The Curse of the Administrative Rabbit Hole

As of December 1st, I’m officially self-employed. That sounds wonderful until you find yourself starting at the computer screen in the morning wondering where to begin. Don’t misunderstand, I’m really excited about this new season. It’s something that I’ve dreamed of for years.

The opportunity to coach, write and speak about leadership full-time is a gift that I hope to never take for granted.  But learning the rhythms of working for yourself from home…. well, that is an art to be mastered.

I was warned about the administrative rabbit hole. I sought out other entrepreneurs who gave me wise advise about key things to do to develop rhythms and routines that help you work for yourself and by yourself. And yet here I sit, three days in, and I’m so far down the rabbit hole that I’m trying to find my way back out.

But here’s the thing… although my circumstances have changed, the issues are really still the same.  It’s all about self-management.  So whether I’m in an office surrounded by hundreds or sitting at the kitchen table with only my four-legged friend at my feet, the administrative rabbit hole is real and you must resist it.

Here’s how:

  • Before you begin your day, determine your priorities.  You might set these priorities as you wrap up the previous day, in the shower that morning or sometime in between, but whatever you do define your priorities before you sit down and open that computer!
  • Pre-determine when you check email.  Manage your email, don’t allow your email to manage you.  You must determine your work flow and if you constantly react to email your day will be eaten away before you’ve even thought about lunch.
  • Map out your schedule each day.  I’m very competitive and goal-oriented so I begin each day by mapping out my time.  I account for every 30 minute window and then I challenge myself to stay on schedule. Putting time limits on tasks keeps me moving more quickly.  If I only have 30 minutes to check and respond to email it’s amazing how quickly I can clean out my inbox.
  • Change your scenery.  I can easily get antsy and bored and before long I lack focus simply because I’ve been in the same place for too long.  I think it was Mark Batterson who said, “Change of place + change of pace = change of perspective.”  If possible, change up where you work throughout the day.
  • Do what only you can do and do that first.  This hearkens back to the first point about determining priorities, but it’s worth repeating.  We get lost down the administrative rabbit hole because we lack the discipline to do the hard things first.  It’s easy to be lured by the sense of accomplishment of checking a few things off a list rather than spending time on the one major priority that only you can do.  Do the big things first.  Do the hard things first.  Do these things when you are fresh and energized.

What are your tricks of the trade for keeping yourself focused on the right priorities?

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One comment

  • Thelma Bowlen December 15, 2015  

    I started obsessively mind mapping since losing my job last week. I’ve dabbled with digital versions for years and found a course last month on sale on Udemy. I’ve shifted to notebooks and stacks of paper to mind map. Oh, and colored pens and colored pencils. It’s like a new world has opened up to me. My brain sees things I never did before. (I know, right? You’d think it was the best thing since sliced bread!)

    I didn’t plan this new season of freelancing but I’ve dreamed about it for years! I’m excited and scared. And keeping a timer to stay on tasks in between trips down the Rabbit Hole. Hey, they’re good for the soul in bite-size portions! It’s how I wandered over here. 🙂