Owner/makers have a lot of different things to improve on. Problem is we sprint from seemingly necessary shiny thing to shiny thing, meanwhile digging holes that we sprint back to later to fill in. And since many of us are self employed there’s no one around to tell us what we don’t know or when to do things. We make bad decisions. We miss things. We get stressed out. The holes get bigger. Your daily cup is only so full. If things suck at work, you have less cup to spend on the rest of your life. If things go smooth at work – problems are resolved, processes improved, progress is made- you have more of that cup to spend on the rest of your non-work day. Now THAT is worklife balance for work/life balance. That’s part of the system. Here’s part one on how to develop a system to lower stress and provide consistent improvement in different areas of being an owner/maker.
You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know
Our brains do this thing called sensory gating. Our brains filter out things it deems unnecessary in order to stay focused on things that are. How? There are neurons in your brain that act like filters. It’s not a metaphysical part of humanity, there are physical things in your brain that do this for you. These neurons let you watch the game, use a bandsaw safely, and drive in traffic without having to filter this all out yourself. It’s pretty awesome. This allows us to focus on the task at hand or so it should.
Just like with anything it’s not perfect. Sometimes it’s not filtering enough and you can’t focus. “I have to pay bills” “I have to get that jig welded up” “I have to update the website” ahhhhhhhhh. And sometimes necessary information gets filtered. That mailbox you backed into? You knew it was there, maybe even looked at it but your filter neurons discarded that info because they were freaked out about the kids playing next to the van and the dog running around the vehicle.
Those are two important analogies for us maker/owners. They tell us why we screw up, and it gives us a clue on how to fix it:
1. It’s not you. Neurons in your brain filter things out, and screw up sometimes. They get overloaded and as a survival mechanism start tossing things.
2. You don’t know what you don’t know. Some of that important information disappears and you never knew it was there.
Some of the worst advice given to the self-employed is “Just chill out.” Of course. Why didn’t I think of that? All those spinning plates, why didn’t I just think of sitting down for a while. They can crash band break and I’ll just catch up tomorrow. Or asking for help- “Excuse me, can you spin some of these plates for me? Oh you don’t know how to spin plates? Ok, I’ll keep spinning then.” That advice doesn’t work because “just chill out” is matched against things that we have determined are necessary for our survival. And there is no one to do it but us. So we have to win. And why don’t we? Because we don’t have a system.
If your days go like mine you go in early with your Wunderlist you filled out the night before or morning of. You even trimmed it down because experience has shown you that you suck at estimating. Then, like I did this morning, you ran out of rubber gloves for the soldering station. So you rode your bike home to get the truck to go to Home Depot because you might as well pick up the plywood and groceries you needed as well. The plywood was there but the rubber gloves were not so you stopped at Harbor Freight. This trip took an hour and a half. One of your employees were having an issue with a guitar so you fixed that so they could keep going and then you had to write a blog post before you left to coach football practice. OH MAN WHERE DID THE DAY GO? Thing is we tell ourselves this was just a “one of those days” but really this is three or four days out of the week. It’s not an exception because your (and my) system sucks. I used to have one day a week I dedicated to “business-type things”. I once went a stretch of not having that business day in over six months. It’s not “being self employed” it is missing important information because of an overloaded brain filtering out necessary thoughts and information. You couldn’t make better decisions because the information wasn’t there.
The way to combat this information overload is to make a system, and that’s what this series is about. How can we take these pieces of being a maker and a business owner and plug them into a system so they are being taken care of, in the amount necessary, on a daily basis? The system gives us direction and information so we can continually improve the system- not running around like crazy people making bad decisions. There are main aspects of being an owner/maker and we will go over those and how to improve them individually, and then we will put them all together into a system. “If it’s important, do it everyday”, and if you chip away at it it’s taken care of, stress free.
The short of it:
1. It’s not you. Neurons in your brain filter out some information to try and stayed focused. Your brain is overloaded.
2. You don’t know what you don’t know. Sometimes important stuff gets filtered out with the garbage, never to be seen again.
3. Make a system. “If it’s important do it everyday.” You need to know the different aspects of what you do, how much attention each deserves, and have a system in place so that it gets the necessary attention. Every day. This frees up your brain so it gets better at filtering and keeping you focused, and opening open to new ways of doing things.