As online business managers or virtual support professionals, we have learned and mastered the art of professional fire putter-outer… well can I just say:
I have put out my last fire!
I know, I know… you are thinking… not possible. It is not possible to be in this fast-paced, ever-changing, chaotic clients industry and NOT have to put out any more fires. And to you I say <with a BIG GRIN> “Maybe Your Right… but I am on a mission to prove you wrong!”
So let’s break it down, where do fires come from anyway? Well, it’s my experience they come from being overcommitted, disorganized and unbalanced.
Let’s take these bite-size, shall we?
Being overcommitted falls into 3 categories.
- The YES Factor – Let’s be honest, we all have an amount of money that is necessary to sustain our commitment to our home/life budget. Money is always a deciding factor in business… unfortunately, it can create what I like to call the ‘YES’ Disorder… anything and everything asked of you will get a big YES.
When you are saying YES to things that a) you don’t love b) you don’t know how to do c) you don’t have time for… guess what happens, you become overcommitted. Now, why do I include (a) and (b) into a ‘time’ related issue? Because it will take you twice as long to do a project you don’t love or don’t know how to do. Which will essentially lend itself to creating a time issue and making you ‘overcommitted’.
And for the sake of transparency when I am coaching a brand new virtual support professional.. this is what I tell them to do.. say YES to everything and figure out the rest AFTER you have the client. Truly there is a time and space when you are in a start-up that this approach lends well to both your learning curve and your building clientele. Unfortunately, many of us are very SLOW to release the habit. Therefore, we continue to say YES to stuff we know we longer need to say yes to.
And therefore finding ourselves: OVER-COMMITTED… I call overcommitted a fire simply because you spend 90% of your time running around doing just enough on each project to stay ahead of the client or deadline… never actually completing the project or task… basically, you have small smouldering coals in every direction. Anyone of them at any time can (and often does) become a large unmanageable fire burning out of control. You know this… but what can you do? You have already SAID YES!
So if you find yourself in this situation you have 3 options:
- Create a Project Plan… list out all you have committed too and let your clients know where their project falls on the plan… even if it means moving a deadline.
- Hire some help… get someone on your team quick to assist with putting out the fires… completely out!
- Contact the client and let them know you will not be able to fulfill your obligation and refund money they have paid (I do not recommend this.. but it is an option..)
- Over-Scheduling When Away From Your Business – the ‘outside’ of work stuff… I have to tell you, more than once I have had virtual support professionals tell me their entire day (kids to sports, doctor appointments, lunch with friends, school, and even their gym routine) for why they did not meet a deadline.
I will be the first to say… you need to have a life! LOL, what would be the point of owning your own business if you couldn’t LIVE with the freedoms you desire… but…
When you find yourself telling your clients that you spent 30 min in the line at the bank and an extra hour helping at your daughter’s dance class… just know you are OVER-COMMITTED. When you’re outside of work schedule becomes your excuse to why projects are not completed, this is your cue.
Honestly how you prioritize your home/work balance is up to you… but keep yourself to a realistic and doable schedule. If not, you will be overcommitting yourself and just because it’s not to clients doesn’t mean it will not be revealed in your work. It will.
- Perfectionism -Personal expectation would be the third and possibly the most FIRE burning of all the OVER-COMMITING issues. You see we all have a measure of quality we desire to give our clients. I have known people who will spend 8 hours on a 2-hour project (you know who you are). So it’s not so much that you don’t have the time, or that your schedule is too busy… it’s simply that you are looking for perfection in every detail of everything you do.
Why did I add this under overcommitted… because when you are searching for perfection you will often have numerous mini projects going on. So when you get stumped on one you pop over to the other… then another… then another and before you know it ALL of them become forest fires generally at the same time.
This is not a time issue it’s a completion issue. Deal with it. Schedule a reasonable amount of time for each project then COMPLETE it before starting the next. This is a must for our perfectionist out there.
As much as I greatly appreciate your intent… you will never be able to live ‘fire’ free if you don’t learn to manage your own expectation as it relates to perfecting every project.
Here’s why I will never put out another fire because of being over-committed.
- I am not saying YES unless it fits my desired outcome for my business… no more saying YES simply because I don’t know how to say NO.. and for me personally, I started this about 6 months ago and am now living in the freedom of doing what I love to do ?
- I have a schedule/calendar that I keep EVERYTHING in, work, home, kids, church, community projects, vacations… everything makes up me.. everything needs to be visible to me in one place. I only commit to things outside my business that I know I can give 100% too… therefore I am always free to give 100% to my business projects
- To be honest, I am not exactly a perfectionist. But I live with one and I have coached many, so I know this is a fire starter and wanted to mention it here…