How to Beat CEO Guilt

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By Erin Blaskie, Founder & CEO of Erin Blaskie Inc.

CEOs are a special breed. See, entrepreneurs have a desire to live a life filled with passion and purpose, and many of us thrive on the feeling of being needed.

And while it’s exciting and satisfying to know that you are producing a product or offering a service that is in high demand, the downside is that someone always needs something from you. No matter how many hours you put in, or processes you put in place, someone will always need a piece of you. And over time, the weight of these needs and expectations can begin to feel crushing.

When You Want to Yell STOP!

We all have those moments. You know the ones I’m talking about – when your child wants to play, your partner needs help in the kitchen, your clients are in a mad rush to get their new site live, and the bookkeeper is nagging you for the receipts that you’re a week late submitting. Your to-do list just keeps getting longer, and you’re going to go crazy if you hear your phone vibrate one more time. Everyone wants a piece of you…but you’re not sure how much more of you there is to go around.

It’s times like these that you just want to yell STOP!

A couple of years ago, my daughter was cutting her first molars – which meant long, sleepless nights of helping her through the pain. But the problem was that my insane work schedule didn’t magically slow down to accommodate my workload. And while I wish that these times when I felt spread too thin were few and far between, it is my constant reality as a CEO. In over eight years of owning my own business, I have not gone a day (literally not a day – probably not even an hour) where someone has not needed me for something.

And that leads to a whole lot of guilt.

The Pitfalls of Passion

Most entrepreneurs start their businesses because they have a burning passion that they simply can’t contain to take their skills and do something meaningful. Personally, I loved feeling needed and like I was making a difference. I loved when my clients relied on me to make their lives easier. It gave me a sense of purpose that just can’t be replicated. However, sometimes I wish that I had a day, or an hour, where I could disappear and not be needed.

The high of feeling like we are everything to everyone all at once is addictive. It is powerful. But it definitely isn’t sustainable, and that exciting feeling of being needed comes with a lot of guilt. We crush ourselves under the weight of our own expectations. And when – inevitably – we can’t live up to those expectations, we start to feel resentful…and that doesn’t do anyone any good.

Keeping a Strangle-Hold on Sanity

The good news is that there are a nearly infinite number of tools and resources at your disposal to help maximize efficiency, and minimize guilt and stress. As a CEO, it’s your responsibility to understand your personal and professional limitations, and set up your business in a way that allows you to maximize your strengths.

Here are three of the best and simplest strategies that you can use to take control of your business and your sanity:

1. Delegate

Whether you delegate by shifting tasks to your existing staff, hiring a new team member, or outsourcing to a virtual assistant, delegation is essential to maintaining your sanity and maximizing productivity. The two most common complaints that I hear about delegation are that it’s hard to let go of control, and that training new support staff takes too much time. While it is true that even the best support staff will require an initial investment of time, it’s important to look at the big picture. Spending even 10 hours training them to do something that takes you 5 hours each week will have resulted in 40 hours saved in just two months.

2. Manage Expectations and Learn to Say No

The very best tool for managing your time and taking control of guilt is often a strong, direct ‘no’.

By nature, entrepreneurs are hard-working, driven individuals who are constantly pushing their own boundaries in a quest for bigger, better, and more. But sometimes, it is that very desire to take on so much that sabotages our ability to get anything done. Saying ‘no’ allows us to manage our expectations and those of others.

But in order to be able to say ‘no’ – we need to start by having a firm understanding of what our priorities are. Take time to do an inventory of a week’s worth of tasks (personal and professional), and rank each activity on an importance scale of 1-5. If you find that a high percentage of your tasks aren’t that important, perhaps it’s time to revisit those commitments.

3. Schedule, but Stay Flexible

If there is one thing that I have learned as an entrepreneur and a parent, it’s that life requires a certain degree of planning…and a whole lot of flexibility. While creating a schedule and setting goals allows you to stay on track and manage your deliverables, accepting that life will sometimes steer you slightly off-track will help you manage the stress that comes from re-arranged deadlines and pivoting plans.

Here’s what I’ve discovered: business, much like life, is not about perfection. What is truly important to me is that I am able to share my talents and skills with the world, regardless of whether or not it’s perfect. I’m also learning that when you balance life and a business so delicately on your shoulders, something somewhere has to give a little…and that is okay, too

At the end of the day, your job as a business owner is to do the very best you can with the tools that you have at your disposal. It’s about accepting that, sometimes, it is ourselves and our own expectations that hold us back from being the best possible entrepreneurs we can be.

How do you crush guilt and stay on top of your game?


About the Author: Erin Blaskie is in a hot passionate love affair with the Internet. Erin founded her virtual assistance company in 2004 and recently co-founded Ottawa Valley Moms, a website for moms in and around the city of Ottawa. Erin has been featured in major magazines and news outlets such as the Wall Street Journal, Mashable, Inc.com, Huffington Post, AMEX Open Forum, Portfolio.com, Examiner.com, About.com, Business Insider, Chatelaine, Costco Connection, ABC and CBC.

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