Life is different for entrepreneurs. We don’t get paid for just showing up.
We can spend a whole week working hard, head down, diligently pursuing an endless list of tasks, only to find ourselves more behind, overwhelmed, and in the hole than when we started.
Now, as an entrepreneur, you know we don’t do this on purpose. If you’re like me, you hate spending time away from hobbies, friends, and family without having anything to show for it.
So why does this happen so often? As a psychologist and productivity coach for entrepreneurs, I’ve noticed one culprit that sneaks in, starts small, and gradually sucks the life, energy, and joy out of the entrepreneurial journey.
If you want to build your business, you must learn to recognize this time-wasting thief before it’s too late.
In physics they talk about a concept called entropy. It’s the tendency for things to move toward chaos. Entropy describes the universal process by which organized systems gradually and inevitably decline into disorder.
You can build the perfect machine, and its flawless operation will eventually give way to the relentless power of entropy. At first it will be something small that goes wrong, then something else, and eventually an error that leads to catastrophic failure.
How is this useful knowledge to an entrepreneur? Well, let me give you a simple example. Entropy is the reason I don’t use WordPress to host my website despite all the amazing bells and whistles at my fingertips through the myriad of plug-ins available there.
Instead, I use an all-in-one website hosting platform called Kajabi. Why? Because combating entropy is an ongoing, continuous battle, and I am outsourcing that battle to the staff at Kajabi (that’s an affiliate link…but keep reading as it’s not the point of the article).
I don’t update WordPress to protect against the latest hacking threat. I don’t read about which WordPress plug-ins create the highest back door vulnerability when installed. I don’t troubleshoot errors when a new Apple device renders a webpage differently for my clients. I leave all that entropy-busting to the managers, engineers, and developers at Kajabi so that I can keep my focus on the highest and best use of my specific talents as an entrepreneur.
Making this trade requires that I give up some functionality. Once in a while there’s something one of my competitors does with their custom coded website that I wish I could replicate. But I ignore the temptation knowing the longer-term consequences of adding complexity to the core systems on which my business processes are dependent.
How does entropy impact your business? What are the systems that require constant maintenance to fight back against entropy? And how much of your week is spent putting out fires, fixing unexpected problems, or replacing staff?
That’s entropy. It takes up your time and pulls you away from the progress you crave.
You can come up with a great business idea, and start generating revenue in short order. But how long will that last if each week you add a bit more complexity?
How long will it take before the compounding impact of all that added complexity equals or even exceeds 100% of the time you have available? You see, with increased complexity, entropy increases exponentially. Eventually, you spend all your time frantically trying to keep your business from falling apart.
Could you hire an operations manager to tame entropy temporarily? Yes, of course. And often that’s the best course of action to buy yourself some time.
But be cautious about what you do next, because most of the entrepreneurs I work with immediately use that extra breathing room to create a new widget, feature, or area for expanded growth. When instead, they should have used that breathing room to refine their systems to maximize profit with the simplest and most entropy-proof processes they can design.
Productivity isn’t always about growth. Sometimes it’s about refining what you already do, forcing your business to become a well-oiled machine that serves your interests instead of sucking the life out of you.
It reminds me of a quote from Henry Kissinger, "There cannot be a crisis next week, my schedule is already full."
Have you ever felt that way? It’s a good sign you’re at the cusp of catastrophic failure.
You’ve filled your plate too full. In your zealous ambition to grow, you accidentally built a system to trap yourself instead. You trapped yourself in an endless maze that grows bigger with each turn you take.
It’s time to exit the maze.
That’s what I help entrepreneurs do. We take a bird’s eye view. We slow down to recall the end goal. We look for ways to spend less time running on the hamster wheel and more time on the fewest possible actions that will yield the most direct path to sustainable progress.
I call this process the “Lucrative Elimination Method.”
Abstract theory is nice, but maybe you want to put this concept to work. If so, here are a few pointers to get you started.
First of all, get very clear about what business you are actually in. Never lose sight of the thing your customers pay you to do. Do you have a process map that shows the simplest possible path your business can take to deliver value?
Next, get crystal clear about your role in the company. What is the one thing you do best? What is the thing you could do all day long without getting tired? What’s your natural talent that feels difficult to others but comes easily for you?
Focus on spending a higher percentage of your work week using that gift. Regularly review your role in the company, questioning whether you are spending your time on the activities you do best. In real financial terms, this is the highest ROI on the time you spend working for your company. Everything else should be outsourced or delegated to someone else.
Third, do a regular review in search of extraneous projects, activities, features, and initiatives that disproportionately make your business vulnerable to the eroding power of entropy. Crush those distractions without mercy.
It’s both thrilling and terrifying to be responsible for writing your own paycheck. If you choose to play this game, I suggest you do so in a way that leads to progressive freedom, avoiding the entropy trap at every turn.
Here’s the point. Success in business is not about finding ways to do even more. It’s about doing just a few things very well.
Success does not come from eking out a few more hours each week from yourself or your employees. It comes from spending your hours on the fewest possible activities that create the outcomes your customers want to pay for.
Without conscious, purposeful intervention, your business activities will become increasingly cluttered over time. To prevent that, it’s important to create a recurring habit of setting aside time for the sole purpose of eliminating the accumulation of everything that is unnecessary.
Take action now. Set a reminder at an interval that feels right to you. Then use that reminder as your cue to schedule an hour to practice the Lucrative Elimination Method.
Or, if you’d like a coach to guide you through this process and hold you accountable to achieve your highest potential, find me at ToddSnyderCoaching.com.