I have this imagine in my mind of a mime, or circus performer, who has a bunch of sticks holding up spinning plates. The performer’s job is to keep every plate spinning so that they don’t fall. If they focus on working on the right things, they keep the right plates spinning.
Keeping the plates spinning is really the analogy of my career. From early on, when I was IT manager of a national company I had a LOT of things I did. I had no idea what a normal day looked liked because one day I might work on programs and applications, another day I might be in meetings ALL DAY, other days I might work on a big computer order, or actually unpacking and setting up machines. Those were just some of my plates.
Right now my plates look different. I have owned my own business since 2006, and have had many opportunities to learn (read: fail) how to run a business. I’ve had different income streams… one month my quarterly royalty check for my LinkedIn book was my biggest check I’d received, other months I banked three or four speaking checks (those were good months!), other months we had specials on JibberJobber.
The phrase “you eat what you kill” describes the life of many entrepreneurs, and it has definitely defined much of my life since 2006. The safety and stability of getting a check deposited in my account every 5th and 20th became a fond memory. And with that change, I learned to change what I choose to work on.
I have a Pluralsight course called Prioritizing Tasks and Managing Time for Greater Productivity where I talk about figuring out how to make the best use of your time, and accomplish the right things.
I am also a fan and student of Mark LeBlanc, who has an excellent program for small business growth. With his permission I have borrowed a few of his principles and created the Job Search Program, a six week program to help job seekers find their next job. In that program I have you focus on the three most important things you should do, over six weeks, for one purpose: to get a job. The key to your success as a job seeker has to do with “having the right conversations with the right people.” It’s a neat program that helps job seekers focus on the right priorities.
Focusing on the right priorities means ignoring, delaying, or removing the wrong priorities. This can be painful when some of those wrong priorities have a special place in your heart. Maybe they have a special meaning, or you think they might impact others you care about, or they are just projects you want to do. Letting go of things on your list can be emotional. Geesh, I have some pants in my closet I’ve had for years long than I should have kept them. They don’t fit or are have rips that just don’t work for my style. But these are pants I’ve had experiences with! Getting rid of the pants might feel like I’m getting rid of the experiences!
People: your pants are NOT your journal.
Removing things that don’t belong on your to do list is is a healthy activity.
Schedule time today, or tomorrow morning, to make sure you are working on the right things, and removing other things from your list. Release them.
What I’m Working On
As you know, I’m a fan of multiple revenue streams. I also have self-diagnosed as having “business ADD.” I think if I were more focused I would have sold JibberJobber ten years ago, but I have always had too many business plates spinning. With all I do, I even have some business ideas that I’ve either given up or put on pause. Here’s what I have chosen to work on, or, put another way, where I’ve chosen to invest my time:
Well, of course, since this is the JibberJobber blog, I’m going to talk about JibberJobber. I started JibberJobber in 2006 with me, a full time programmer, and a full time QA person. We have been busy since day one. There is a ton of work to do… right now the biggest project we are working on is redoing much of the infrastructure of JibberJobber to modernize and speed up most of the user experience.
Additionally, switching the architecture allows us to easily work on some of the other projects we have on our roadmap. I’m really, really excited about this change, and hope our users see speed improvements right away, and my team is able to push out new changes in a much better and longer-lasting way.
My role has been reduced quite a bit as we have put systems and processes in place, and as my team has assumed parts of my role. Liz, who some of you have interacted with, is my right-hand-woman. She is fantastic, and plays a big and important role in the daily affairs and the future of JibberJobber.
The Job Search Program
I created the Job Search Program almost two years ago. I am about to re-record the whole thing in video instead of just audio. I’m really excited about this, and a few other enhancements to the Job Search Program. I need to review the entire script to figure out what changes I need to make, and then will get this produced. I’ll also be involved with the redesign and optimization of the whole UX as we update the program.
Pluralsight Online Soft Skill and Professional Development Courses
If you’ve spent five minutes in JibberJobber you know I’m a Pluralsight course creator (aka: Author). This weekend I uploaded the last changes for a course revision for my personal branding course. I have 36 published courses right now. I have a lot of courses I need to revise (older courses). Eventually I’d like to have maybe 60 courses. It would be out-of-this-world to have 100 courses. That would be a vanity goal for me… not anything I need to do but if I do that it would be epic. Of course, I’d have 100 courses I would need to keep updated.
This has been a huge part of my time since 2012. When I go heads-down on these courses I tend to neglect a lot of my other work, which is why I have the systems and processes in JibberJobber (so JJ doesn’t depend too much on me).
I should note, recently Liz mentioned that we need to up our customer service game on the JibberJobber side. With some of the other stuff I’ve been working on it has suffered… my apologies, and we are more sensitive to that now.
Snowfly: Employee Performance and Rewards
Almost two years ago I made my first angel investment in a Saas company called Snowfly. I’ve been friends with the owners for a number of years, and have watched from the outside trying to figure out how I could get on the inside. Of course, timing was an important part of becoming an insider. In July (I think) of 2019) I became an equity owner in Snowfly and assumed some of the marketing tasks. I have written on their blog almost every week, and started sending customer/prospect newsletters. I also made a few first-passes on their marketing website.
There’s still a lot of work to do there, which I’m reprioritizing. A lot of the marketing updates are “do it once” and walk away for a little while (as opposed to repeat tasks). I am also on the Board and get to meet with the CEO and other team members in a consulting/coaching capacity.
This has been a lot of fun. I told my wife that if I were to retire I think I’d like to find more Snowflys where I could contribute in a coaching/consulting way. I also get to have conversations that make me think about my own CEO role in JibberJobber, which is really good for JibberJobber.
I have always wanted to own rentals. Before JibberJobber, or before entrepreneurship, I was living paycheck-to-paycheck and keeping my financial head above water was a challenge. I moved from a low-cost state to a higher-cost state without a raise. We went from “I think I might be able to get ahead” to really understanding the cost of living impact of a bigger city. It was difficult.
Fast forward a few years and, because of life circumstances, my wife and I moved. The plan (ha ha ha ha ha) was to sell our house and put whatever equity we earned into our next house to have lower payments. Well, even though houses were moving like hot cakes and we were in a great neighborhood, our house just wouldn’t sell. Long story short, we kept the house as a rental. Within days of us moving out we had renters in, and have not missed one month of rent payment in 4+ years.
We’ve had tasks there… some cleanup and repairs between renters, some maintenance, etc., but for the most part this investment has been safe (knock on wood). I’d like to think I got a nice rental because we were fiscally wise, instead we were kind of pushed into this dream. But so far it’s been very good.
Coincidentally, the house we moved into has a mother-in-law apartment that we rent out. That was a big factor in choosing to buy this house. So now I own two rental properties. It has gone so well that I think I’d like to do this a hundred times over, but I also realize there are some big risks with renters/rentals. I think I’m not going to get any more anytime soon, especially with this ridiculous real estate market. But if the right opportunity pops up, at the right time, and I’m somehow ready, I’m in a much better position to make a wise decision on moving forward.
I don’t spend much time with my rentals, but I’ll certainly put in a few hours (or more, depending on what’s going on), with them.
Life Balance and Family and WHY
Those are my main business plates. I have been married for over 25 years and have five kids, from preteen to a couple in their twenties. I take my roles of husband and father seriously. I try to mentor my kids as they become adults and spread their wings. I try to nurture my marriage and “show up.” I believe these roles I’ve chosen (husband and father) are the most important things I can do. It takes time and thought. Fortunately, it’s a great break from my other plates, and it is immensely rewarding. I’ve been blessed with a great family that I enjoy being around.
I put this section in here because without a bigger WHY we can become barons and scrooges without a direction. Having a business and accumulating wealth is not a big enough WHY.
My family is a big part of my WHY. I want to make an impression on this third rock from the sun. I want to impact and inspire. I hope I do that through my work with my projects I’ve listed above, and those in my close circle. It’s why I get out of bed each day.
What is your WHY? How do you invest your time? Which plates do you keep spinning, and which do you let go, to work towards your WHY?
The title of this post is “Are You Working On The Right Things?” It could have, maybe should have, been: “Are You Choosing Working On The Right Things?”
I invite you to do a personal self assessment to make sure your choice of where to spend your time is right for you right now. Be intentional at this thing called life. Most of us only get one shot.