Glance down at what you’re wearing today.
If you were back in the store, would you pay to buy those pieces again at full price?
This is the question that I ask myself each time I clean out my closet. I used to feel guilty about donating a $98 dress even though I knew I wouldn’t wear it again because I’d already spent a good chunk of money on it (and there’s always maybe someday, right?). But, if I was in the store, looking at it and trying to decide whether or not to buy it, it would be an easy no.
That’s how I know I’m making the right decision to eliminate it from my closet and donate it, hoping that someone who really loves it will get to wear it.
It doesn’t make sense to keep it hanging in my closet, taking up space and making me feel guilty everytime I look at it just because I spent $98 on it a couple years ago.
We tend to hold onto projects and paragraphs in blog posts and commitments the same way.
If we’ve already put hours and hours into a new product, we have a much harder time letting go instead of adding it to our Etsy shops even though it doesn’t work with our other products.
If we’ve spent six hours writing and editing a blog post and realize it’s crap, we publish it anyways or feel like the six hours was wasted.
If we’ve already said yes to speaking at an online summit but then receive the details that include emailing our lists about the speaking engagement three times and know it’s not the right fit, we follow through instead of saying, “Sorry, I’m out.”
“Sunk-cost bias is the tendency to continue to invest time, money, or energy into something we know is a losing proposition simply because we have already incurred, or sunk, a cost that cannot be recouped.” -Essentialism, Greg McKeown
Here are four steps I recommend you take to make sure you’re spending your time on the right things:
Step 1: Inventory Your Business
It’s important to regularly look at everything we’re doing in our businesses to see if we’re doing things just because we’ve been doing them or have committed to something in the past.
Mark a day in your calendar to do this each quarter over the next year. On that day, make a list of all your products, services, projects, tasks and commitments.
For each, ask yourself these questions:
If I was starting from scratch, how hard would I be willing to work to start this project? What would I be willing to give up to make time for this project or commitment?
Ask yourself these questions about each of your products, your daily uploads on Instagram, your FB live videos, your meetings with your team, the interviews you’ve agreed to, etc. Evaluate anything that takes up time in your calendar.
Step 2: Get Past Your Fear
When I began blogging, years and years ago, I started a wedding planning blog. I wanted to blog about something and I was planning my wedding at the time, so I thought it’d be a great topic.
I built a readership into the thousands and a side income of around $450/month in ads and sponsored posts.
Once I got married, I realized that I didn’t want to spend my days looking at bouquets of peonies, wedding cakes and mermaid dresses.
Even though I knew that I didn’t want to continue blogging about weddings, it took me a few months to get past my fear of giving up something I’d worked incredibly hard to build.
I spent those months talking it out with my husband and friends, walking and thinking about what I’d really like to blog about and crying over my stupidity of wasting so much time on something I’d never want to do long-term.
I wrote a blog post for CreativeLive about giving up my readership and side income and I was shocked by a couple of comments from readers who couldn’t believe I would give it up including this completely ridiculous comment:
“Just because you get married doesn’t mean you have to shut down your wedding blog! If something is financially working, why shut it down? You are either an idiot, or you are not explaining yourself fully (or you are embellishing your story for drama). If you had nothing more to say about “weddings”, you could transition from weddings to family, but within the same blog, to the same followers, as…duh! They are progressing in their lives too! I am transitioning from photographing weddings to photographing babies because my friends are all married and are having babies now. Does that mean I throw my camera away? Do I close down my photography business? NO!!! It just means I take it in a new direction…At the very least, you probably could have sold the site to someone who would have gladly paid for the list of followers and paying advertisers…SOMETHING other than just shutting it down! And you want me to take advice from you? WOW!” -Latara Dragoo
When I first read this comment, I thought…what a you-know-what! How dare you scream at me with your capital letters and presume to know what’s best for my life and business when it’s obvious your business is struggling.
Then, I took a deep breath and realized that this person didn’t get the meaning of my post.
She didn’t get that closing my wedding planning blog was the best decision I could’ve made because it gave me the time to build THIS successful business that I truly love and brings in a much bigger income.
She didn’t get that life is way too short to spend it doing something I resent. She was proving the point that people fear giving up something they put hundreds of hours into even if it’s the exact right decision.
This was my response:
“First, I started the blog as a hobby–not as a way to make money. When I started my blog, none of the blogs I read had ads on their blogs or wrote sponsored posts yet, so I had no way of knowing what it could (and would) grow into. Second, when I realized that I didn’t want to continue with daily blogging about a topic that I no longer cared about, I wasn’t about to start another blog that I’d end up resenting. I don’t have kids and blogging about family is not a direction I would’ve wanted to go. Most importantly, if I didn’t let go of that blog, I wouldn’t have had the time or room to create the business that I have now which I love. Third, when you create a blog that is based on your interests, strengths and personality, it’s hard to sell it, because it’s not as if the person who buys it can just pick up where you left off and be you. If you’re planning on selling your blog, you have to create something that can live on without you being the blogger.”
I tried my best to explain my viewpoint while realizing that this person is shortsighted and not my ideal customer.
When you’re looking at all of the things you spend time on in your business, try to do so without the baggage of fear and the what ifs.
Don’t torture yourself by thinking about how you could’ve done things differently and holding onto products, services and tasks just because you already spent time on them.
You can’t change the past, but you can make sure you don’t waste another second on something that isn’t worth your time.
Step 3: Edit Your Business
You’ve already made a list of all your commitments and realized that some of them need to get cut. Make the time to cut them now, including sending emails or hopping on a Skype call to let anyone else involved know that you’re eliminating the task or project from your calendar.
For the ones that you’re hemming and hawing over, ask yourself this question:
If you were starting from scratch, would you say yes to this commitment, project or task again?
If you were just starting your business, would you still sell one-of-kind jewelry? If you’d never posted a picture on Instagram, would you still commit to posting three times a day? If you’d just received the email about guest posting monthly on a blog in your niche, would you say yes again?
If the answer is no, try letting it go for a short period of time and see what happens.
Try selling jewelry you can make again and again for a month. See if that business model works better.
Try posting once a day on Instagram for the next week. Do your numbers drop? Does your engagement drop? Or…do you have enough time to also do an Instagram live video twice a week that has resulted in multiple sales?
Tell the blogger that you’re unavailable to guest post for her for the next two months. Does it really hurt your business? Or…do you realize that guest posting for the past twelve months has probably resulted in all the new readers for your own blog that you’re going to get from it?
Edit your business by removing the non-essential tasks so that you have more time to focus on high-leverage tasks that actually move your business forward and make you money.
Step 4: Take a Moment Before Committing
Now that you’ve eliminated tasks that are getting in your way instead of bringing you joy and income, you don’t want to fill your calendar back up with crap.
Before you say yes to ANYTHING, take a breath. Really scrutinize what saying yes means. Consider whether this task or new product idea or interview request is helping you to achieve your overall mission and goal.
Think about the time and effort it’ll take and what you’ll have to say no to in order to make time for it.
It’s incredibly hard to say no (especially for people pleasers and to things that might turn out to be great opportunities), but running a successful business is all about editing out the unproductive, unrelated stuff.
Learning to say no, instead of automatically saying yes, will make you less overwhelmed and your business more profitable.
I say no to about 95% of the opportunities and requests that come my way. There are many that I wish I had the time to commit to, but I know if I want to ensure I have enough time for the things I really want to spend my time on, I have to say no.
What will you edit out of your business today? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.