by Art Piccio . March 29th, 2012
We’ve all bitten off more than we could chew. Entrepreneurs however, are especially prone to this mistake. I’d say everyone who starts a venture from scratch will eventually have to face this problem.
The solution to over-commitment is ridiculously simple—
OK, we lied. It’s not as simple as we make it sound.
You will always find people who are hard to refuse – investors, parasitical friends and family members who want in on your success, demanding but potentially valuable customers, nosy stock photo babies- the list is endless.
Now we’re not saying you shouldn’t try to grab opportunities that present themselves -otherwise you wouldn’t even have started in the first place. But every entrepreneurial newbie should know we can’t have everything.
Opportunity cost is a fact of life for everyone- unfortunately, it’s an inconvenient… fact… for entrepreneurs. So inconvenient, many will (probably unknowingly) choose to to ignore it. Fact is, you can’t make time for everything. Pretending otherwise is one of the dumbest moves you can ever make. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the easiest.
When you over-commit, it always follows that you overextend your resources as well. What a lot of us seem to forget is, time and attention are resources too! It often follows when you do one thing, you need to give up other things. Crazy simple.
There are ways to improve your ability to focus, and there are way to make it easier to manage your time- true. But unless someone invents a working flux capacitor, you, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg have the exact same number of hours in a day.
The answer of course, depends. But the vast majority of new businesses have employees numbering in the single digits. And this doesn’t even include ventures yet to be registered. If you’re the average new entrepreneur, it’s safe to say you probably can’t afford a heck of a lot- much less afford to delegate responsibility – at least, not yet. Sweating the little stuff and doing everything is almost part of the job description.
If you can’t delegate, yet you find yourself trying to accommodate everyone, don’t be surprised if you make a lot of terrible decisions. And doing more things almost always leads to more stress, which in turn leads to crappier decisions- such as deciding to take on more than you could handle. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle of not getting anything done right.
Skeptical? Decision fatigue is very real. Multiple studies all strongly suggest if not confirm that having your attention divided and being stressed makes for very bad decision making mojo.
It’s shocking studies needed to be made on this, since it all seems like common sense – until you realize most entrepreneurs have a passion and optimism bordering (or crossing into) the delusional that helps them succeed. Being willing to put on different hats is what makes entrepreneurs what they are. But in the long run, too many bad decisions will always lead to a bad job- and a ruined reputation.
Saying no doesn’t always mean you should burn bridges. If you have to refuse someone, make sure they know you’re doing it because you respect them too much to give them something half-assed. And if you respect yourself, you wouldn’t do anything half-assed either.
Arthur Piccio manages YouTheEntrepreneur and has managed content for major players in the online printing industry. He was previously BizSugar's contributor of the week. His work has appeared multiple times on The New York Times' You're the Boss Small Business Blog. He enjoys guitar maintenance and reading up on history and psychology in his spare time.