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Gini Dietrich

Four Ways to Unplug and Focus

By: Gini Dietrich | September 21, 2011 | 
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Last week I was on the west coast speaking with a group of senior leaders who are interested in using the web to grow their businesses. The topic was generating leads through inbound PR and marketing.

As I do, I was showing real-time analytics for Arment Dietrich, Spin Sucks, and some of our clients. I am, after all, a business owner who wants to see how all of our online efforts contribute to the growth of both the traditional PR firm and the online business, Spin Sucks Pro.

About halfway through the three hour workshop, a gentleman raised his hand and said, “How do you do all of this? When do you find the time and run two businesses?”

I jokingly responded that I have a whole team of people who do the work and I’m just the shallow figurehead. But he wasn’t going to have that. He could tell, through my examples, that I’m intimately involved in running these campaigns, both from strategy and measurement perspectives.

So it got me thinking.

I’m double type A. I also have a problem saying no. I work really long hours, yet I have time for cycling, writing a book, seeing movies, spending time with family, and thinking about business growth.

I was “raised” in a global PR firm where, if you didn’t work past 9 p.m. and on weekends, you didn’t get promoted. So I learned very early that was the kind of work ethic that was needed to get ahead.

And then I burned out. About 18 months ago.

A few weeks ago, we talked here about working on your business, not just in it. And that’s part of what I do (I reserve Fridays for this). But I also have stopped working weekends. Sure, I might check email here and there or play a little bit on the social networks or read some blog posts. But I don’t do any business-related work on the weekends. It’s made me more focused and effective during the week than I could have imagined.

While unplugging and focusing on other priorities is a good start, it’s not going to enable you to do everything you need to do.

Following are four things you also should be doing.

  1. Delegate, delegate, delegate. I don’t know if this is more difficult for women than men, but all of my female friends who lead organizations have this issue. We think we have to do it all…and we try to do it all. Say no to administrative tasks. Stop taking meetings that don’t drive business value. Delegate everything you can without breaking your talent. Open your days for thinking and for strategy.
  2. Create thinking time. My best ideas come in the shower and on my bike. It’s because those are the two times in my day I can’t multi-task. On my bike, if I multi-task, I’m dead. So I think. I write blog posts in my head, I solve a client’s recent issue, or I think about a new business prospect that needs some attention. Find uninterrupted time that doesn’t have distractions where you can spend time thinking. Every day.
  3. Develop your vision and repeat it. Over and over and over again. If the vision isn’t moving throughout your organization, revise it so people are on board with it. If someone else can’t articulate what it is, it either needs to be revised or you’re not discussing it often enough. Everything we do is tied to our vision. If we are asked to participate in a new business pitch or write content or do a media interview that doesn’t move our vision forward, we don’t do it. A clear vision makes it much easier to say no.
  4. Reflect and adjust. Failure is the big F word no one wants to discuss in business. But it’s only failure if you allow it to paralyze you. Learn from the mistakes you make. Reflect on what’s working and what’s not working. At least once a week. And adjust your vision, your strategy, or your communication to improve your efforts.

And, of course, always remember what’s really important in life. Unfortunately you won’t be remembered, after you’re gone, for how many hours you worked or the fact that you could do it all.

This first ran on Friday in my weekly Crain’s column.

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, a Chicago-based integrated marketing communications firm. She is the lead blogger here at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. She is the co-author of Marketing in the Round and co-host of Inside PR. Her second book, Spin Sucks, is available now.

55 comments
missmims1
missmims1

I need to unplug soon! And you were definitely right about delegating! I am the president of an on campus organization which could be considered to be the equivalent of running a business. I have learned that I am only one person, and I can not carry the entire organization. Delegation is needed to source out responsibility and adequately distribute work.

Kristi Hines
Kristi Hines

I'm planning on unplugging Sunday - just me and my first bike along a little dirt path by the lake. I'll probably come back bruised and battered, but it's going to be awesome and well worth it!

lauraclick
lauraclick

Great advice, Gini. I know I struggle with a lot of this. I can't remember who's blog I read this on awhile back, but the person talked about the importance of "building in space". I think that's so very true. If we run 90 to nothing all of the time, our efforts aren't going to be nearly as good as when we are able to think clearly and strategically about something. When I'm tired and burned out, I'm completely worthless to myself, my husband and my clients.

As you know, I touched on this a little bit on my blog re: the story of my husband's boss. Your job isn't your life's work. It's often hard to remember that sometimes.

Good reminder!

vacshackcom
vacshackcom

Loved this post! I recently did some training re: managing your time & energy and I think it goes right along with what you are saying. I am going to quote you next time I do the training. I also came across a book "The Power of Full Engagement" that you might enjoy if you haven't read. Thanks for wonderful post. Jeanie

Jane | Problogging Success
Jane | Problogging Success

You're right about delegating. It took me so long to realize that I should be delegating about 50% of the work that I was doing myself. I was totally burned out unnecessarily. Now that I've learned to outsource (in a way that doesn't affect my business), I'm great.

Al Smith
Al Smith

Had to, Gini. So, your best ideas come to you while you're riding a bike in the shower ? With a helmet cam, I hope. Now that is multi-tasking. Must be a bigass shower or unicycle. Hummm.

Actually, really enjoyed this post, after I got past the visual. (Still lmao) We have to remember to take a break and decompress. It is really hard when you are starting out and have not found that life balance. I am still working on finding that balance. Great ideas and suggestions. Thanks.

And don't forget your helmet. Ha !

Al

John Falchetto
John Falchetto

Hey Gini;

Now you are hitting one of my favorite subjects; thinking time. I absolutely agree, we need times were we step back and think about the bigger picture of the business. That's actually what I spend a lot of time doing with my clients. It's amazing how good we are at getting bogged down by details and small tactical stuff, in one way I believe it's laziness because when we get "busy" with the small stuff it prevents us from doing the real, hard work.

Now what is that thinking about work during your cycling?? ;)

patrickreyes
patrickreyes

@ginidietrich I'm so glad you wrote this. I'm even more glad that you take time for yourself more than just on your bike during the week. Having time to unplug from the daily grind is exhausting. You know me well enough by now to realize how important making time for my family is. That is my release and relaxation even with 4 kids!

Bravo to you and I also LOVE the 4 things leaders should be doing.

janbeery
janbeery

Gini,

You are spot on. I left the corporate world after many years of burn out. The hours were insane and for what? The quality of life was non existent. I'm managing life so much better now. Our clients are better for it, we are more innovative and on top of things, delivering outstanding results. (I'm proud to say)

All those eager executives who were on my team and felt it so important to compete with each other, on how many hours they were working, who was available in the evenings on weekends, who answered their blackberries on holidays? They're no longer with the company they devoted such a crazy pace to. Some have taken lower positions, some are completely out of the industry, many have serious health issues and lost perspective. They missed birthdays with their kids, important events, broken marriages, etc.

Best advice I can provide after being on that track for many years? Find what you enjoy doing and figure out how to make a living doing it. Remember you are working to live, not living to work.

richescorner
richescorner

It's really important to take some time to yourself and unplug. I have a pretty demanding job outside of the blogosphere, and then I come home and blog in my off time after taking care of the family. It leaves very little time for myself, but I make the effort to unplug and get away from it all every so often or I would go insane.

Marijean
Marijean

I'm so proud of you and grateful that you're setting a good example.

Nic_Cartwright
Nic_Cartwright

the bike is a great place to think about stuff (keep your eyes and ears on the road though!). The other ones for me are 1 - "be organized" - not the sexiest part of anyone's life - but knowing what you are trying to achieve or do / having a plan to stick to and to motivate towards is key and 2 - "Have fun" - life is easier if you are smiling - the bike certainly helps there!!

John Fitzgerald
John Fitzgerald

Whoa. Good stuff, Gini!

Re: Burnout... I once had a statistics professor who made us all read "Man's Search for Meaning" by Viktor Frankl. The professor spent about a week explaining that the key to avoiding burnout in any field is to understand why we do what we do. And to help each other, we all need to be aware enough to tell people when they've helped you - whether it be a teacher, a neighbor, police officer, waitress, musician, etc. The more distant the event, the more meaningful the feedback will be to the person who helped you.

I didn't learn much about statistics, but that point about burnout and positive feedback always stuck with me.

Marcus_Sheridan
Marcus_Sheridan

I really enjoyed this Gini. After all, you're kind of a freak when it comes to productivity, so it's always cool when you talk about this stuff.

You know how I feel about delegation. I wrote about this subject over at Danny Brown's place this week and of course think about it every day now that I'm not in the day-to-day of my swimming pool company. When it comes down to it, we become entrepreneurs for the purpose of attaining more freedom, but what happens is typically the opposite. And almost always the solution is 'Just Work Harder'. That's why this was nice. The fact that you stopped working on the weekends is awesome, and it appears the results are really paying off.

Like you, my thinking time is often when I'm working out. Or in the sauna. Both are my fav places to take a moment to breathe and look at everything as a whole, and of course, reassess.

Again, thanks for this, it was cool.

Marcus

Tinu
Tinu

Delegating was a serious hurdle for me. At the time, I thought, well if I delegate my job to everyone else, then what's my job? Duh. Be the Chief Executive of the company and bring in bigger and better opportunities.Unplugging is my new struggle. I got so used to working 19 hour days that I looked up one day and realized, I had no new friends. And hadn't seen my old friends in years. Who do I enjoy all these good times ahead with? No one if I don't work less. Still work half a day on Saturday, but now I also take Mondays off, and sleep late 3 days a week instead of trying to be on all the time. Real sleep, all electronics out of reach, or better yet, in the next room. And no more Sundays.

John_Trader1
John_Trader1

Very applicable post for me GD, I struggle at times to unplug and remember the vision. As for working on weekends, it sometimes seems like light years away before I get to that point. Just wanted to share a tidbit I heard on a tweet chat last night that relates to #4 and the "F" word. Someone said that you should rejoice in failure, learn from your mistakes and thus learn to practice "failing forward." Thought that was rather prolific.

Erin F.
Erin F.

I really, really like today's post because I tend to work similarly. If I'm not working on something, something is wrong. I start to feel panicky and guilty. I've been trying to stop working all the time and to circumvent the guilty feelings. I, too, do as little business-related work as possible on the weekends. I've decided that that's my time. I shouldn't have to be at the beck and call of my clients just because they can't seem to email during typical business hours. The final three tips are wonderful. The first one's a little hard since it's just me at factotum llc. :)

Mightybytes
Mightybytes

Gini,

I especially like #2 and #3. Many times it's easy to get caught up in the mechanics of executing that I forget to take time to just think about stuff.

Great job as usual. Although, that blog image makes my head hurt :)

- Kyle Akerman

Cision
Cision

These are great tips @ginidietrich ! I have a hard time delegating too...it's gotten easier now that I'm the only one on my team :P

Krista
Krista

I can't believe there was a time when you did more than you already do, Gini! These are great tips and take into consideration an individual's goals and personal expectations. Often, we are our own biggest critics.

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

Really solid tips @ginidietrich . Does Adage not read this blog? =P

Many of the tips are personality driven. I am not a micromanager. So delegating is often easy. But when people drop the ball it hurts...a lot. Vision is easy to develop...easy to get lost in the commotion of activity. Thinking time everyone should have....just sit outside and look at the stars...go to a pub by yourself and sit a corner watching the guinness stout bubbles...go people watch at the mall. I know people watch too much TV. Very sad. Reflecting and Adjusting is key. It goes with everything. Take action. Review how it went. Tweak it to make it better.

Since when did you work with seniors? Is this an AARP thing or are you volunteering with them? Do senior living facilities really have 'leaders that have vision etc?' This could be a huge shift in career focus for you. They often have lots of money and only ungrateful grandkids to spend it on. Maybe you can grab a piece of that action. You could do a Senior Tour speaking at these facilities nationwide.

KenMueller
KenMueller

As hard as it is for me to deal with, the last sentence says it all. Especially since I work from home. That's where I need to focus. I might steal that sometime.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@vacshackcom Hi Jeanie! You can even steal content for your next presentation, if you like. And I haven't read that - I'll check it out. Thank you!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@Jane | Problogging Success It's hard, isn't it? I have to look at my to-do list all the time and ask myself, "What's on here someone else can be doing?" I also have to remember that, just because someone asks me a question, does not mean I have to do it for them.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@John Falchetto I am so with you - I love to get clients in a conference room, without laptops or phones, and ask them lots of hard questions. We get more accomplished that way than we can even in a conference call. I actually will take their phones away from them.

And come on! You don't think while you're riding?! I know you do.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@patrickreyes The difference is you have FOUR kids who need your attention so you're forced to unplug and take trips to DQ on a Tuesday night. Speaking of, I need to come visit. I want to meet them. And go to DQ.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@janbeery My dad said to me, just a year ago, "I'm really proud of what you've built, Gin. But I always thought you'd write a book...or 10." That really affected me. And now I'm writing a book! I say that to illustrate exactly your last line.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@Nic_Cartwright Be organized (and have fun) is a great one! Actually, it's essential. I'll have to add a #5!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@John Fitzgerald That's funny it was a stats professor and not a philosophy teacher. Did you ever find out why he taught that?

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@Marcus_Sheridan The funny thing is that I'm still working the same number of hours a week (sometimes more) that I did in seven days. But I'm less stressed and less overwhelmed. It really, really, really helps to have two days to do no work. It makes you more focused and energized for the five work days.

P.S. My mom says I have better teeth than you.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@Tinu Whoa. You do better than me! I still sleep with my phone. And my iPad.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@John_Trader1 A few years ago, a very close adviser said to me, "Have you ever failed?" I thought about it. No, I really hadn't...not in the big F word kind of way. He said, "You need some failure under your belt." And boy did I get some! Failing forward is the BEST way to learn.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@Erin F. I'm brewing up an idea that is still in its infancy (which means it's still in my head and I haven't uttered it out loud yet) that could help you with the first tip. Stay tuned.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@Mightybytes Look at you! Hi! HAHAHA! The image made my head hurt, too. But it's the best thing I could find to illustrate my point.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@Cision LOL! I can hear the conversation now: Yvette, could you do write this blog post? Sure, Yvette! Is tomorrow good for you?

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@Krista Oh yeah...I once got pulled over at 3 a.m., on my way home. The cop thought I'd been drinking. Turned out I was waaaaaaay too tired to be behind the wheel of a car.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@HowieG I'm irritated that I had more than 100 comments on yesterday's post and our ranking went down overnight. I don't get it. I think I'm going to remove the badge. It's pissing me off.

I just saw a stat that says the average person watches FIVE HOURS of TV a day. I don't know what I would do with myself if I had five hours every day to watch TV. Oh yeah. I'd read or write or ride my bike or cook. Five hours. Jeez.

I'm not commenting on your smart ass senior paragraph. #theend

TheJackB
TheJackB

@KenMueller I share that. For the past 5.5 years I have had a home office and hours that are long. I am constantly trying to adjust my schedule so that I am not always working when the kids are around.

But it is easy to get sucked into let me just check my email one more time....

John Falchetto
John Falchetto

@ginidietrich That's actually an excellent blog topic. Focus.

I do drift into work thoughts sometimes but my best rides is when I can hit the zone and get into the flow. I'm sure you know what I'm talking about.

I also try as much as I can to recenter my thoughts on the bike trajectory, my effort, how I feel, etc..

Sometimes I suck at it, try to think about other things and end up rolling down the hill :)

So much for men trying to multitask !

patrickreyes
patrickreyes

@ginidietrich I want you to come visit and meet them. Come next week to TEDx Detroit and we'll take you to DQ too!

Nic_Cartwright
Nic_Cartwright

@ginidietrich It's also a good approach to have on your bike ;-). From the outside looking in - you are one of the most organized people I have ever "met", and it seems like you have fun. So you are already a Jedi Master.

John Fitzgerald
John Fitzgerald

@ginidietrich Nope, never found out. It was a summer class at a community college. Only took it for the credit. Got the credit, learned nothing except for Viktor Frankl's views on life. Never saw the prof again but also never forgot. Weird!

Cision
Cision

@ginidietrich Yeah, I do get some strange looks in the office when I'm delegating to myself!!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@TheJackB@KenMueller When I worked at home (and still tend to a couple of days a week) I always made sure my office was in a spot that wasn't easily accessible...such as not the first floor with the dining and living rooms. My office now is on the third floor and, while it's not that far to go to check email one more time, it certainly makes it less convenient.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] The other benefit of delegating is it shows your leadership by allowing others to learn by doing.  It grows them personally and professionally.  As leaders, it is important for us to nurture and teach those around us.  It allows us to focus on the bigger picture, strategy and end results (a certain smarty pants from Chicago recently wrote about this). [...]

  2. [...] Gini Dietrich’s point, I’ve been close to burning out a couple of times. Here’s a couple of close-call [...]

  3. […] minute. This is especially true when dealing with Web marketing. To be successful you must learn to focus, to prioritize, and to recognize when to take a break. Grow: To expand a business is hard. It often requires not only the right digital strategy but also […]