Avoid that Rat Hole!
Rat holes? Yes - rat holes! Trust me - you want to AVOID them.
What are rat holes, you ask? That is a very good question. Rat holes are the things that you spend time doing - with no results. Even worse, you have taken time away from doing things that DO generate results. Let me give you an example to better explain the toxicity of getting lost in rat holes.
You decide that you need to organize all of your embroidery design files. Good in theory - absolutely! But in reality (where we all actually live), it can quickly become a rat hole. Hours could be spent reviewing, renaming and relocating files.
At the end of the many hours, what has been accomplished, other than the righteous feeling of a job well done? You can now find a file more easily, but the real question is - how often did you actually go looking for any of these files?
Another way to approach this is with a "from this day forward" mentality. From this day forward, you will name and organize files according to your desired structure. Files predating today will live where ever they are. As you use a file, it can be added to your new structure. See the difference between a rat hole and a workable solution?
Your purpose, the reason you own a business, is to earn income. As the business owner, your highest priority is to do SOMETHING, ANYTHING to earn income EVERY DAY.
For embroidery business owners, there are two ways to earn income, you need to sew something or you need to sell something. Pay attention to time spent doing activities that do not lead to sewing or selling. These are possible indicators of rat holes.
If you catch yourself knee-deep in something, ask yourself the question - IS this helping me sew or sell something TODAY? If it is not, is it really a good use of your time?
Rat holes are different for every person. It could be time spent digitizing a design, again and again. Farm it out, and get selling and sewing instead of tweaking the design!
It could be time spent designing logos for customers that do not yet have one. While the creative process is fulfilling, it is generally not in your best interests financially. Farm it out, and get selling and sewing.
It could be an order for 200 pieces when you have a single head machine. Great job for getting the order, but do you know if you are really making a good profit on that order? If you are not, farm it out so that you can be making higher profits while a contract shop is running this order for you.
Personally, I have more than a few tendencies that quickly turn into rat holes. I adore marketing, anything and everything that has to do with marketing for independent business owners. I will read, listen, watch and learn for hours - books, magazines, blogs, websites, webinars - I am not particular. There are so many fascinating sources for excellent information.
I have learned one tactic to control my time spent in the pursuit of marketing information. For every two hours spent consuming information, I have to create information that will serve NNEP members. So, I just learned about rat holes from a very smart lady that is a small business consultant, Norma Rist (you may know Norma, she has presented several times at NNEP events) of Rist Consulting and the founder of WomenOwnersDaily.com.
And I thought, "Yep, I've heard rat hole-type stories from members many times over the years! Clearly this is something that I can share with NNEP members, to help them spot them and learn to not get trapped by them."
Another rat hole for me is social media. I LOVE trolling pinterest, facebook, youtube for funky applications of embroidery and other apparel decoration techniques. The problem is that then I see something funky that involves gardening, or funny cat pictures, or weird animals or jewelry designs or .... you get the idea.
It is next to impossible to stay "on task" once you enter the social media space. My tactic - the only one that works for me so far for this particular rat hole - is to literally set a timer. I use the one on my phone.
I can go looking, and take a mental break for a few minutes on a daily basis. But when the timer goes off, I literally close that web browser, so that I cannot continue to peek for the rest of the morning or afternoon - because I will, and then poof, there goes another 20 minutes, right?
- What are your rat holes?
- Can you identify them?
- How do you manage them?
- Do you have a tactic or strategy that works for you?
Post your comments below - I would love to know what works for you and where you find yourself getting trapped. I am glad to help you find a tactic to keep you from getting lost in a rat hole! I've loved hearing from some many members via email about their rat holes and how they are now learning to identify and manage them after this article!
Update - Norma shared that she learned about rat holes from a very smart person named Guy Kawasaki, a thought leader for business owners world wide.