Sorting Your Hat Drawer - 4 Steps in Managing You

My psychologist once told me to make an org chart for my business. I might have laughed out loud, since there's one full-time employee.  

But the exercise was profound. Like many small business owners, I wear a lot of hats. CEO,  Travel Agent, Writer, and Marketing Director are just a few. I often jam several on my head at once, forgetting that they fit best one at a time. Such hat confusion can lead to wasted time, lack of focus, and mis-allocated resources. 

Leaders in particular have a drawer full of hats, but don't always take time to differentiate. Manager, Coach, Mentor, Analyst, Mediator, Strategist, and Accountant may all emerge in the space of a day  - or even an hour. 

Beyond leaders and small business owners, even specific jobs can require multiple hats. Take a UPS driver. On the surface, we may see Driver and Package Carrier. Yet a day is filled with interactions that require the Customer Service Rep and Marketing hats, opportunities to help customers "love logistics" as much as UPS. (Last month a few towns northeast of me, one driver put on the "Firefighter" hat!) 

So what do we do with our hats?

1) Make your org chart. List all the roles you fill in your current job, small and large. Then create a wire diagram of how they're related, what the business of "You" looks like.

2) Increase your awareness. Awareness of your changing responsibilities is essential to gaining mastery of your own processes. Do you know when you're switching hats? How clearly do you see what hats are required for which tasks?  Simply having your org chart on your desk, computer background, or mobile helps. 

3) Analyze roles and resources. Put on your COO and CFO hats and have a conversation. Are you spending the right amounts of time in your different roles? Some of us have a tendency to prioritize everything in our feverish attempts to reach perfection. Estimate how much time you spend in a particular role each week. Are the proportions right? For those of us who travel, we could spend half a day looking for the best airfare and lodging, trying to save a few dollars. But at what cost? What critical part of our business suffers because we took more time there? Make deliberate decisions in allocating yourself. 

4) Manage you. Be deliberate in switching hats, and be ruthless in following your time budget. A time tracker like Toggl can give real-time evidence. Environment and time of day can also help you "wear" each hat better. For instance, I generally write in an environment free of distractions and that promotes creativity. I also make sure my mind is fresh. On the other hand, I can log expenses in just about any environment, or at any time of day.

Also, remember the energy loss that occurs when you switch tasks. There's an inherent start-up / shut-down cost in our brains, a sort of biological coefficient of friction. This may mean blocking out uninterrupted time slots for certain activities -  or shutting off email and text notifications for a time.

One more thought, for small business owners. After you've drawn the org chart of you, who's on the board? Who besides you has input into your business? Meeting regularly with a consultant, friend, other business owner, or mentor might be the best time investment of them all.