Seven years ago, I was juggling a freelance career with a job as a social media manager. At the time, I adhered to the principle of inbox zero. It’s a system developed by productivity expert Merlin Mann, who recommends that emails be handled immediately, with the actions: delete, delegate, respond.
I had to stay on top of things. I was a mother of two small children, balancing freelance writing with a part-time job. I was efficient, organized, I never missed a deadline.
Just typing that out makes me want to do a laughsob. As my career has grown, I’ve turned into a small business. I run a newsletter that operates as a media company. I hire writers and editors. I pay for advertising. I am also writing a book and yes, still taking on the occasional freelance assignment.
I’m busier than any corporate job I’ve ever had. And trust me, I’ve had them. So all of a sudden, I’m overwhelmed. My inbox is overflowing. I can’t keep my calendar organized and it doesn’t matter how much I say “no” to, I still don’t seem to have enough time with my kids or to do my laundry. I haven’t been to the dentist in two years. (Partially due to the pandemic, partially due to me feeling too overwhelmed to make an appointment.)
Inbox zero now seems like a cute thing I did once. But last week, I was re-reading Mann’s advice and I realized I’d missed an essential element: delegate.
As a woman, a mother, and a business owner, it’s easy for me to believe that I have to and must do everything. And the messages from society reinforce that attitude. Last year, a person published a review of one of my books that criticized me for having help with my housework.
But my need to control everything is getting in the way of my ability to do the work that I love. And so, it’s time to delegate.
In the past couple of weeks, I have worked on finding someone to mow my lawn and I recently re-hired a housecleaner (sorry to the critics, but I am a single mom!). I’m also looking into hiring someone to help me with my email and my scheduling, but it’s a huge leap for me. One I feel scared to make. One that would push me into the uncharted territories of professionalism.
But in talking about this with the team at the Riveter, Laura Alcalá Baker (Special Projects Manager), reminded me that when a man outsources, he’s seen as a productivity expert. When a woman does it, she feels guilty. So, I need to chuck the guilt and do what I need to do to be the professional I need to be. So, often the steps we need to take for success involve stepping out on faith. I remember all the good paying freelance assignments I quit, in order to free me up to pitch the longer projects that I hoped I could sell. It was a gamble. If I’ve learned anything about business, it’s that if you are gonna bet on anyone, bet on yourself.
Consequently, I’ve been reading up on how to find an assistant, how to hire one, and when I am back from my vacation with my kids, I will begin the process of hiring one.
But if you have any tips, please, let me know!