I knew before I was 14 years old that I wanted to be in charge. Go my own way. Forget the boss or manager or anyone watching over me.
It was middle school algebra class that pushed me toward this conclusion. My teacher had neither the tact nor the patience for helping students learn, and I knew that there must be other ways for motivating people to do something that would make a difference in the world.
I didn’t know what that thing would be for me, but I was convinced that no matter what, I wanted to help people, I wanted to make enough money to be comfortable, and I wanted to travel.
These were some pretty vague but lofty goals for a teenager if I do say so myself. But my parents and closest friends supported me, and soon I was applying to my dream school and picking out courses that would help me build a foundation in entrepreneurship.
When I decided to go to business school, it was the prospect of understanding finance, marketing, and business ethics and applying them to any trajectory that appealed to me. I still didn’t have a “passion” per se, but starting my own business was the goal. That has led to the creation of Don’t Panic Management, the hiring of a robust and incredible team, and the shifting of my role from a virtual assistant to a manager to a CEO.
It’s been about ten years since I began working as a virtual assistant. Ten years! I guess I can’t say this is a “new” industry anymore, even though it still feels like it.
After all these years, through many different transitions and mastering new skills, I sometimes find myself being pulled back to my roots. I love checking schedules and booking flights. I love formatting spreadsheets and color-coding calendar events.
Is this the best use of my time? Probably not. Am I making the most money from doing these tasks? Definitely not.
So, how do I remember what it is that I’m uniquely qualified to do? How do I stay focused on the things that generate profit, or at the very least, develop ideas that generate profit in the future? I do so by following these five steps today and coming back to them several times throughout the year.
1. Do a Purpose and Passion Gut Check
In the past, I’ve written about how I believe that at the end of the day, purpose trumps passion. The bottom line is that passions come and go, but finding your deeper purpose—the thing that makes a difference in the world—will ultimately be what helps you get out of bed in the morning.
Now, this doesn’t mean you can’t also be passionate about your purpose. Passion and purpose can have the same feeling or meaning for you, which is why I wanted to mention them both here. The important thing is that you’re taking some time to get back to your roots and remember why you started doing what you do in the first.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Why did I start my business? The reason may have changed over the years, but try to remember what initially sparked your mind to develop your own company.
- Am I doing what I set out to do? This isn’t about daily tasks but about the overall solution that you’re providing. Are you still doing important work?
- Am I helping who I set out to help? It’s okay if your target audience changes over the years, but are you still helping people in a meaningful way?
- Is my business sustainable? Are you having to change your mind or your plan all the time, or has your business been running well for years?
The answers to these questions will help guide your gut toward knowing whether you’re still in line with what you set out to do in the first place.
2. Conduct a Time Audit
Knowing what you are and aren’t doing every day is a hugely important step in determining what you’re uniquely qualified to do—and doing it. If you’ve never audited your time, this might feel like a daunting and possibly unnecessary exercise. Let me tell you my experience: Yes, it’s daunting, but yes, it’s also necessary.
If you’re anything like me, you have to start with understanding a little more deeply why the time audit is so important (so you will actually do it!) and learn different ways to track your time. Start by following this link, set yourself up for success, and track your time for at least one week:
Then, come back here and follow the next steps!
3. Categorize Your Tasks
You may think you have a handle on everything you’re doing (and not doing), but seeing it all laid out there for you after a week of time tracking can be eye-opening. It can even be panic-inducing if you know that you aren’t spending even a fraction of your time on the things you set out to do when you started your business.
If your list is full of things you know you’re wasting time on or shouldn’t be doing, you’re not alone. Most business owners, especially solopreneurs, find themselves doing EVERYTHING for their businesses at one point or another. But operating this way isn’t sustainable if you want to grow your business or if you want to fill your days with the things you know you’re meant to be doing.
Don’t panic: The first step to making a change is recognizing you have something you need to change!
Use this template as a guide to categorize everything from your time audit. You’ll want to be strict with yourself. Remember, this is just for you to determine what you love and what you’re uniquely qualified to do so that you can relegate, automate, or delegate the rest.
4. Relegate, Automate, Delegate
By this point, it may already be clear what you’re uniquely qualified to do. Don’t stop here! It’s time to make space in your schedule so you can accomplish that thing.
How? By relegating, automating, or delegating anything that you don’t love or are not required to do.
The easiest column to start with is the fourth column, the unnecessary things—the tasks that you know aren’t contributing to your business’s bottom line and are taking time away from what’s important. These can be relegated or eliminated, never to be heard from again!
After that, tackle your second column. These are the things you don’t enjoy doing or don’t know how to do.
Perhaps it’s sending invoices and categorizing expenses. Or maybe it’s scheduling meetings and social media posts.
You can also delegate anything you can automate. This step becomes a matter of personal preference, budget, and time. Both automating and delegating take some time and energy to set up, but the idea is that your tasks run on their own after you invest that limited amount of time and energy.
Most often, delegating costs more money than automating but leads to more control and a relationship with a team member that can grow with your business—which is something you may ultimately want. Regardless of whether you automate or delegate these tasks, the important thing is that you put them out of sight, out of mind, and let something or someone else take care of them.
5. Focus on Your Unique Qualifier
Now that you’ve opened your eyes and your schedule, you may be wondering what happens to the rest of your list. Fortunately (or unfortunately), the things in your third column are the things you neither love nor hate but can only be done by you—for now.
There shouldn’t be much in this column, so don’t overthink it. Just keep doing what you’re doing and pay attention in the future to see if you can relegate, automate, or delegate them later.
That leaves your LOVE column. Hooray! One of the tasks in this column is, hopefully, something that you are passionate about, something that you built your business’s purpose upon, and something that you are uniquely qualified to do.
Now, I want to clarify something about your unique qualifier: This is not the kind of task where you’re the only one in the whole world who can do it.
For example, my unique qualifier is that I know how to connect overworked entrepreneurs to reliable virtual assistants. That doesn’t mean there’s no one else who knows how to do this. In fact, other virtual assistant agency owners probably have the same unique qualifier!
That’s okay. What we’re trying to find is the thing that you’re uniquely qualified to do for your business.
Review and decide: Which item on this list is my bedrock? What’s the thing my business couldn’t run without, that I can’t live without? What’s the thing that no one else on my team can do as well as I can?
That’s your unique qualifier. The majority of your work week should be spent on serving your unique qualifier, whether it’s through planning more significant projects, shooting videos, writing blog posts, connecting amazing people, or spreading your ideas on stage.
Your unique qualifier is not something you’ll spend 100 percent of your time doing. You’ll still need to have hands in different places—you are the boss, after all! But if you can spend at least 80 percent of your time focusing and working on your unique qualifier, you’ll be in good shape.
Have you figured out what you’re uniquely qualified to do? Is it something that makes you feel good? I hope so!
Always remember that this is a process. It’s something that you should come back to again and again as your business grows and evolves. I like to revisit this exercise at least once or twice a year because my priorities and my business’s needs are always changing.
In the last year, I’ve come close to setting up my unique qualifier for the next year or two and focusing 80 percent of my time on it. Now, I’m welcoming my first child into the world, so that could all change once I’m back from maternity leave.
This is a gentle reminder that business is fluid, just like life, and it’s essential to give yourself a break and be flexible. Remember that as long as you’re focused on the bottom line, your business will continue to thrive. Shining the spotlight on your unique qualifier whenever possible will only propel your success, both personally and professionally, even further.