Gini Dietrich

Working On Your Business, Not In It

By: Gini Dietrich | July 12, 2011 | 
145

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, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

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145 Comments on "Working On Your Business, Not In It"

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KenMueller
KenMueller
5 years 2 months ago

A great reminder, Gini. It’s becoming increasingly difficult in this digital age to find and maintain a balance.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 2 months ago

@KenMueller It really is. But blocking your days works. As long as you have a list of things to accomplish and don’t spend it doing things like writing or social media.

andreasduess
andreasduess
5 years 2 months ago

@ginidietrich thanks Gina. Will implement this idea from this Friday onwards.

Sean McGinnis
5 years 2 months ago

@ginidietrich @KenMueller Great reminder Gertrude.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 2 months ago

@Sean McGinnis Oh Sean. Remind me why I love you?

adamtoporek
adamtoporek
5 years 2 months ago

This is so true Gini. It definitely is easier said than done, but those focused hours are the difference between progress measured in yards v. progress measured in inches.

CristerDelaCruz
CristerDelaCruz
5 years 2 months ago

I love how everyone in your community has nicknames for everyone else. So funny… G! 😉

Sean McGinnis
5 years 2 months ago

@ginidietrich Because of that e-mail I sent yesterday, that’s why…. 😉

Sean McGinnis
5 years 2 months ago

@ginidietrich Oh, and because I make you spit water through your nose at least once a week.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 2 months ago

@adamtoporek It’s A LOT easier said than done, but you’re right – it’s a huge difference in progress.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 2 months ago

@CristerDelaCruz Please don’t encourage them!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 2 months ago

@andreasduess Let me know how it works!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 2 months ago

@Sean McGinnis I’m not sure that’s a reason to love you. It actually hurts.

johnfalchetto
5 years 2 months ago

This is so true and it goes hand in hand with learning how to grow. With the different stages of a business, taking time to work on the business seems to disappear as it grows and more clients come in. The hamster wheel is set in motion.

Now 5am is way to late to wake up 🙂

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 2 months ago

@johnfalchetto It does seem to be like paddling in a circle sometimes. That’s why I had to enlist pattiknight to help. She’s much more protective of my time than I am.

jodykoehler
jodykoehler
5 years 2 months ago

Great post Gini! It can be difficult to find white space, but we all need it. Especially if you have a business to run as well.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 2 months ago

@jodykoehler It’s so true. I remember reading an interview with Bill Gates where he talked about going to the mountains, with a case of Orange Crush and some books, once a year. That’s how he got his white space. I find once a week works better for me.

Sean McGinnis
5 years 2 months ago

@ginidietrich Please! If I wasn’t around for some tough love, who would be? 😉

Sean McGinnis
5 years 2 months ago
In all seriousness, I love this post. Its an important concept, to set aside thinking time to work on the business and step back from operating mode for a bit. It seems to be that this is more effective when done as part of a ritual, rather than as big projects, as most businesses do. One additional point is that it is important from time to time to bring in an outsider to review what you’re doing. That different perspective can be invaluable as we’re evaluating what works and what doesn’t, or than thinking about what else could be done.… Read more »
JCGarrison
JCGarrison
5 years 2 months ago

@PhilKJames Thanks Phil. Good post about working on your business.

DannyBrown
5 years 2 months ago

Are you looking over troy claus ‘s shoulder now, miss..? 😉

http://www.troyclaus.com/working-your-business/

TroyClaus
TroyClaus
5 years 2 months ago

@DannyBrown @ginidietrich – Of course she is 😉

DannyBrown
5 years 2 months ago

@TroyClaus @ginidietrich Thinking bonsaica needs to start charging consultancy fees… 😉

NancyD68
5 years 2 months ago
I agree with what @Sean McGinnis said. I need someone to come in and have a look at what I am doing and suggest ways I can improve. I also need an image overhaul. I am too silly and can’t get taken seriously this way. I need to overhaul my resume and don’t even know where to begin. It can be very depressing sometimes and I know I lack that outside perspective. When I was more emotionally invested in the business, it was all I lived and breathed. I don’t know how to create spaces for myself unless I am… Read more »
patrickreyes
patrickreyes
5 years 2 months ago

Hi ginidietrich ! I know you missed me so I figured I’d leave you a comment on this fantastic reminder of a post. I’m a huge fan of creating white space or margin in life to work on things that grow you personally or your business. It’s something leaders often forget to do.

What I enjoy about it the most is that it shows the people working for you that it’s ok for them to create the same white space for themselves too and feel confident that you support it! Great way to lead by example!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 2 months ago

@DannyBrown @TroyClaus Oh please. If you think I knew who Troy was way back in March, you’re mistaken.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 2 months ago

@Sean McGinnis Totally agree with the outside perspective! I use Vistage and my outside counsel for that, but you could also form an advisory board or even use a mentor.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 2 months ago

@NancyD68 Two things: I used to feel like I was too silly to be taken seriously and then I realized that I only want to work with people who don’t mind the silliness because they’re not all buttoned-up, all business morons. The silliness is what endears you to people so don’t do an image overhaul!

The other thing is you should check out visualize.me. It’s in beta right now, but I’ll bet it’ll provide you some great ideas to overhaul your resume.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 2 months ago

@patrickreyes I have missed you! Hope you had a great vacation!!

lisabuyer
lisabuyer
5 years 2 months ago

Love it! Working “on” my business from Anna Maria Island, no distractions.

@ginidietrich

DannyBrown
5 years 2 months ago

@ginidietrich @TroyClaus Hmm, so these secret plans you made about small businesses and forums in January were with another Troy Claus? Maybe you were thinking of Troy Glaus?

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 2 months ago

@lisabuyer I just saw a picture of you. You look fantastic! So fit and tan!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 2 months ago

@DannyBrown @TroyClaus I’m pretty sure that was in April.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 2 months ago

@Sean McGinnis I was talking about the water coming out of my nose. Jeez.

DDog
DDog
5 years 2 months ago

@intuitivebridge I read “white sauce” at first and was trying to figure out the metaphor!

jgwhitt
jgwhitt
5 years 2 months ago
Thanks Gini – this is something I have thought about and try to put into practice. I decided to do this after observing coworkers past and present who took the time to work on making their white space count. Whether it be for your own business, your current job or your career, we must take time to reflect and create a vision for what we want to achieve. For me, this also includes taking the time to research, learn and engage with others in meaningful dialogue. I think what we cannot forget is that this also counts as work and… Read more »
ElanaBe
ElanaBe
5 years 2 months ago

White space not just for biz. We all need white space to be, do and feel better. http://t.co/N2wOqv9 cc @intuitivebridge @ginidietrich

EricaAllison
5 years 2 months ago
I love White Space, crave it and rarely get it. I found some while I was away at the beach and thoroughly enjoyed it. Finding the time for it now that I’m back at work? A challenge. I do need a work wife, but it’s just not in the cards right now. Carving out time for thinking, minus the distractions, is one of my new goals – I’ve blogged incessantly about balance lately – hmmm, could be that it’s weighing heavily on my mind. Fridays are usually my accounting days; maybe I’ll make them include more white space time now.
ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 2 months ago

@jgwhitt It makes you A LOT more valuable because it’s when you think of great ideas you never would have considered before. Even if it’s just taking an hour to read something business-related, the ideas will flow.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 2 months ago

@EricaAllison If you can’t have a work wife yet, make yourself do it. Actually schedule the time on your calendar. And don’t let anyone or anything distract you from that time. No one needs to know it’s your white space time. Just say you already have a meeting scheduled at that time and look for another time.

HowieSPM
HowieSPM
5 years 2 months ago

Does it have to be white space? Can I pick the color? White is a bit bright for Aliens.

Since I am going through a lot of what you went through, probably a bit more since I’m starting a business in a brand new industry, this was really helpful. When I can afford Branded Pens…or Vuvuzelas you will be sent one as a thank you.

It is really easy to be so wrapped up in a treadmill of work that really isn’t helping your work like it should. Been there. Still sometimes there.

HowieSPM
HowieSPM
5 years 2 months ago

@ginidietrich @EricaAllison what about Minions. Can work Minions help as much as a work wife?

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 2 months ago

@HowieSPM Which color do you prefer? Black? Purple?

HowieSPM
HowieSPM
5 years 2 months ago

@ginidietrich @patrickreyes One of the most brilliant people ever said ‘don’t forget to stop and smell the roses’. I mean seriously maybe best bit of advice ever right?

Luckily being type B+ I never have any lack of stopping and smelling the roses, which can be the opposite effect on work LOL

HowieSPM
HowieSPM
5 years 2 months ago

@NancyD68 @Sean McGinnis see Nancy took me only 2 secs to identify the problem for you. It’s Sean. I know I know. You are thinking how can that be. But it is true. Just ask @ginidietrich

HowieSPM
HowieSPM
5 years 2 months ago

@DannyBrown is that a traitorous Facebook button for @TroyClaus you snuck into this biker bar called Spin Sucks? For shame Danny. You might lose yer Kilt over this infraction. I will have to refer this over to the Grand Council. You may give a deposition in your defense but it is a closed meeting where only the biggest..I mean really big items of business are discussed (like the new Spin Sucks color theme and UI @ginidietrich is working on…hint you will need 3-D glasses)

HowieSPM
HowieSPM
5 years 2 months ago

@ginidietrich @johnfalchetto I went kayaking two weekends ago. Paddling will make you buff. Doesn’t being Buff help your business?

HowieSPM
HowieSPM
5 years 2 months ago

@CristerDelaCruz Do you need a nickname Crister? @ginidietrich

HowieSPM
HowieSPM
5 years 2 months ago

@ginidietrich @Sean McGinnis IGini you told me Sean was only funny on Thursdays after 1pm and Saturdays from 9am-1130am.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 2 months ago

@JenFongSpeaks Ah … mutual love!

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