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A team leader, or any leadership position for that matter, is one of those tricky career choices. Individuals often choose entrepreneurship or leadership positions for the ability to make decisions, to be the captain of their own destiny and, ultimately, for freedom (financial, physical, spiritual, psychological).
But if team leaders aren’t careful, they can end up stuck in the weeds of their business and spread too thin. Consequently, they’ll have less freedom and autonomy than when they entered into leadership in the first place.
I don’t want that to happen to you. Being a leader is a heady responsibility, and it’s something that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Too many people with great leadership potential fall short because they have too many irons in the fire, they are saying “yes” to the wrong things (or to too many things), and they are distracted by every shiny object that comes their way.
I think those days of hustling and grinding until you have nothing left to give are over. Yes, you will achieve success that way, no doubt. But at what cost? Will you enjoy your life along the way? Will you miss out on important family milestones? Will you sacrifice your health?
Don’t get me wrong, there will be times in the life cycle of your business when you have to double-down and work longer hours or take more meetings than usual (I’m experiencing that myself right now).
But that’s not the norm — and it doesn’t have to be. There is a better way. Here are three simple things you can do to make sure you are not spreading yourself too thin as a leader.
1. Know what you value
There is a way to thrive in a leadership role, have time in your day, focus only on what you do best and what gives you the most fulfillment, and have energy and bandwidth left over for all the important people in your life.
There is a way to have it all — as long as you clearly define what “all” means to you. Hint: It has much more to do with your inner world than the material, external world.
That being said, get clarity on what you value. You would be surprised by how many people say they value family or their children or their health but are living a life completely counter to that. They work 100 hours a week and are still scrolling through emails when they are at home. Or they choose convenient foods and skip annual health exams.
No judgment here. You just need to be true to yourself, to what is really important to you and then walk the walk. If you value 100-hour work weeks — then that’s OK. Just accept that you may have to balance that out with less time for workouts or family time.
If you value freedom with your time, then you may want to choose a career path that allows you to not be beholden to client or employee needs. Once you are clear on this, you can make decisions with your time that align with what you want.
If you are not clear on what you want, then very often, you’ll end up saying “yes” to too many things, and before you know it, you’ll have over-committed and double-booked yourself. You’ll begin to cancel or push off those items you said you valued.
I don’t know about you, but I have a lot of respect for those individuals who can clearly say “no” to a request that doesn’t align with their vision for their life. Those are the people who are not spread too thin and are actually enjoying their work and their life.
2. Manage your energy
We talk a lot about time management and productivity hacks, but I actually think one of the best ways to increase productivity is to manage your energy. And I’m not talking about getting a jolt from a dark roast cup of coffee a couple of times a day. Stay with me here.
Yes, not spreading yourself too thin has a lot to do with making sure you’re spending your time on the right things. But how much attention are you paying to how you are showing up during those time blocks, meetings or specific activities?
The primary functions of a leader are communicating and making decisions, then communicating those decisions and then making more decisions. You get the point. Being at the top of your game with your mental and physical energy is key in leading your team forward in good times and bad.
Creating a morning routine is a great place to start to prime your energy for the day. I like to start my day with journaling, meditation and exercise. It allows me to center myself and get clear for whatever the day brings. It also helps me keep my priorities and values top-of-mind, so I don’t inadvertently say “yes” to too many things throughout the day.
Stopping to eat lunch, going out for a walk or getting a mid-day meditation session in can also be helpful to keep your energy up and yourself centered throughout the day. It’s all about energy management.
3. Leverage first with an assistant
If you are a leader, one of the very best ways to make sure you are not spreading yourself too thin is to add some leverage in your life. This might come in the form of a lawn care service, a nanny, a transaction coordinator or a showing assistant.
I believe the first point of leverage (at least in business) should be an executive assistant (EA). (I believe so passionately about this that I wrote a book about it!) This person will be your organizational and operational wizard.
EAs will handle the day-to-day details so that you can focus on growing the business and handling only the projects and clients who will give the business the highest return.
In theory, this person is sharing your workload (or at least part of your job), so as long as you make the right hire, you will get time back in your day. That’s the starting point.
A great EA will optimize your schedule for maximum efficiency, help you manage your energy, take tasks off your plate, help you say “no,” and keep you focused on the high-impact projects. Team leaders who are looking to keep growing while keeping their sanity should consider hiring an EA as soon as possible.
Let me leave you with this quote from Naval Ravikant, co-founder, chairman and former CEO of AngelList and investor in over 200 companies, including Uber, Twitter, Poshmark, Opendoor and Clubhouse.
“I want to be that guy who is successful, peaceful, happy, enjoying life, blissful, meditative, spiritual, successful, and as healthy as I can be, and famous, and rich, and not give a damn about any of it. If I lose it all tomorrow, I still want to be happy. That’s it. That’s where I want to be. I’ll just make that decision because somebody has to be that person. It might as well be me.”
Spread too thin? I don’t think so. It just sounds to me like someone who understands what he wants and values — someone who knows where to spend his time and energy. And that can be you, too.
Adam Hergenrother is the founder and CEO of Adam Hergenrother Companies