The concept that you could realize huge success by learning to do less is fairly pervasive and awfully seductive.
In fact, I seduced you into reading this article by using that concept in the title. We all want to believe there’s a magic trick that would allow us to achieve the things we want while spending more time watching movies or going for long hikes with friends – you know, learning to do less work.
It’s not that you can’t ever do those things, but the truth is that no entrepreneur or business owner succeeds by learning to do less overall. What does lead to great success?
Doing less of the things that don’t meet your true value and doing more of the things that do.
For the owner of a business, entering numbers into a spreadsheet or updating social media channels are rarely activities that meet your true value. So how do you orient your day and your business so that you’re spending more time on the big picture projects and strategies that will lead to growth and learning to do less with the day-to-day activities that keep your business going?
Delegate where you can
Because the day-to-day activities of your business have to keep happening, the only way for you to learn to do less of them is for someone else to do more of them, aka delegating.
Passing along a task to someone else gets it off your plate, but you could actually experience a bigger benefit. An employee or contractor who excels at the tasks that aren’t your core strengths can often see improvements where you can’t. They’re operating in their prime skill zone whereas you were simply doing a thing that needed to get done.
That’s exactly what Reconciled does for our clients. We encourage them to let go of the accounting and bookkeeping tasks (our core strength) so that they can spend their time and energy focusing on their core strength, whether that’s developing a new beer recipe or perfecting their latest app.
As an accountant, you’re probably already a pro at systematizing. After all, part of your job is identifying items or processes that are repeatable and can be documented.
But if you haven’t created systems, you’ll need to make space in your schedule to define the processes that make up the role or tasks you’re planning to delegate. Depending on the skillset of the person you hire to take over the task, you may be able to rely on them to create systems for you.
Unfortunately, I find that a lot of business owners have trouble trusting that someone else can do it better than they can.
I tend to assume that, if given the responsibility, most people will try their best and that any potential failure serves as a useful learning experience. But my approach doesn’t feel comfortable for everyone, and that’s where systems can be really helpful.
You can mitigate the risk of failure by thoroughly documenting your processes. If you have a well-documented process, you’re less dependent on an individual’s particular competencies. As long as they can read or use a computer, they should be able to follow the process you’ve created.
Plan for your time
Often when business owners delegate a task, they fail to take a really important pre-delegation step. They don’t set goals or create a plan for how they’ll use that newly available time.
If you wait until you have free time to decide what you’re going to do with it, you’ll just end up filling it with the most urgent thing that needs to be done at that moment. And chances are, that urgent thing doesn’t meet your true value.
Besides, setting a goal will help motivate you to take the steps necessary to delegate.
Use technology to automate
Delegating a task doesn’t always require another person. Sometimes technology can provide the automation that saves you time and avoids spending your mental energy on things that don’t really need your attention.
For instance, at Reconciled we started using an app called Zapier that allows you to configure a sequence of actions based on an initial triggering event. Whenever a new Reconciled customer signs a contract, Zapier automatically creates an internal Slack channel for that client and sends an email to the customer and the bookkeepers involved as well as to our sales team to begin the onboarding process.
Without that automation, someone would have to monitor that process for every new client to make sure things were progressing appropriately.
While all of these steps will help free up your time to focus on the big picture actions that will grow your business, they’ll also help your business and your employees perform better day-to-day. And they’ll make hiring and training new staff easier and more efficient since everything they need to know will be captured in documented systems rather than in someone else’s head.
Doing less probably won’t move your business forward. But learning to do less of the stuff that doesn’t meet your core strengths and more of the stuff that does? That will set you on the path to success.