What is a weed, really?
You might say it’s a plant that ruins your lawn. Nasty thorny sprouty stuff you’ve wasted considerable time trying to uproot.
But in the end, a weed is just any plant growing in an unwanted spot.
Dandelions are weeds, sure, but even perfectly lovely things like mint and wild strawberries can go rogue and take over a garden.
Why does a gardener have to rip out and kill weeds?
Because weeds compete with the things a gardener actually wants to harvest.
Weeds can block light from new plants, or steal soil nutrients away from established plants. Either way, they prevent you from getting the fruits you want to get.
The things growing in our schedules and hearts – but in all the wrong places.
So what kinds of weeds do we get in business?
Weeds are anything that blocks light and air from your budding ventures.
Anything that steals time and energy from your main goals. Not all weeds are bad things themselves, but they will stunt your business as they divide attention and nourishment away from what you really want to grow!
Consider these weeds:
- Spending too much time in forum or social media echo chambers. Thinking it’s “productive” because it’s business-themed, but when you’re done your business is no different than it was when you logged in.
- Comparing yourself to fellow artists
- Fear that keeps you in avoidance mode, so you never really work on what needs to be fixed.
Even one of those can choke out a new adventure before it starts!
But remember, a weed is relative to its surroundings.
Where I grew up in Idaho, the running flower vine “morning glory” is a lawn weed. Imagine my surprise when I moved to Maryland and saw morning glory seeds in the gardening section! My weed is someone else’s ornamental flower.
It’s the same in business. What you call a weed and what I call a weed will be different. Facebook might be a weed for me and a main source of clients for you. Only you can answer the question “what is stealing away my time and energy?”
So as you consider the weeds you’re dealing with, also consider the categorically good things that are spilling over into the wrong spot, or outgrowing their borders. Possibilities include:
- Endless tiny customer service requests (“can we move Photo #64 two milimeters to the right on page 42?”) that, when you’re the only one handling them, can sprawl over the entire work day
- An overabundance of something you’re not an expert at – technical tasks, back-end website management, keywording every blog post
- Managing all the social media feeds when maybe some of them aren’t even producing results
- Things that take you a week to do that would take a professional less than a couple of hours – filing taxes, retirement planning
- Your inbox, in general
How do we decide when a ‘good’ or necessary thing becomes a weed?
One way: Consider which tasks are central to it being your business, and which ones wouldn’t matter a bit if someone else handled them.
Sorting through an overflowing inbox? Maybe not. You could have someone breeze through it, assign priorities, and ghost-write draft emails for you to approve and send.
Plenty of stuff doesn’t have to be YOU doing it. And it might be easier or less expensive than you think to have someone else take it off your plate.
Look: I’m a frugal person by nature, I’ve bootstrapped all business ventures I’ve undertaken, and I prefer to be in control of things. So I get the chorus of hesitations on paying someone to do things you “can” do.
But some stuff for me (especially graphic design, taxes, and back-end web management) simply turns out better if someone else handles it. If you don’t want to hire a ton of help, consider training someone to do two of the most basic, repetitive tasks, and see how it goes for a month. You might be surprised at what you’re able to do with the extra time that majorly out-earns whatever you are paying to get your time back.
But not all weed control involves hiring someone.
It might just be the self-discipline to quit refreshing Instagram hoping for quick hits of “like” validation. Or giving yourself permission to shut X down so you can leave room for Y to blossom.
Spring is coming soon, so this is your final short winter task:
1) Decide what your weeds are, and 2) make a plan to control them!
It’s easier than you think:
1) What do I want my main harvest to be this year?
A garden, like your calendar, only has so much space. So make a list of priorities. Maybe:
- I want my business to generate 30 new inquiries between now and September
- I want to provide incredible images for those people
- I want to make clients so happy they’re eager to refer me to others
- Marketing education: I want to learn more about Pinterest
- Photography education: I want to improve my off-camera lighting
Hooray! You’ve listed which ‘plants’ you want to thrive.
2) Now, make a list of the tasks you have on your plate – both now and coming up during the high season.
Glance at your calendar and make a master list: Scribble down all the big tasks ahead, all the things that are bugging you, that need updating, that are competing for your attention. Be as detailed, or not, as you want to be.
Then circle anything that does not directly contribute to your ability to harvest. See whether you can outsource, minimize, or flat-out abandon/ignore any circled items.
Album design taking away your ability to do a quick turnaround, not to mention making you dread after-the-session client care? Find a designer. Boom – now you can take that lighting class.
Your Instagram account just sitting there, gathering dust? Either hire someone to manage it, or uproot all your guilt and completely ignore it until you’ve mastered Pinterest. Then you can go back and master Instagram too, if you want. Remember, weeds aren’t all bad! Instagram might just be your wild strawberry plant you need to rip out until you’re ready to pay attention to it.
However you decide to identify your ‘weeds,’ the point is: Uproot or relocating anything that’s siphoning away your time and energy, and give your harvest space to grow!
Let me know how it goes!