For me, the hardest part of business is the fear of a lost opportunity. My trigger to start new projects and create things is happy to be pulled at anytime. I fear the regret hindsight could bring.
As business owners we’re in a battle of time allocation. What do I focus on? Where is my time & money best spent? We’re constantly investing in the future. We’re all familiar with Return on Investment (ROI). I always assumed the word "investment" meant money, but sometimes it does not.
My business partner, Steve, and I aren't always investing money. The currency we're putting into these projects is our time and knowledge. These resources seem an endless bank to withdraw from.
Steve and I encounter many business opportunities, but these opportunities fuel the fallacy that we're rich in time and patience. This paradigm has falsely encouraged us to create more businesses, projects and events. Some of these projects have taken off and become viable sources of revenue for LessEverything, but most have not.
I've invested my time in these projects, abused my stress level, and recklessly stolen from my inner resources to create things.
Investing comes with a price. Time spent on investing pulls time from other things--rest, relationships and hobbies all suffer. The byproduct of investing is added stress.
Both Steve and I are burdened with more stress and less time with every business we create and every event we host. Sure there can be more money involved, but each venture requires nurturing and at any stage requires us to sow the fields with our experience and connections. Each project is another field that needs our attention before it's able to be harvested.
Before making a business decision, think about your Return on Stress. You're investing time/energy/money, which will create stress. Will you receive money/accolades/good karma back with profit, break even or take a loss? How long will it take to garner this return? Is it worth it?
Giving your knowledge and skill, lending your name, putting yourself on another project gives others another opportunity to judge you, another chance to have an opinion of your worth.
When you invest knowledge or skill into a project, the success of the project is more personal and emotional. If someone invests money into a project, the chance is that money doesn’t affect their lifestyle, so they’re able to disconnect themselves from the project emotionally.
Now I consider the Return on Emotion. I’m investing emotion. Will I get it back with profit, break even or be at a loss? How long will it take to garner this return? Is it worth it?
I’m a designer, a creative, and I’m a freaking fragile creature. At work my emotional well-being comes from others liking my designs, and enjoying the creative energy I put forth. I must have the time and energy to take feedback and improve my work. If I’m not able to put out work I deem as creative, and able to iterate on improving it, then inside I’m dying.
We often forget this, but we have limited time during the day to work. It’s saddening to me to think I have very little time before my small children no longer want to hug and kiss me. I cannot allow work to abuse my personal life. I must choose wisely where I allocate my energy and stress. I can’t work with people unwilling to change and improve. I can’t work on projects that aren’t able to be profitable. I have to watch carefully how I communicate with my team and business partner to keep their stress low.
And when I head home from work, I have to realize my investments from 7:30am - 4:00pm matter much less than what efforts I put forth with my family at home.