I have a serious problem. I'm addicted to new ideas.
In fact, in all of the personality tests I've taken, the aspect that always ranks the highest is my ability to come up with creative and new ideas to problems. As a result, it should come as no surprise that I'm an entrepreneur. I thrive on creating new solutions and starting new ideas.
Being an entrepreneur has been very good to me personally and financially. Ever since quitting my corporate job 8 years ago (March 11th, 2011 to be exact), I have felt more motivated and satisfied with my work than ever before. And my “work” has paid off financially for me and my family significantly better than my corporate job ever did.
Here's just a few of the things I've started in the past 8 years:
- Hundreds (yes hundreds) of niche sites.
- A premium WordPress theme
- Long Tail Pro (which I later sold)
- an iPhone app
- a WordPress Plugin (AMZ image)
- Amazon FBA business
- eCommerce businesses
- Buying and Selling multiple websites
- Table Labs
- Other software tools
- Chrome extensions
- Information products
- and several other little projects
I'm not sure whether to be proud or ashamed of everything I've started. I've certainly built some cool things that I'm proud of. But what would be different about my business if I had just focused on one or two large projects instead of a couple dozen? Would my income be greater and more stable?
After all, with so many projects I'm pulled in a dozen different directions each day. I spend 30 minutes answering customer issues with Table Labs or spend a little bit of time working with a developer to fix a bug with AMZ image. Then perhaps I spend an hour working on a niche site, or fixing an issue with another niche site.
Then I realize I haven't written a blog post in 2 weeks for Niche Pursuits or completely stop recording podcast episodes for several months on end. Oh and my “to-do” list is about 30 tasks long.
And the emails don't stop coming on a daily basis.
To say the least, I feel like I've stretched myself too thin and I need to take some drastic action or I'm going to keep just treading water and not getting anywhere. Perhaps you can relate?
Overall, I'm going to share my thought process of how I plan to better prioritize my time and projects moving forward. I don't pretend to have all the answers; however, perhaps we both can learn something through this blog post (I'll learn as I write, you learn as you read).
Learning to Say “No”, Like Warren Buffet
I started thinking about this subject for 2 reasons:
- I sometimes feel I'm overly “busy”.
- Someone posted a couple of insightful things about how Warren Buffet operates in a slack group I'm part of.
As this article on Medium points out, Warren Buffet and other highly successful people learn how to say “no” to almost everything. For example, this article points out a few things that Warren Buffet does to have better time management and results.
First: Eliminate busy work.
Easier said than done of course, but this is something I clearly need to do better at. The medium article then highlights 3 ways that Warren Buffet prioritizes things and I think it's so powerful, I'll just quote it below.
We get insight into how Buffett deals with distractions and obligations via his personal pilot, Michael Flint. Buffett once walked Flint through his three-step strategy for prioritization
- First, Buffett had Flint write down his top 25 goals on a piece of paper.Go ahead and write your goals down now.
- Next, he had him circle the top 5. So far, nothing special.
- Finally, he had Flint take the 20 goals he did NOT circle and put them on an “avoid-at-all-cost” list. This is the step where you see Buffett’s true prioritization genius. At this point, most people would simply just focus on the top 5 goals and intermittently work on the rest of the goals. Not Buffett though. He advised Flint: “No matter what, these things get no attention from you until you’ve succeeded with your top 5.”
(After more research, it's possible this story about Warren Buffet writing down 25 goals is not real.)
Real or not, I think the principle of avoiding busy work is the same, and I find this process extremely insightful. Turns out I have lots of “avoid-at-all-cost” tasks that I have not been avoiding. Time to make some corrections.
Second: Focus on a Few, High Quality Bets
I'm starting to see a pattern here with Warren Buffet. I wish I could say I always followed this. However, rather than focusing on a few things that I know could make a significant amount of money, I've often allowed myself to get pulled into ideas that I knew might only make a few hundred dollars a month, just because I knew I could do it…and it was kinda fun to start.
Now I have dozens of things that were kinda fun to start, that don't really make an impact on my bottom line.
Once again, Warren Buffet gives me pause for how I've been doing things. Check out his video below:
In a nutshell, we should all be waiting for those “sweet spot” pitches to come our way. We don't need to be swinging at everything that we think we might be able to hit. We should only be swinging at those where we have the highest possible percentage of getting a hit or a home run.
In other words, instead of starting dozens of different projects to see which one takes off; perhaps it's better to wait until we find that business idea that fits our “circle of competence” extremely well that we know we can knock out of the park.
Third: Focus on Long Term Bets
When I first started building niche sites before I quit my job, my only goal was to quit my job. I wanted to make enough money from my sites to replace my day job income. I wasn't focused on quality websites or some long term vision…I just wanted out of my job!
I'm forever fortunate that I was able to create an income stream that allowed me to quit my job. However, out of those hundreds of little niche sites that helped me quit my job back in 2011, almost none of them exist anymore. I have essentially had to re-invent my business 2 or 3 times since quitting my job back in 2011.
Would it have been better to focus on projects that could actually stand the test of time instead of only lasting for a year or two? In a lot of ways, it probably would have been a lot easier, that's for sure.
Warren Buffet averages around 20 years as his holding period for his investments. He's not looking for something that he makes money in the next year or two and then quickly get out. He's in it for the long haul.
I think there is a lot to be learned here.
So, What Next?
Great, so Warren Buffet has it all figured out, but how can I actually start to implement some of these things? Well, I've taken an inventory of all the business projects that I've started or gotten myself involved in and I've decided to untangle myself from most of these businesses.
In other words, I'm only going to keep my top projects and eliminate or sell everything else.
In fact, I'm starting right now. I've just listed 5 websites/businesses that I am selling right here.
If you are in the market to buy something, I'm looking to sell a few things that I put a lot of time and effort into, so please feel free to take a look. Overall, it's a decision (to sell several things) that I've been considering for a few months now.
The main reason for selling should be obvious at this point. I have way too many things going on and this will allow me to focus my time and energy on a couple of things that really deserve more time and energy.
I'm now going to learn to say, “No” to most new ideas that come my way and will do my best to wait for the ones I think can be a home run. That means fewer, larger projects.
What Am I Keeping?
After I sell off the 5 sites that are listed here, I will still have a few sites left.
I purchased 2 larger websites less than a year ago, that I now feel don't really fit into my overall strategy. Both have been good investments so far; however, I am going to eventually sell both of these as well. However, they are not listed for sale yet because we are working on a few things for both of them and I've owned them for less than a year.
The other site I purchased was a “Mom Blog” as explained here. Even though my partner and I essentially have other people running the business, I may look to sell this one as well in the next 12 months. However, this one is less of a concern because it is mostly “hands-free” for me.
Then I have one other niche site that is a passion for me that I just can't get rid of; even though it's not making much money and I don't put any time into it…I just can't let it go…yet.
Overall, that will leave me with NichePursuits.com, my Niche Site Project 4 site (that I recently started)…and that's about it!
I've allowed myself to dream about what I might be able to accomplish if all I focused on was NichePursuits.com and my new niche site. I think some really good things would happen.
And I have to confess that I do have a WordPress plugin in the works that I started a couple of months ago. I would actually kill the project if it wasn't a good fit for where I want my business to go. However, if I'm going to focus on NichePursuits and my audience here, this new WordPress plugin is a great fit.
I'll have more to share on it in the coming weeks and months.
I do imagine sometimes what I could build if I actually focused my time and energy on one project as opposed to 10 or so, like I usually do. Perhaps I would even have time to bring back the podcast! 🙂
Overall, I don't have all the answers about what is best for your business. But as I reflect on where I am at currently, I can clearly see that I'm giving myself alot of busy work without giving myself the true ability to grow something great.
I'm going to do my best to change that. What about you? I would love to hear your thoughts below.