20
36
Gini Dietrich

Working On Your Business, Not In It

By: Gini Dietrich | July 12, 2011 | 
144

Up at 5 a.m. Check email, Facebook, Twitter, G+LinkedIn groups and discussions, text messages, blog traffic, web traffic, and PostRank analytics all while brushing your teeth and feeding kids or pets.

Make time to exercise, do some writing, get ready for work.

Work a full day.

Rush home to make and have dinner with your family.

Check email, FacebookTwitterG+LinkedIn groups and discussions, text messages, blog traffic, web traffic, and PostRank analytics.

Sleep by 11 p.m. Do it again the next day.

How familiar does this sound? Maybe there is a tweak or two in there, but if you’re an entrepreneur, your days are long, your weeks are long, your months are long, and your years fly by while you’re left wondering where your time went.

A couple of weeks ago, Crister DelaCruz sent me a Harvard Business Review blog post about keeping white space in your business life. The idea being that we all need time to think and reflect, consistently, in order to do a better job. But, as illustrated above, leaving white space goes against the norm.

When I started Arment Dietrich, I spent all of my time working in the business. About three years into its existence, I realized we were stuck and it was because I hadn’t spent any time working ON the business.

A few people made some suggestions: Carve out two hours a day that you don’t work with clients. Or carve out one day a week where you work solely on the business. Or schedule appointments with yourself so you can do things for the business.

Those things stressed me out. Big time. Not because they weren’t doable, but because I’d miss my appointments with myself or a client would ask for a time during my two hour block and I’d give it to them. And then, suddenly, I was another quarter into the year and I hadn’t worked on the business.

So I did two things: I blocked Friday afternoons to begin with and I was fiercely protective of that time (mostly because Patti Knight made me; so find yourself a work wife if you have to). Then, as clients and staff got used to my not being available on Friday afternoons, I added the morning, as well. For two years, I have worked on the business every Friday, which has led to not only growth of Arment Dietrich, but the addition of our online business, Spin Sucks Pro.

All because I spend one full day every week working on the business. I don’t take client meetings. I don’t meet with my team. I only do the things that need to be done in order to grow one, or both, companies.

It’s scary to do it. Especially at first. So try it in blocks. Choose a day and block only two hours every week, on that day, for a month. Then protect it.

Keep a list of things you want to do during those two hours so your time is well spent.

Then add two more hours and two more hours and two more hours and two more hours until you have a full day devoted to working on your business every week.

This isn’t just for those of us who run businesses (and want to grow them), either. This is for everyone. We all need white space.

If you’re consistent about it and you keep your commitment to yourself, I guarantee some of those things that have been sitting on the back burner will get accomplished. A year from now, let’s sit back and look at what you’ve done with your one day a week.

And speaking of working on your business. Want to learn how to blog more efficiently? Join Blog Style Guidelines: Mastering the Lists this Thursday with Nate Riggs and Lisa Gerber.

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.

119 comments
Indulekha
Indulekha

Absolutely amazing advice Gini! I'm just starting out on my own while doing a 9-5 job already and it's tough to find time for both.. but I'm determined. You make a very good point here and I know I've been neglecting 'white space' for quite some time now. Spending some time for reflection and recharge is essential and I was beginning to realize the importance. Thanks again for reminding this to all of us :)

PRCoach
PRCoach

Great advice to help business owners stick to the "on" vs "in" mantra, which we all know is one of the key reasons why some owners successfully transition from doer to leader and others just cannot.

ExpatDoctorMom
ExpatDoctorMom

Great point Gini! It is really appropriate for anyone. A contributing factor to doctor's offices not growing/failing is b/c we spend all of our time seeing patients and not working on the business! (there are so many other factors of course!)

MarcGirolimetti
MarcGirolimetti

To go one step further, it helps the mind and soul tremendously if you start creating corporate policy and stick to it. For example, in the Summer, it's half-day Fridays. You get up. You leave. You lunch and go do something fun for you. The business will be there when you return, but your mind needs the break. Let me tell you, when I've done that my Monday's are far more productive, because I've eliminated blockage and arrive with better ideas.

SoloBizCoach
SoloBizCoach

This is so important Gini. Thank you for reminding us all about this. Us entrepreneurs get so busy with helping our clients that we forget to work on our own businesses. Thanks.

Lori
Lori

Gini, this was the most significant thing I learned when reading The E-Myth years ago. I tend to forget it again and again, but apparently the number one reason small businesses fail is because they neglect this - always working IN their business and never ON it. It's impressive what you were able to do when you make this commitment!

Thanks for the reminder!

Lori

KimDavies
KimDavies

Hi, Gini.

Yes! You are right on the dot again.:) We need that white space. Without that, we would constantly be asking where the heck time went because we have nothing to show for the hours we spent in the business, in the job or in the blog. Our work or business, whatever it is, should always be ON and not IN, so we can detach ourselves during those times when we need time to breathe.

Thanks, Gini. This is a much needed reminder to take that white space. I have been kind of floundering there for a while with so much to do and not much time to do it.

BTW, did somebody tell you that you look like Emily Deschanel from the TV Series, Bones? Only you are more real because we can actually talk to you. :D (There goes me again with those stars in my eyes that Griddy always talk about.)

FranchiseKing
FranchiseKing

Great idea.

Thanks a lot, Gini.

I'll call you Friday at about 1.

The Franchise King®

Leon
Leon

G'Day Gini,

Congratulations on taking the steps to "work on" rather than "work in." It takes guts to do what you've done. Michael Gerber lives!

Here's another little tip: If you can't delegate, you can't manage your time. And there's no such thing as a manager who can't delegate. There are only managers who wont.

That'll probably get me in strife again. I fear that it's the lot of the curmudgeon.

Have lots of fun on your white space days.

Regards

Leon

rhodanmc
rhodanmc

You hit the nail right on the head. Trying to get clients to understand the importance of making time to work on the business then actually getting them doing it consistently is a constant challege I find in consulting work with SME business owners. I will share this article with them as well as uploading the link to http://scoop.it/t/business-improvement where it will be available permanently for a wider audience to appreciate.

MariSmith
MariSmith

Hi Gini -- I really enjoyed reading your thoughts here. I love the "white space" concept and also committing to a regular block of time that's sacredly guarded! I have appointments with myself all the time for focus, writing, productivity, and marketing activities. But, I often let myself 'slide' with my own appointments and move them around a lot to accommodate other activities... I wouldn't dream of doing that with other appointments and so I continue to build the muscle of keeping my own appointments with myself as rigorously guarded as I do appointments with others! I also started working with a productivity coach recently... for about the fourth time in as many years. Lol. I'm a work in progress!

guyrcook
guyrcook

Amen. I began my 'white space' by making from noon to 1 PM my 'do what needed done time' and it's called Lunchtime by some folks, so what happened was quite nice. I now look forward to noon, instead of it being another hour, it's mine to use as needed. After reading this post I know realize why I get up early some days and have some time to 'surf', catch up with emails from friends, clean up the fluff and nonsense in the email account, explore Google + more. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Adam Boatsman
Adam Boatsman

Gini - there's a great resource in your neck of the woods named Dan Sullivan - founder of the Strategic Coach. I've never been due to the potential overlap with what I already get out of Vistage however he has an AWESOME time management system you can get by downloading the intro materials. I'm not there yet but even getting part of the way there has made me much more productive. www.strategiccoach.com.

Adam Boatsman

www.makeanimpactcpas.com

JoelFortner
JoelFortner

This is a great post. Reading it, I immediately thought about the importance of leadership as it pertains to working on the business. Before you add a single team member, you can work in your biz all day, every day, but as soon as bring someone on, you should carve out time to work on your business. Why? Because you just became responsible for someone's life and you as the leader owe it to that person. If you can lead in this manner, I believe you can grow an incredibly strong team over time that works in the business allowing you to work on it more and more. It's a beautiful circle.

izzyplus
izzyplus

@MasonIncOFUSA it's such an interesting and important distinction, isn't it? (thanks for the RT!)

KensViews
KensViews

I don't want to say anything cliched like "Great minds think alike," but take a look at point #2 from today's blog post, "You've launched your own PR firm. Now what?" Sure wish that I was blogging back when you started Arment Dietrich. Could have saved you so much pain*.

May I share a link to the post with your readers?

*BCE (Brattiest Comment Ever!)

MimiMeredith
MimiMeredith

I love white space. In the days of designing newsletters and ads for clients...I had to fight for it. When clients paid for print in a defined space, they wanted to get their money's worth and fill every inch. I had to introduce white space as a graphic element again and again. (I worked with an artist who named his white cat White Space, because he knew that way he could get it somewhere!0

I love your use of the term as it relates to the time management of our lives and the necessary element of perspective-adjusting time spent "on" our businesses. What makes this post even better is that you are a highly driven (was that a nice way to put it @PattiRoseKnight ?) person. So if Gini can do it with such great results--a second business developed in the white space, for example--the rest of us mere mortals should be able to as well.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@SoloBizCoach It's hard...especially when you don't have a team. But to Marc's point above, we all need to refresh and recharge. I don't know about you, but I do my best thinking where there are no interruptions (the shower, on my bike).

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@Lori It's impossible to scale if you're always working in your business. Impossible.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@KimDavies LOL! Yes, I hear that all the time. I actually had a guy stop me in a hotel lobby and ask for my autograph. I gave it to him. :)

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@Leon There is a new movie out called Horrible Bosses. In it, Kevin Spacey's character promotes himself to SVP of sales (even though he's already president of the company). While it's a bit extreme, no one wants to work with someone like that. It's a good thing to remember as we lead.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@rhodanmc Daniel, thanks so much for sharing this with your network! It's really hard to do; I know. But it is necessary. And now everyone knows why I can't meet with them on a Friday. :)

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@MariSmith Hi Mari! Fun seeing you here! I think women are more guilty of that than men. I was really bad about it, but you're right...you would never move a client around like we move appointments with ourselves around. It definitely helps to have a Patti Knight. She holds me accountable and she's MUCH more protective of my time. Which I truly appreciate when I can hang out with my family on a Saturday.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@guyrcook Some people call it lunch. LOL! It's important to clean up the fluff (as you say), isn't it? I like to get that done even before I get on my bike. That way it's done and I can focus for the rest of the day.

HelpingSpartans
HelpingSpartans

@ginidietrich Yes, but this one is shared so it is not always me tweeting. Thought 90% of the time right now it is me (Dave)!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@Adam Boatsman Look at you! I feel like my day is full of Adam today - I just gave comments on a document for you to the team. I know Strategic Coach well. But, like you, I've felt it overlaps with Vistage. But really great idea for our community...to check out the intro materials!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@JoelFortner That's a fantastic analogy to leadership. And it's true. If you aren't growing, how can your team grow?

PattiRoseKnight
PattiRoseKnight

@MimiMeredith Yes if I can get Gini (the highly driven one) to give it a try - anyone can do it! It really does make her more productive....at first she didn't see it but now she does!

KimDavies
KimDavies

@ginidietrich It's great that you are not bothered by it. Others hate it when they are compared to celebrities. :)

JoelFortner
JoelFortner

@ginidietrich I believe it will grow bit out the door. People desire strong leadership and if they don't get it here eventually they'll go find it over there. How did we get here from white space? Well whatever!

KensViews
KensViews

@ginidietrich For what it's worth, I should have spent more time focusing on my business not in my business! And if we're going for candor, it's still a challenge each week. (And I was expecting your reply to be: "Yes, Ken, but I could have saved YOU so much pain if you had been blogging back when I told you to start blogging!" )

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@KensViews No one ever listens to me, though, so I'm used to it. I much prefer to revel in the "I told you so" after you finally take my advice. And, of course you can link here.

Trackbacks

  1. [...]  Along these same lines, you might want to see what my buddy Gini Dietrich wrote about today about creating white space…although geared towards business, it’s very appropriate for taking time away and [...]

  2. [...] is really a must-read post by Gini Dietrich if you are a business owner or if you are thinking of becoming one. One of the greatest challenges in any business is preserving existing clients while making sure your [...]

  3. [...] a few weeks I was spending more time working on my business rather than in it. I have to agree with Gini Dietrich it’s scary to pull out from the daily tactics and look at the bigger picture. But in order [...]

  4. [...] helps it function at its best. In response to this article, Gini Dietrich explained how she gradually claimed Friday as her white space [...]

  5. [...] lately, one of Gini’s posts, “Working On Your Business, Not In It,” has me thinking: I need to be focusing more time on building my business while not [...]

  6. [...] are business leaders who set aside one day a week to work on the business, instead of in it. The appointment is on their calendars and nothing gets [...]

  7. [...] Helpful tools: pen & paper (for the list), calendar entries & reminders. I’ve also started blocking off at least one entire day each week where I don’t schedule calls or meetings (learning from Gini Dietrich’s post last year about working on your business and not in it). [...]

  8. [...] important to work on your business, not just in it. And that’s part of what I do (I reserve Fridays for this). But I also have [...]

  9. […] are business leaders who set aside one day a week to work on the business, instead of in it. The appointment is on their calendars and nothing gets […]