How to escape the freelance busy trap
They say you teach what you most need to learn, so here’s my confession to you:
I’m a chronic “doer.” Taking on two or three too many things than I can comfortably handle is my default mode. I used to joke that if I came back as a dog, I’d be the one carrying the newspaper or herding sheep rather than the one snoozing on the porch. I took pride in my busyness, in being able to keep multiple balls in the air and be relied upon to get stuff done.
And then I heard a podcast with CD Baby founder, Derek Sivers, who said when people email him apologizing for taking up his time because he must be so busy, he replies “No, I’m not busy at all.” He went on to explain that he sees busyness as a failure because a successful entrepreneur creates a business that can grow without the founder having to do it all.
I realized that my story around my worth and value being tied to being busy was not only holding me back in business, it was ensuring I wasn’t present in my life and was probably missing some pretty sweet moments as a result.
And so, just as I put in my hours to rewrite my money story (another BS story that held me back for way too long), I took a look under the hood of my addiction to being busy and shone a light into those dark corners. It’s an on-going process, but I’m happy to say that as a result of doing the inner work, I’ve made some pretty big changes in my business and life. And guess what? Not only am I happier, my business has become more successful and profitable too.
If any of this sounds familiar and you’d welcome more presence and space in your life, let’s look under your hood (so to speak!).
If you’ve ever:
- Taken work on vacation
- Checked your email obsessively while: at the playground with your kids/at dinner with friends/in line at the supermarket….
- Woken up completely overwhelmed by the sheer length of your to-do list
- Dropped balls and then felt the shame of “not being cut out for this”
- Realized that the way you’ve set things up simply isn’t sustainable, let alone scalable
…you might be caught in the busy trap.
If you’re ready to break free and start enjoying life while crushing it in your business, read on for 3 actionable steps to help you break you out of the busy trap.
1) Re-write your “busy story”
For those of you who have been hanging around with me for a while, you’ll know I always start with mindset. In short, your mindset is based upon your beliefs, which in turn inform your thoughts, which finally give rise to your actions.
So, if you’ve got a story that connects your value and worth with being busy that might be something you want to investigate. These questions will help guide your process:
- What are your 3 most disempowering beliefs around being busy and being of value?
- Who did you learn those from and was that person worth modeling in this area?
- How are those beliefs holding your back?
- How are those beliefs manifesting as actions in your business and life?
- What is necessary for you to believe to break out of the busy trap?
- What’s your new story?
2) Identify your zone of genius
This is such an empowering exercise because when you know what activities keep you in your zone of genius and which ones take you out of it, you know how to assign roles in your business. It’s a big deal! So, to help you figure out how that works in your business let me share what worked for me and, if it resonates, you can try it for yourself:
- My zone of genius: Writing, speaking, coaching established creative entrepreneurs and freelancers
Now it’s your turn: My zone of genius is____________
- Activities that align with my zone of genius: breaking down big concepts into relatable and actionable content, writing newsletters and talks, giving workshops and talks, connecting with creatives, coaching.
Now’s it’s your turn: Activities that align with my zone of genius include___________
- Activities that are necessary but take me out of my zone of genius: Distributing and managing content, social media, customer service, IT, finance/admin, managing my calendar, website updates and maintenance.
Now it’s your turn: Activities that are necessary, but take me out of my zone of genius include___________
3) Identify what you can let go or outsource
I love this exercise because it’s so freeing. Just deciding to do something because it’s not worth the effort is a hugely positive move. Here are a few thoughts to help you figure out what to outsource or let go of altogether:
- List all the things you do in a given day/week/month
- Identify what you can simply stop doing because they’re not adding value
- Identify the work that is not in your zone of genius, but IS necessary to the running and growth of your business
- Research ways you can outsource that work, either through technology e.g. a CRM system, or people e.g. a virtual assistant, junior designer etc.
I appreciate that old habits die hard and are usually in response to some deep-seated stuff. I know this is a lot and the goal of this is not to have you doing all this in one shot, but rather to start shifting your relationship to busyness and to think more like a CEO than a worker bee. Be gentle with yourself, okay?