioritize what I should work on first and what I should save for later. It’s really helpful.

  8. Ellen says:

    Thanks for this! I really appreciate your inclusion of ritual, ROI and FUN. I frequently shy away from the things that will bring me the greatest ROI – because those action items also put me and my work in the greatest spotlight and I am still getting comfortable there :-) This blog is great for helping me see how all the many parts of me and my business can work together for some serious IMPACT. Cheers!

    • Emilie says:

      Ah yes, you touch on something big. Fear tends to appear when we engage in those big action items. In that sense, fear is actually a good indicator for which tasks to focus on. Chances are, if it scares you, it’s important.

      Love it, thanks Ellen!

  9. Holli says:

    Thank you for this post. The comments are equally encouraging too!
    With two kids under 5 years old, I have a lot to juggle. Especially since I want to “cook from scratch” for nearly every meal, I have a limited amount of time to blog or work on projects.

    So, my prioritization pre-this post was this: What cannot wait until tomorrow? Eating, laundry, cleaning, blogging or just writing have all been a juggling act. Eating and sleeping are non-negotiable:) I find a lot of help just writing things down, then breaking them up into actionable steps for the week and month. That way when some time opens up, I can revisit the list and chose what I can do.

    The problem with my simple method is that sometimes blogging or “working” on the site feels like a chore. Just something that needs to be done. However, I have those days that keep me going. I will try your suggestion to rekindle my motivation for starting Scratch Treehouse:)

    • Emilie says:

      I hear you, Holli. And I can only imagine how much the juggling multiplies when you’re a mom.

      I like writing things down and slotting them into future days/weeks too. That can help with a lot of the overwhelm.

      I wonder if your feelings about Scratch Treehouse will change as your community grows and you begin offering some products and services through your site. I began seeing blogging a little differently when I launched some services and even just started getting more feedback in the way of comments. The snowball just needs to start rolling.

  10. Vina says:

    Hey!!! My first comment on your amazing blog!

    (And I’m soon to grab a coaching spot with you, just need to get myself Skype.)

    I love this post! I am actually re-reading this and making notes. I so need this. I love the hierarchy of work you mentioned here, from meaningful work to community engagement and the rest. The thing is, I’m often stuck with ideation that I don’t get any actual content writing done! Anyway. Rambling.

    And I don’t remember where I read it somewhere on your blog (maybe it was your e-book – I just bought it!) that you (personally) need both logic and creativity to be happy and it made me think of how I give myself a hard time for wanting to be more structured and systematic (verses free-spirited and the like) and your post made me realize, I really need to be BOTH.

    Ok, enough enough.

    Thank you again!
    Vina

    • Emilie says:

      Welcome Vina!!

      Ah so you’re saying you get so absorbed in the big picture stuff, that you don’t actually do the work? I’ve found that you need to have a dual perspective, one long term and the other super shortsighted. Then you switch between them depending on your needs.

      So I’ll take time to think about my big goals and get excited about them to motivate me. But then when it comes time to actually do the work, I’ll forget about that stuff and just focus on the immediate task in front of me. If I think too far ahead when I’m working, it can be paralyzing.

      Thanks for the comment and email (I’ll get back to you very soon! :)

  11. Harrison says:

    I’ve definitely been hearing a lot more about outsourcing and the hiring of virtual assistants to cover the “behind-the-scenes” menial/drudge work.

    And I agree with your analysis that viewing each task, should be on the ROI spectrum, something I’m still working on developing. I will most likely seek a virtual assistant later (but not too far out time frame), when I get overwhelmed by tasks I find more useful to let someone else cover.

    Thanks for sharing! :)

  12. Rachael says:

    So glad I read this article when I did. I just finished plaanjng my month and this weekend out with a time management activity for my Renaissance Business! That was really helpful. I was jsut talking tonality friend and asking their advice on whether or not they thoghut I was too scatterbrained in my business, aland they gave me confirmation that I wasn’t. In the middle of redesigning and rebranding my site – smooshing my interests together :). Bought the book a while back and still refer to it! Thanks Emelie much appreciated :)

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