- Trying to decide which business to start when they have equal enthusiasm for things like starting a coffee shop, launching an internet business, becoming a professional speaker or working with a tribe in the Amazon to export native fruit as a way to save the rain forest. (You think I am making this up — I run across interests this diverse in the same person all the time!)
- Trying to narrow down their market into particular segments, or “niches.” Some people struggle choosing who to work with, and feel like they are specific enough when they state their target audience as “men and women who live in the U.S.”
- Deciding which projects to tackle or which clients to keep. Like having to choose between pairs of favorite shoes, some people struggle with “letting go” certain non-ideal clients. They second guess their decisions, thinking “But what will they do without me?” “What if all my other clients go away and I need them back?”
- Prioritizing marketing activities like writing an ezine, starting a blog, speaking, podcasting or promoting special events. If all are important and you enjoy them all, how do you decide which to focus on?
When I talk with clients about narrowing down any one of their options, I notice a few interesting patterns:
- Resentment and anxiety about “giving up” something that is important and interesting to them. The old song “Don’t fence me in” comes to mind, as people feel they are being limited, oppressed or controlled if they have to choose one thing to focus on. It often is a very visceral reaction, and people get mighty tense and uncomfortable when asked to choose between things they love.
- Incredulousness that it is not possible to do everything at once, or be all things to all people. “I know that all current, tested marketing theory says that you have to define a niche, but my business is different! My product would work as well for a 3 year old toddler in Argentina as it would for an 83-year grandpa in Iowa. You obviously don’t understand the power of my idea.”
- Fear of poverty, or “scarcity mentality.” It does seem counterintuitive that you are more likely to get more clients, make more money and garner more fame if you give up significant chunks of a market. Likewise, if you pass on interesting or exciting projects, you may feel like they will never come your way again.
I really understand these concerns and reactions, as I have some myself. But unfortunately, if you are not able to make some choices about priorities in your business, a number of things happen:
- You become physically exhausted, stressed or sick
- You have so many priorities that none ever gets enough attention, so nothing gets done
- The quality of what you offer becomes compromised, diluting your brand and straining the relationship with your customers
- Your family laments that they don’t see you enough and you feel guilty for spending so much time working
- Your brain is constantly on overload with so many ideas, and it becomes uncomfortable and overwhelming
So here are some ideas for tackling the “want it all” mentality without changing your true, creative nature:
- Set the appropriate mindset. Choosing one thing to work on at a time does not mean that you will never get to work on different things ever again. It is all about sequencing projects and ideas so that you get things done while maintaining health and balance.
- Measure your ideas against a real, live calendar. A dose of reality is wonderful medicine. For fun, take each idea you have and brainstorm the steps to create and implement it. Estimate the amount of time that each step will take. Then break down the tasks to be completed for all of your projects in one month’s time and see how many hours it will take. Chances are, you will quickly realize that doing everything at once will require far too many hours in a day and week, which you know will lead to stress and burnout.
- Define selection criteria. Depending on the nature of your “too much” dilemma, you could use some of the following metrics:
- For narrowing down business ideas: Ease of implementation, fastest buck in your pocket, greatest market opportunity, juiciest joint venture opportunity, shortest time to get up in running, smallest up-front investment, ability to execute effectively given your experience and skills, greatest learning opportunity.
- For deciding which niche to work with: People that would be the most fun to hang out with, most under-served by competitors, greatest opportunity for free PR opportunities, most interesting market, greatest learning opportunity, most lucrative.
- For selecting marketing activities: Quickest way to get started, best way to reach your audience, quickest way to grow your mailing list, most likely to “re-purpose” in other ways (such as writing an ezine article that you turn into a podcast)
- For weeding out non-ideal clients or projects: Least likely to benefit from your personal attention, (for client) most easily transitioned to external resource (such as a fellow colleague), (for project) easiest to outsource to trusted provider
- Define in specific terms the cost to your financial, emotional or physical health if you continue to light all fires at once. While the concept of doing everything at one time may be glamorous and send visions of big checks dancing in your head, the reality can feel downright exhausting. When you take into account the “total cost” of being everything to everyone, you may find the willpower to make tough decisions.
- Create a long-term calendar where you plan for multiple projects. Here you have a place to write down your future plans for new and different projects, which you will get to once you finish your current priority. Just knowing when you will get to the next “great thing” will make it easier to let go of thinking about it all the time.
- Create a good transition plan for things you are shedding. If you are “letting go” a few clients, find a great trusted colleague that can take care of their needs. If you are backing out of a joint venture, find someone who can replace you. If you are outsourcing a project, find a provider that you feel really good about.
- Write your “Dear John” script to make the process of saying goodbye easier. Some people know they need to get rid of some priorities and projects, but fear having the conversations with clients or partners that they like and trust. So make it easier on yourself by writing down your “script,” which clarifies your thoughts and clears some emotion. You don’t necessarily have to read the script word for word when you talk to the person, but it will help you through the awkward, stuttering phase of a difficult “break up” conversation. And, even more importantly, it will keep you clear about the reasons for your decision if the person begs you to continue working with them (which often happens).
Reminder: Tomorrow (Wednesday, August 1) is my monthly free group coaching call where you can ask any and all questions about leaving your job and starting a business (including advice for those who love too much!). Sign up for this or any of the monthly sessions on this page. Even if you can’t attend, if you sign up, I will make sure to send you a link to the recording.