The Trick to Doubling Your Efforts

by Karrie Kohlhaas on February 19, 2007

in Newsletter,Recommended Reading

cardmagician5njPeople who dare to start a small business or creative project are by nature very independent. You want to do it all yourself. Maybe you file your own taxes, clean and organize your office/studio, created your own website, designed your logo, wrote your marketing materials and you somehow do everything else involved in your business or project.

Are you “saving money” by doing everything yourself? Actually, if you are doing everything yourself that is a clear indicator that your business and your income are not living up to their potential. If this is you, I have a name for you: “Task Hoarder.”

While you are an amazing circus act, you are actually hurting yourself by juggling all those random tasks in the air! Task hoarding keeps you from focusing on the work that only you should be doing.

YOU are only required for about 30% of the tasks necessary to run your business or project. The reason most small business owners are so depleted and are not making enough money is because they insist on doing everything themselves.

First, begin to sort out which tasks must be done by you. If you are a doctor, you must meet with your patients; a painter must actually move the brush over the canvas. Figure out which tasks have your name emblazoned on them and be brutally honest about this.

Then, ask yourself these questions about the tasks remaining:

Do you hoard tasks that you don’t even enjoy?
If you do not enjoy the task, it will take more energy and effort to get it accomplished. Why get good at something you don’t want to keep doing? Hand it off or hire it out to someone who likes this work and free yourself to do the work you love.

Do you hoard tasks that have a high learning curve and that you don’t necessarily need to learn?
The classic cases of this are tasks that involve technology. You may think you are saving money but if the learning curve for a task takes you twice as long as it would someone else, you are easily losing money, time and your mind! You will profit more by spending that time doing the work you are in this business to do, increasing your output and income and hiring someone to do the work they are already proficient at doing.

Do you hoard tasks that could be done as well (or almost as well) by someone else?
We are all a little hung up on the idea that we are the only one who can do things as well as they need to be done. This is a trap. This thinking keeps your business from growing.

When you are babying every mini-aspect of your project or business, you are neglecting the tasks that have your name on them and you inhibit your project or business from truly flourishing.

Endeavors that are successful are run by people who know their strengths, their limits, and then hand tasks off to others to accomplish faster, better and more happily so that the creative source of the endeavor is free to do what he or she does best.

© 2007 – 2011, Karrie Kohlhaas. All rights reserved.

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Rick Sader March 13, 2008 at 6:19 am

Good points Karrie. You remind us of WHY there is a division of labor. As we talked about tonite, it’s easy to find yourself working IN your business when instead it’s actually more important to be working ON your business.


Lee Mozena July 10, 2008 at 7:54 pm

Karrie has all the right points and I want to add a subtext. Women and mothers especially are the worst at delegating. We get used to doing things for helpless little people then fail to notice how soon and how much they can do. We yell and foam at the mouth yet haven’t taken the time to teach and delegate. Even pre-schoolers can pitch in.

List all the tasks you’re still doing for each child that they can do instead. Sit down with each of them (separately) and work out an agreement on how and when they’ll complete those tasks. Don’t rush in and take over or nag, just let it go unfinished (it will at first), until they take responsibility. Remind them of the agreement you made.

Then get back to work- your work.


Karrie Kohlhaas July 12, 2008 at 2:47 am

Right Rick, in larger companies there are departments to handle all of the various projects and topics and tasks in the business. But solo-preneurs and many small business owners try to take it all on themselves and forget that they need to be the visionary–to set aside time to think about and develop the business–not the guy inside getting the details done.

There are lots of people who can handle the details but no one else knows the vision, the intent and where you want to take the business, as well as you do. This is one of the biggest things small biz owners neglect when they are running around task hording.

Thanks for the note!


Karrie Kohlhaas July 13, 2008 at 11:37 pm

Lee, great subtext. Yes, and similarly, if you hand something off to an assistant or employee or service provider, then make it worth your while and go do your own thing–let them handle their part instead of standing over them! People tend to step up and own their part if you get out of their way. In psychology there is a conversation about “over-functioning” and “under-functioning” which states that if you are over-functioning (in this case task hording) in some area, it will cause the other person involved to under-function in that area, and vice versa. And let’s face it, don’t we all work better and happier when people trust us to do our part?


Andrea February 22, 2011 at 7:09 pm

You hit the nail on the head- and thank you for the reminder. I finally realized I can’t be a writer, can’t be the organizer, or my own bookkeeper. Taking the time to work on my business plus do the work means I need to be efficient. Lucky me – I have a great organizer who doesn’t require color-coded filing and an amazing bookkeeper.

I’m glad you take on the challenge of helping business owners realize that DIY doesn’t cover everything.


Karrie Kohlhaas February 23, 2011 at 7:22 pm

Hi Andrea. It is such a temptation to try to do it all, isn’t it? I have had to pry clients’ hands off of certain “comfort tasks” when I could see they were really using the task to avoid the work they really needed to do. DIY is fun if you want to make some candles as holiday gifts, but DIY is also a very effective way to hold a business back from substantial growth.

I really enjoyed checking out your website! Fun and informative posts. Thanks for your comment. I hope to hear more from you!


Lara Feltin November 29, 2011 at 7:14 pm

I love how you break this down. I’m guilty of all four (as you well know). And despite your awesome coaching, I’m still hoarding more tasks than I should/need to. This post serves as a great reminder of that. Thanks!


Karrie Kohlhaas December 28, 2011 at 7:42 pm

Hi Lara,

I see task hording like any addiction: you have to continually keep an eye on it or it can creep up and take over again and again. Since you and I are both detail-types, it can be especially challenging to let go and let others do things for us. It can feel like free-falling to actually let go of a task when the control freak within wants to hold on so tightly. The more I witness clients let go, the easier it gets and the more their business soars. Thanks for your note.


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