February 20th, 2023

As a business coach, I talk to thousands of business owners every year, many of whom are struggling to keep up with growth and demand. No matter how many hours they work, or how many to-do lists they make, they can’t seem to “stay on top of everything.” and they come to my firm looking for help. And in 99.9 percent of the cases, working more hours or having another to-do list is never the answer.

The Red Flag

“David, I can’t seem to stay on top of everything …”

Such a simple phrase on the surface, but what it really means is.

“David, I can’t control everything.”

To which, my answer is: “Good! You aren’t supposed to!”

Trying to be on top of everything, usually is a sign that you are doing too much and trying to micromanage your team–which will have the opposite effect on your growth and ability to scale.

What You Really Want

Instead of trying to be on top of everything,¬†what you really want is to have insight into where your business is going, and what are the most important areas you need to pay attention to. Do you really need to sign every vendor or payroll check? Do you need to see every customer service email that comes in? Or vet the vendor that is going to fix your plumbing in the employee bathroom? No. You have competent team members to handle those tasks. You need to spend your time and energy on tracking the key performance indicators that matter to your business, and focus your time on improving those KPIs to help your business grow. The “other” stuff can and should be done by your employees.

A Word on Responsibility

Often, when I suggest to a business owner that the real problem is not that they can’t keep on top of everything but the idea that they need to, I get push back and they cite a time that an employee messed up, or forgot something important that caused a bigger problem to arise. And while this can happen,¬†chances are that the problem arose because of something else entirely. Did you hire the wrong person for the job? Did you do a poor job of delegating the task to another team member? Was there a gap in the follow-up process? The likelihood of its being a procedural issue is extremely high, which means that with a little bit of preparation and planning, that problem could be avoided in the future, without your having to micromanage the task.

Trying to stay on top of everything means that at the end of the day you don’t have enough energy and focus to help your business grow. So invest in competent team members and practice delegating and letting go. You will make mistakes and things will slip through the cracks, but the more you practice, the better you will get. Not only will it free you up to do more important work, but your stress level and work-life balance will be much more manageable.