80/20 Energy Rule: 3 Essential Steps on How & Where to Focus Your Energy

Entrepreneur Shares the Journey of Her Freshman Year

Photo courtesy of Pablo by Buffer

Editor: Here is C. Robinson's next article in her entrepreneurial journal. We are truly grateful in having her share her story with us. Follow her with us as we get her reflections of her first year as an entrepreneur.

Like me, are you one of those people who are easily excited and motivated when others share their projects with you? Does everything seem like an awesome opportunity? The majority of my entrepreneurial friends share in my entrepreneurial ADHD. I hear what one of them is working on and immediately my reaction is, “How can I help? What do you need assistance with?”

As an entrepreneur it’s important to see everything as an opportunity; it’s a survival technique. We see everything as an opportunity because “this might be the big break we’ve been working for.” And, the fear of missing out (FOMO) exasperates our short attention span. FOMO often results in conflicting feelings. When we’re staying in to work on our projects and grow our companies, we feel that we should be out-and-about experiencing life; when we’re out with friends, our to-do list plays over and over again in our minds. We feel like we’re missing out on something better. That’s why we get excited so easily and are willing to help out. If we help out on other projects, then we can say that we were a part of this amazing experience.

When I started my LLC I was already an adjunct professor and working as an events consultant in the Sports & Entertainment industry. That was enough for a full plate appeared full. About six months after starting my LLC, I started another LLC with partners, began organizing an event I had wanted to host and applied for a doctorate program in Organizational Leadership. To add to it, I had been asked by two separate friends to assist with their projects. What was I thinking?

Hindsight is 20/20, right? At the time I thought I was superwoman. If I managed my time correctly it would all work out. I read the articles on time management. 1) Create the to-do list, 2) organize the list into simplicity first, and 3) complete the more challenging items first. One article I read on Hubspot.com by Neville Medhora even suggested to write out a to-do list, then cover all items labeled number two and beyond with a piece of paper until number one was completed; this would help you stay focused.

There were so many things on my to-do list that the main struggle was staying focused on what I really wanted to do. The summer before starting my doctorate program I had dinner with one of my accomplished friends. She is a marketing director for one of the top marketing firms in the country, has worked her way up the ladder at a young age and runs her own not-for-profit program, Girl Meets World, that encourages girls between the ages of 11-13 to explore the different career paths that are available to them.

I was dreading the moment that she’d ask me what I was working on. I knew deep down I had stretched myself too thin, and she is the friend that keeps it real with you. I was anticipating her reaction. I told her about the eight projects I was involved with. She took a minute to respond. She asked me if any of them were gaining traction. I had to be honest with myself. No, they weren’t. That night we talked about focus. Her advice to me: “Focus, focus, focus. If you really want one of the projects to be a success, you’re going to need to focus all your attention on that project.”

I knew she was right. I had to focus. I was spending too much time on projects that didn’t benefit my vision of the future I had for myself.

Kickass Hack #1: Apply the 80/20 Energy Rule – 80% of your time and energy should be used on your projects, growing your business and accomplishing your goal. The remaining 20% can be utilized to rejuvenate your creativity tank and cautiously determining how you might assist with other projects.

After the conversation with my friend I organized my projects based on priority. I had to reassess the ways I could assist others with their projects. If I really wanted to make my goals a reality, I had to focus. I determined that there was a formula for how to effectively spend my time and energy, and that’s how I developed the 80/20 Energy rule.

Kickass Hack #2: Stop using the word ‘busy’ – I read an article on Inc.com entitled Let's End the Glorification of Busy: Why You Should Avoid the Dreaded B-Word. It stated that “…but truth be told, the glorification of busy, and the desire to one up each other in levels of busyness, leaves people frazzled, leads to a mis-use of time, and can actually cause burnout and lack of engagement at work.” I started reframing how I answered people when asked how I was doing.

By being “busy” was a weak excuse for not replying in a timely manner, or overlooking an email or not having the “time” to hang out with friends. It also was a way for me to look “important.” You must be important if you are that busy.

However, when I started to reframe my responses to “I’m great. I’m working on interesting projects that I’m really excited about,” I began to realize how much more time I had. Constantly stating how busy I was caused my brain to go into panic mode thinking there wasn’t enough time in the day. By reframing my statement, I was able to view the tasks that lay ahead as manageable.

Kickass Hack #3: When resistance pays a visit, understand where it comes from.

In the book The War of Art, Steven Pressfield describes resistance as “the most toxic force on the planet. It is the root of more unhappiness than poverty, disease, and erectile dysfunction. To yield to Resistance deforms our spirit. It stunts us and makes us less than we are and were born to be.”

In the latter part of 2016, resistance showed up in my life as “busyness”; organizing two conferences, teaching a Sports Marketing class and attending classes for my doctorate program. I finally understood that all this busyness was resistance preventing me from what I really wanted to do: writing.

So, I made a commitment to writing. By incorporating the following steps into my new strategy I have been able to maintain my commitment to writing.

3 Essential Steps on How & Where to Focus Your Energy

  1. Clearly layout out your overall vision: posting your written goals on a corkboard in the space where you work or hanging a vision board holds you accountable. It’s harder to ignore your to-do list when it’s right in front of your face. Although it’s been said numerous amounts of time, the more specific you are with your goals, the easier it is to remain focused. The vision is a great check-and-balance system.

  1. Learn how to say ‘no’: This takes time. We’re taught how to be the ‘yes’ people, especially when we’re starting out in our careers. The biggest advice people give is ‘always say yes. This shows your boss that you’re willing to do whatever it takes to succeed.’ For an entrepreneur that can be dangerous advice. If you say ‘yes’ to everything you’ll be put out of your zone and your productivity will decline.
Saying ‘no’ doesn’t mean you won’t work on something or do something. It just means at this point in time you are focusing your energy on another priority. I have projects on the back burner. That’s ok. In order for those projects to be a success, first I have to make the current projects a success. Remember, it comes down to prioritizing.

  1. Commit to your goal: As an entrepreneur there’s one guarantee, no one will be as committed to your project as you are. If your company is going to succeed, it’s up to you. Although you may have a team, they are working for you for different motivational factors. You created the company or started working on the project for a reason; keep that reason front and center.As I began to organize my goals and vision for the future, I watched the HBO documentary on Warren Buffet. The one part that stuck out was when he reminisced on the first time he met Bill Gates. Bill Gates’ father asked the both of them to write down on a piece of paper the one thing that they attributed to their success. Separately they wrote it down. Bill’s father opened the pieces of paper and they both wrote the same thing: focus.

Here’s to working on exciting projects.

About the column: Professor C.’s Rookie Lessons in Entrepreneurship encompasses lessons of trial and triumph, building the right team, resilience, learning how to fail quickly and move on, embracing failure, celebrating accomplished goals and learning how to identify the positives in every situation.

Snapshot of Professor C. 

By day Professor C. teaches Sports Marketing and Event Marketing Sponsorship at Stockton University where she’s a doctoral candidate in their Ed.D. Organizational Leadership program along with developing leadership training programs for corporations. By night she writes and writes and writes to make her goal of becoming a New York Times Best Selling Author a reality.

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