Today’s Biz Ladies post comes from Brigitte Lyons. Brigitte shares breakthrough strategies for life and business at Unfettered Ink. She also courts all sorts of good karma by serving up free PR Ideas for Busy People to Biz Ladies (and gents). Today she shares her strategy for doing the work you love and avoiding the work you don’t through an “I Don’t” list. Thanks, Brigitte, for this inspiring post! — Stephanie
Read the full post after the jump . . .
Back when I worked at a PR agency, I often fantasized about rising to a position where I could dedicate all my time to strategy. Who are the influencers that clients should connect with? How do we grab their attention? What is the key message to communicate?
In my fantasy, I worked as a partner with CEOs to craft these brilliant, focused PR plans and delegated all the work of pitching and monitoring the results.
Some of my friends in the industry didn’t understand. Didn’t I think it was a thrill, as they did, when a journalist picked up a story I placed? Sure, it felt good to see my clients on CNN, knowing I got them there, but implementation never was my strong suit. I’m a thinker through and through.
For years, I thought, “Wouldn’t it be nice if someone would pay me for my brain?” but dismissed the longing as an impracticality. Well, wouldn’t you know, that’s precisely how my business is structured now.
Somewhere along the way, I realized that, just as writing and painting are different skill sets, so are strategic planning and implementation. It’s okay to specialize. Indeed, by focusing on my core power, I do much more good than serving as a generalist.
Perhaps you have the same longing.
What if you only worked on projects that tapped into your most creative self, no matter what brings out the creativity within you? How could you even begin to structure your business this way?
Create an “I DON’T” List
The idea behind the I DON’T list is simple: List all the tasks and projects that drain your energy. Stop doing these things. I know. This sounds terrifying.
Will you lose customers or clients?
Will you make enough money to go on vacation or put Ben through college?
What if someone else steps in and offers a more comprehensive offering? Where does that leave you?
These are the demons torturing all of us.
As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
This is easier than it sounds. (Girl, I hear you.) So I broke it down in seven easy steps.
1. List all the tasks you’re qualified to do.
Make this list as comprehensive as possible. Once you begin freeing up your time with an I DON’T list, you will find yourself bursting with ideas on how to combine your core strengths to better serve your market.
2. Highlight the items you love doing.
Note that I said “love.” Not “like.” Not “don’t mind.” Love.
3. With a thick black marker, put a line through everything you hate doing.
It doesn’t matter if you’re good at it. I hate pitching, and yet my clients were featured in news outlets all over the US. “Good at it” doesn’t mean you need to be the person doing it.
4. Hang this list on your wall.
This is your compass, guiding you to your own personal true north.
5. When you get a new request, glance up at the list.
Every time. Don’t skip this.
6. If the request involves more tasks that you hate than ones you love, propose an alternate arrangement or refer the business to a friend.
Hold firm. Do not fill your days — or worse, your years — with work you hate. It does a disservice to you and to your clients. Before long, you begin to resent your career, your clients and your life.
7. Spend the time you otherwise would’ve put into the dreaded project creating something you love.
Ahhh. Here it is. The payout.
Imagine what you can accomplish — in a day, a month, a decade or a lifetime — when you fully invest in your core power.
At times, you will be sorely tempted to ignore your I DON’T list. I am not immune to wavering, especially when I love the client but not the project. In these instances, suggest an alternate structure or project that fits both your needs. Be prepared to accept a firm but gentle “no thanks.”
What if you need the money? (and other objections)
If you don’t already have an I DON’T list, I expect you’re harboring a good deal of resistance to the idea.
Is making a living doing only work you love a rainbow and unicorn dream?
What if you’re just starting out and sorely need the money to pay the bills?
This is a process. Unless you’re loaded, you can’t wake up one morning and fire all your clients (although it worked out for Laura Roeder).
Already, you make decisions not to offer certain services or products. If you aren’t a certified accountant, you won’t offer accounting services. If a friend is looking for an accountant, you aren’t raising your hand to do the work. You know someone else is filling that need, and you’ll cheerfully give a referral. It’s an easy I DON’T. The answer is so clear you don’t even need to add it to your list.
Why wouldn’t you use the same discrimination when evaluating all your projects?
Cheerfully refer the work that falls in the murky zone — the projects you can do but loathe. Free up time, your most valuable resource, for the work most suited to your own core strengths. The result is thrilled customers, referrals, a sterling reputation and a legacy of exceptional service.