As part of our new XYPN Member Experience Program, I’ve been speaking one-on-one with our members day in and day out for the past three months. Through these conversations, I’ve learned a lot about the pain points of solopreneurs. One of the most pressing issues I hear is the need to get out of your own way to better achieve personal and professional goals. When growing a business, it’s easy to lose focus on the importance of personal growth. But investing in yourself is as important to your success as balancing your books or figuring out which fee structure to use. So, how can you grow your business and grow as a business owner at the same time?
In an ideal world, we would always be looking for ways to increase our intellectual capital, skill set, expertise, and knowledge. But as a business owner, professional (and personal) development can fall to the wayside when things get busy. And as a business owner, things will get busy. I always hear from XYPN members that they are short on the time they need to make the decisions and changes that are most important to them. In fact, nearly every XYPN member will tell you that “2 extra hours in the day” tops their wish list. As much as I wish we could offer this, in reality, you have 168 hours a week to accomplish everything on your to-do list. This includes everything from growing your business to grocery shopping to spending time with your friends and loved ones. How can you do it all?
What professional development opportunities can you maximize to grow both personally and professionally? If you start thinking about how you spend time in terms of ROI for both yourself and your business, you’ll quickly realize there are a lot of great opportunities right under your nose.
Participate in a Reoccurring Accountability Group
As a solopreneur, you are truly on your own. You’re likely working long days by yourself and feeling the results of it. Some of you may bask in the freedom, but others may find that being siloed in your home office creates a whole new set of challenges when working towards personal and professional growth. Who will help make sure you’re checking those to-dos off your list? Who will hold you accountable for passing that CFP test, or for tracking those KPIs you know you should be tracking?
An accountability group can help you stay sane when things get hectic and get ahead, both personally and professionally. What better way to work through big challenges, celebrate successes and mourn your losses than with a group of like-minded people who understand you, your business and your goals? Working with a group also gives you a platform to share your expertise and regain confidence when needed.
At XYPN, we facilitate study groups for our advisors to help with these exact issues. Anytime a member brings up the pain points of prioritization, accountability, or loneliness, I urge them to opt-in and engage in a study group.
Through our study groups, XYPN members talk about their wins and losses (we so often focus on our losses that we’ve built an opportunity to talk about wins into the schedule), collaborate with peers through topic-based conversations, and share feedback and ideas with one another.
When you join an accountability group, you’re investing in your success. And if you’re hesitant to join because “you just can’t commit” the time? Well that really means you aren’t committing the time needed to succeed. Accountability groups are not meant to take up time, but rather to create a more meaningful way to spend your time. When working with an accountability group, you’ll find yourself better able to prioritize, accomplish and make progress on the goals you’ve set for yourself, which ultimately saves you time!
Invest in Relationships
This may come easier to some than others, but with the help of your accountability group and with a little dedication, you’ll find investing in relationships to be one of the best investments you make. Whether you’re pursuing the “100 Cups of Coffee” goal to widen your professional network or reaching out to old friends to chat about your business (and theirs!), investing in those around you often generates more opportunities than you expect.
Let’s look at how investing time in relationships with your centers of influence can pay dividends. Let’s say you dedicate a few lunch hours a month to taking your college buddy, who is now an estate attorney, to lunch. In doing so, you can create a wider web of professional referrals, learn how you can play a role in each other’s success, and increase word-of-mouth around your business. By taking the time to nurture that relationship, you’ve gained one more ally for your success.
You can also invest in relationship-building at events, where new relationships can be formed. What better place to meet new like-minded people than the conferences where they gather? As Michael Kitces says:
“One handshake or one tidbit of wisdom gathered at a conference could change the trajectory of your firm.”
Yes, conferences can be that powerful. Not every relationship formed or piece of knowledge gained will catapult you to success, but events like XYPN LIVE and FPA Residency can be the perfect gathering place for you to meet new influencers, learn new things, and collaborate with other advisors. Those random conversations over breakfast, during a break or at happy hour can be the most meaningful. Real connections can be made and your future can be redefined. Maybe you meet the perfect CPA who mirrors your attitude, energy and passion and it’s the start of a long-term working relationship. Or maybe you find another single mom who, like you, is doing this on her own. That one encounter can translate to a lifelong relationship. But remember, whether you’re making personal or professional connections, they won’t happen unless you put yourself out there in a meaningful and genuine way.
Invest in Continuing Education
This will likely be the most challenging investment you’ll make as it often requires two of the most limited resources: time and money. Whether it’s getting your CFP, EA, CDfA, or another designation, setting your sights on a professional goal is a great way to invest in yourself and your firm. As you develop your passion and niche, ask your community or accountability group for recommendations about different certifications, trainings or conferences you can attend to advance your expertise. Once you’ve identified your continuing education goal, dedicate time each week to working towards that goal.
That being said, there’s no requirement that your continuing education involves sitting through a class or exam. Reading a book, listening to a podcast, or perusing your favorite blogs all count too. But you have to commit the time each week to self-education. No one else is going to do it for you. It’s called “self-education” for a reason.
Invest in Time Blocking
Ever heard of time blocking, the so-called “secret weapon” to better focus? Time blocking helps you focus on one thing at a time and knock it out of the park. We waste a lot of time mentally procrastinating the work we don’t want to do. Time blocking helps prevent this by committing time to every task that needs to be completed, regardless of whether or not you want to do it.
So what is time blocking exactly? It’s exactly what it sounds like; looking at your calendar and dedicating chunks of time to particular tasks. Time blocking essentially organizes your day in a series of time slots.
How do you time block? First, break down your workload into your biggest priorities (start with your top three). Next, make a list of your everyday tasks (like answering emails or posting on social media). As you jot down these smaller tasks, make note of how long they usually take you to finish. Now, make a list of your non-work activities. This list might include things like spending time with your family or your kid’s dance recital.
Now you’re ready to set up your schedule. First, block time for your hardest tasks when you’re most productive. For most, this will be at the start of the workday. Dedicate at least one hour to your highest-priority task. Start there, then move to your next time block in order of priority. Keep in mind that time blocks typically aren’t effective if they last more than a few hours.
Once you’ve blocked your highest priority tasks, schedule the rest of your day in shorter blocks dedicated to one task per block. Again, order your blocks by priority. Your schedule won’t look the same as someone else’s; your time has been blocked acording to what you’ve decided is most important on any given day, and based on when you are the most productive. As a rule-of-thumb, schedule lowest priority items at the end of the day, and don’t forget to add in blocks for planning (yes, you need to time block time to time block—say that 10 times fast!), and to schedule time off (you’re a human, not a machine). Also add in an empty block of time each day for flexibility; start with 30 minutes and increase if needed. This helps account for tasks that take longer than expected, or those inevitable crises that require immediate attention.
Lastly, commit. Like any change, time blocking will take some getting used to. Within a month of so, you should be able to tell whether or not time blocking works for you.
Set Yourself Up for Success
As a business owner, you probably spend a lot of time thinking about how to best invest your time and money. But you probably don’t spend a lot of time thinking about how to invest in yourself.
All too often we are so focused on growing our business that we pass up opportunities to grow with our business. We overlook or underestimate the value of investing in ourselves. Unlike other investments, investing in yourself is never a risk; it always pays off. Whether you’re learning a new skill, forming new relationships, or uncovering ways to be more productive, putting time (and sometimes money) into your development—not just the development of your business—will set you up for sustained success.
About the Author
Maddy Roche is the Director of Getting Shit Done at XYPN, and has been getting shit done since she joined the team in May of 2014 when the Network was made up of our first 30 founding members. Since then, Maddy has worked with and welcomed each of the Network’s members, and helps all of them take advantage of XYPN membership. Maddy is responsible for member benefits and services, including management of vendor partnerships and member rollouts and initiatives. She manages the XYPN Member Experience Program.
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