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As a solo business owner, you have to embody many different personas. Sometimes you’re the CEO, sometimes you’re the writer, the editor, the designer, or the developer.
When do you switch from big picture to detail mode? When should you look up from your work and evaluate if you’re heading in the right direction?
Everyone has their own default mode. Some of us are naturally big-picture thinkers, others are more detail-focused. But we all have to work to excise the switching muscle.
We share some practical tips for switching to work mode and being a visionary alike. We talk about scheduling specific times of the day to focus on both (surprise! Matt and I have different approaches that both work), and we discuss whether or not you need to do the work you dislike in the beginning.
Highlights, Takeaways, Quick Wins
- Switching between big-picture and zoomed-in thinking is a muscle—you have to exercise it.
- When you come across an extra 15 minutes in your day, what are you doing with it? What are you focusing on?
- When you go into business, you’re going to need to do some of the hard work yourself first.
- Doing the work yourself means you set the quality precedent.
- Schedule focused work and get rid of all your distractions.
- In order to excel, you have to put the initial time into learning the different aspects of your business.
- Entrepreneurs aren’t just dreamers—they do the work.
- If you’re not checking that you’re going where you want to go, you’re going to end up where you don’t want to be.
- The difference between a big picture person and a dreamer is focus.
- Start with easier tasks to build momentum, confidence, and motivation to tackle the more daunting tasks.
- Be aware of your strengths and weaknesses.
- 07:46 Sean: Matt, what would you say is your default mode? Or have you gotten to the point where you don’t really have a default? Are you more big picture, or are you a head down, get the work done, details kind of guy?
- 07:59 Matt: It depends on the business and what level they’re at. If it’s a newer business, there are going to be certain things I’m going to be focusing on to get it traction. For something that’s a little more established, I’ll stick with the bigger picture because there’s someone managing the smaller details.
- 08:54 Sean: As solo business owners, we have to embody many personas. We have to be the CEO, writer, editor, designer, and developer. When do you switch from big picture mode to detail mode—from CEO to the worker?
- 09:19 Matt: It depends. In my position, with any of my businesses, it depends. In the morning, I’m the CEO; I’m the boss. When the day starts and I need to interact with clients or customers, I’m switching my hats. I might need to be a customer representative on the phone, a marketing person, an accountant, a billing person, or a construction worker. You have to be ready to move and switch hats.
Exercise the Zoom Muscle
- 10:05 Sean: Zooming in is a muscle and we all have different defaults. We were talking about this in the chat earlier, and a ton of people have a hard time switching between big picture and worker mode. It was split right down the middle: half of the people were focus-on-the-work types asking how to step back and think big picture, and the other half are the big picture people who want to see the future and zoom out, but are having a hard time actually getting the work done.
- 10:36 Everyone’s polarized, but what you need to be able to do is switch between the two. Switching between big-picture and zoomed-in thinking is a muscle. It’s just like working out. The zoom muscle is something you have to work out, too. If you haven’t been walking, running, or lifting weights in a while, it’s going to hurt. You’re going to be sore, and you’re not going to be able to lift your maximum, beat your best record, or reach your goal right off the bat. You have to exercise it.
Whether you’re a default worker or a big-picture person, you have to exercise that zoom muscle.
- 13:16 Matt, it sounds like you’re saying in the morning you’re a CEO type person, and a lot of people are wondering whether this oscillating should happen every day. “Every day, should I be the big picture guy too, or is it something I can check in with every once and a while? Or, if I am big picture, every once in a while should I actually go and do the work?”
- 13:43 Matt: I say that I’m a CEO in the morning because that’s when I look over everybody’s task list and see where everything is going. As the owner and leader of the group, I see whether this is really where we want to be putting our time and effort and whether this is the direction we want to go. At the end of the day, I put my CEO hat on again, and I look through everything that got done. Were there weather delays? Did people not show up? I go through problems, put out “fires,” and come up with solutions. I get ready for the next day. Ultimately, you’re always looking forward, because you don’t want to waste your time with something if you’re not sure it’s going to work out.
- 14:37 Sean: You zoom out to see if this is actually what you want to do and then execute on it.
- 14:41 Matt: Did you ever play Age of Empires? You’re zoomed into an area where a battle’s going on and you’re sending your troops in. You have villagers building your civilization, but there’s other things going on that you can’t see within your screen. You go to the other places or you look at the map to see what’s going on, represented by little dots. Similarly, with business, I’m always watching my map and seeing where all my dots are throughout the day. At the same time, in the morning and the evening, I’m strategizing. In the morning, I’m strategizing for the day, and at night, I strategize for the next day and the rest of the week.
Zooming Out Affects Your Money Mindset
- 16:23 Yesterday, we had a lot of delays because of the weather. We can’t even work in the interior because of the water and mud—it’s a mess. That puts me and my schedule behind, and every day I don’t have people work, I’m losing about $2,000. That’s just the house, not all the other stuff that gets destroyed with the weather. It’s not cheap. I’m losing pretty big, so I have to think how to make up that $2,000 or $3,000 in the next few days. To do that, I have to think bigger picture: are we going to work on a Saturday or Sunday? Are we doing an all-nighter?
- 17:25 Sean: One of my favorite numbers is 2,739. It sounds weird, but I like that number because $2,739 is the amount of money you need to make every day for a year to make a a million dollars. So, $2,000 a day is almost a million dollars a year rate.
- 18:46 If you think a million dollars is a lot of money, you might make $100,000. Laci and I were talking about money, and she said, “Thousands are like pennies to you.” That’s true in a way. You have to think big if you want to accomplish something big. If you think $10 million is a lot of money, you might get a million dollars. There are these zoom modes, though, and it switches. In the big picture mode, $1,000 are pennies to us, but on the flip side, we’re very smart with money.
- 19:50 Matt: I don’t throw $200,000 or $300,000 around to buy Lamborghinis or take vacations. I haven’t taken a vacation in a while. I don’t throw money away; I try to save money any way I can. I’m not as good as my wife, who will eat at home every single day because she’ll save a dollar or two.
- 20:24 Sean: It’s the mindset you’re in. I might be in a mindset of focusing and investing my time the right way so I can make this much money. If I focus my time on getting clients, consulting someone, revamping my autoresponder, or on navigating through this launch plan, we can make five or six figures as a result of that work. When I’m in that mindset and someone asks if I want to go to the grocery store and buy ingredients to cook, I don’t have time for that.
- 20:59 I’ll pay someone $25 to bring me a meal because I can make $2,500 with my time, and that’s the mindset I’m in. On the flip side, sometimes you do have to go into a mode where dollars and cents matter, whether that’s expenses, employees salaries, upgrading your systems, or talking about going to a bigger office. The difference between $2,000 a month and $2,500 a month matters. In one mindset, a couple hundred dollars isn’t a big deal, but you have to be smart.
Sometimes, you have to zoom in, where dollars and cents really do matter.
- 21:54 Matt: $2,000 a day may not be too big of a deal, but when you start losing $2,000 quite a bit, you’re not going to hit your million.
- 22:06 Sean: $2,000 is low when you’re thinking in terms of, “Can I focus on something else that will make me $20,000?”
- 22:30 Matt: People think that having someone take your dry cleaning that would take you 30 minutes to do is stupid and a waste of money, but if you’re willing to pay $20 on that so you can make $20,000, it’s worth having that focus. If we have other people do the stuff that can be done for us, it’ll benefit not only us but others around us.
Make the Most of Your Time
- 23:23 Sean: Matt, you said that you like to start out the day as the CEO with a big picture overview. This isn’t a right or wrong answer thing—it’s how we’re able to operate. I tend to start with execution, but it’s not as different as it seems. The night before, I’m big picture and I plan what I’m going to execute in the morning. I just like using those first hours as highly focused execution time. I wake up, and I’ve got a blank document open that says what I’m going to be writing on because I already thought about that. I milk whatever I can out of those first productive hours. I write for a blogpost or courses and for the next couple hours I write for the shows.
- 25:19 In Gary Vee’s latest video he had jury duty. He had to clear his day because he had to do this. He was basically saying if you’ve got your day full and something falls through giving you an extra 15 minutes, you probably spend that 15 minutes relaxing and enjoying your free time on social media. Gary is hustling. He got a lunch break from jury duty and called up some people to make a video right then.
What are you doing with an extra 15 minutes in your day?
What are you focusing on?
- 26:36 Matt: I’m milking every second out of the day. From the time I get up, I have text messages and emails to go through—that’s why I have to put my CEO hat on—because everybody’s waiting for their task list. We’re talking about over 100 people who are waiting for instructions. I have three assistants who help me put together those task lists. I quickly send them revised versions of their current task lists. I’m doing that, putting out fires throughout the day, and at the end of the day, I’m preparing for the next day and structuring everything the way it needs to be. Sometimes, you have to be the CEO in the tux. Other times, you put on your janitor suit to clean up after people.
- 27:47 Sean: Switching into work mode, wanting to make the best of your time, and switching back into big picture mode, that’s where it’s really hard. That’s why I try to prepare so that in the morning, I’m executing, and then I’m done—I finish the show. Cory comes in and prepares the episodes to get synced to Aaron to get edited to get synced to Laci or Kristiana to do shownotes to get put on the website. During that time, I’m writing excerpts, taglines, and newsletter conclusions to sync into Dropbox for when the episode goes out.
- 28:28 At that point, either I have more things to write on—I’m writing thousands of words a day—and I have a project to keep executing on, so I keep that rhythm, or it’s big picture time. In the afternoon, the nice thing is I can go into that big picture time. I talk with the team, see what they need, and strategize. I do get to a big picture mode at some point in the day. I typically don’t go a day without going to big picture mode, but it is a varying thing.
- 29:25 You have these different zoom modes: zooming out, big picture, zooming in, focus on the details, and get the work done. It’s just like with a camera. In order to get these different zooms, you interchange lenses. Maybe you have a 35mm or an 85mm, or even a 200mm to get in nice and close. Every day, I do some sort of big picture mode and we call it bean bag time. We step back and think about this: what are we doing? Where are we going? Are we going where we want to be going? Are we making the progress we want to be making and is it progress on the right things? We do that daily when we can, but sometimes we go a few days without it.
- 30:11 Matt: It doesn’t have to be every day. You just always have to be looking ahead and makin sure you’re going in the right direction. You’re supposed to be getting to your Lambo Goal. Are you on the right path and doing the necessary things, even if they’re small, to get there?
- 30:31 Sean: Are you actually doing something every day? We talk about showing up every day and the reason you have your 20 steps is because you’re going to work on them every day (Related: e10 20 Steps to Building an Empire). Today, did you do one of those things? Then, are the results happening? If not, if you’re starting to veer off and you don’t like where this is going, course-correct and reevaluate.
- 31:00 Matt: Overview—you hit the bean bag and you say, “The numbers aren’t where I thought they’d be by executing this way. Let’s try this other way and see if the numbers go in our favor.”
- 31:13 Sean: In the morning, imagine a macro lens for a camera. I’m really close up on the details; I’m focused, I’m getting this done, I’m all about this one thing. Bean bag time is like the 35mm lens. It’s about stepping back, seeing the big picture, and figuring out what we’re doing. Then I have a 85mm, and that’s once a week. I still work on the weekends, but I’m a little more introspective. How are things going? How is everyone on the team? How’s our progress? That’s where I get ideas. If we want to get where we want to be in one month by this deadline we set, I’m going to have to not record podcasts next week. Okay, how do we remedy that situation? Do we want to not put episodes out? We do want to put episodes out, so let’s get creative. You’re interchanging these different zoom lenses.
- 32:41 Zoom out. For me, the most zoomed out is Small Scale Sabbaticals. Every seven weeks, we have a week period where we’re really thinking about everything. Are we even working on the right projects at all? Should we get rid of things? Should we change a show or a frequency? 2020 is going to be the seventh year from when I started doing this.
- 33:15 We’ll see, but I’m thinking I’ll take the year off. I’m not saying that I won’t do anything, but this would be the really far zoom. That’s where you’re asking things like: am I fulfilling my purpose? Is this the business I want to have? Am I accomplishing the things I want to accomplish in life? Am I making the sacrifices I should? Am I spending adequate amounts of time with the people I care about? Am I even reaching the people I want to reach? I change out the lenses of these zoom modes at different frequencies.
How can I Manage Big Picture Expectations in the Beginning?
- 34:33 Ben asks, “I really like the idea of scaling and delegating tasks, so when I think big picture, I imagine a point in time where I have a team of people working with me doing the stuff I shouldn’t be doing so I can focus on the stuff I should be doing. While I realize it’s healthy to delegate tasks and build a team at some point, I worry that the big picture is causing me to feel frustrated and discontent with the reality that I will need to do those tasks in the beginning, some of which I really dislike doing. How do I manage my feelings and shift my mindset regarding those tasks I’m not very excited about, but need to do in the beginning?”
- 35:13 He wants to be big picture and to think about the stuff he shouldn’t be doing—what he should be delegating—but he’s not there yet. He’s dealing with the feelings of doing the things he doesn’t like in the beginning. Have you ever found yourself in that position, Matt? You want to think big about growing your business, but you find yourself facing the work you know you should be delegating but can’t delegate yet.
- 35:47 Matt: Definitely. I’m such a perfectionist that it’s hard for me to hand off my different “babies” because I know other people won’t do what I think is correct. I end up doing a lot of the stuff myself, and I had them watch me. Hopefully, they kind of get the idea after shadowing me to know how I would do it. Lots of times, I would rather look at the bigger picture than do the work, but I have to do the work or I’m going to fall behind and it’s going to be a mess. I tell myself that the reward after I do this will be the overview or bean bag time. It will be my break.
- 36:37 Lot’s of times, I’ll think about how if I don’t get something done in the next few hours all these things are going to fall apart. I think about the people I would let down if I let certain things go. Whatever you have to do and tell yourself to motivate yourself to get those things done, do those things. There are things I hate doing every day, but my accountant thinks it’s important, so I do it.
Switching to Work Mode
- 37:57 Sean: Gonçalo asks, “Is there a way to spend less time zoomed in and more time in the big picture, like delegating and automating, without loosing quality in the service or product provided? How do you deal with delegation and not having people do the work with the same quality?” Different owners do this differently, but my focus is on quality, and he’s also feeling this.
- 38:29 You have to do the work yourself first. You have to know how you want to manage your own money and you have to spend the time understanding finances. Tim Duncan, the basketball player for the Spurs, had millions stolen from him by his financial guy. Duncan’s an overly nice, passive guy. In his own words, he’s overly trusting of people. He imagines that everyone is as good hearted and has as good of intentions as he has, and the problem is people aren’t. When you aren’t putting in the diligence to learn something, to do the hard work you don’t like in the beginning, you’re going to be putting a lot of trust in someone if you bring them on.
- 39:48 If I don’t at least understand development, I’m putting a lot more trust in the developer I bring on. “I don’t know anything at all about code, but I want you to do this for me.” That’s not a great idea. If I want my accountant to handle all my accounts and investments and I know nothing about the stock market or finances, that’s not very smart.
When you go into business, you need to do the work yourself.
Get dirty and do the hard work.
- 40:20Learn coding, design, and finances. We’re not talking about being a jack of all trades, but go into the different parts of your business and get dirty there. When you’re able to do something to start, you set the quality precedent. Then, when you bring someone on, they’ll need to live up to your precedent. Even if they’re not as good as you in that area, at least you worked so hard that the standards you set will allow them to hit 90% of that and be good. In a lot of cases, because it’s their sole focus, they’ll get even better than you were.
- 41:08 Matt: In every business, there are always going to be things you’re not going to feel comfortable with. There are a lot of things in my business that I dread, especially in the beginning. I did them and I learned them and hated learning about them, but looking back I can see it was the best thing for me. Now, I have an understanding of how the basics of these different things work. With every new business I start, I learn. I just started a flooring business and I took a class on how to do flooring. I’m probably never going to have to do it, but now I know how long it takes and different problems that could happen. Put in the time initially to learn those things. You’ll learn where the quality should be so you can set those expectations.
- 42:27 Sean: Last night, I was watching the classic Steve Jobs and Bill Gates interview. Bill mentioned something about the operating systems and what different modules needed in order to load to run different programs, and Steve was nodding. These guys run multi-billion dollar companies, but they understand that stuff. They don’t need to be the ones in there developing operating systems, but they understand it.
- 43:05 Bill Gates wouldn’t be who he is and wouldn’t have built the company he built if he wasn’t the guy doing work in the beginning. He eventually became the overseer, but he’s not just a hired out project manager. He understands; he’s gotten his hands dirty. Understanding those limitations has allowed him to bring on the right types of people, and the same is true for Steve Jobs.
In order to excel,you have to put the initial time into learning the different aspects of your business.
- 43:34 Matt: When you do bring on other people, then you know what they need to do and ways in which they might be trying to take advantage of you. I’ve had multiple people steal from me because I didn’t fully understand what their job needed to be about and different expenses that were unnecessary. I would have never known had I not gone through those things. I’ve never lost money through a financial advisor because I do the majority of my finances myself. Because I started learning about stocks at the age of 12, whenever my friends or family’s financial advisors are giving them advice, they always call me for my opinion.
- 44:45 The only reason I can give them financial advice is because I’ve put in the time. I don’t do stocks often now, but I still make money on them. I have other people running that for me, and they’re way better than I am now. They’ve made me and themselves more money, but it all started with me putting in the time.
Schedule Focused Work
- 46:06 Sean: For the person who’s big picture, here’s a practical tip that’s worked for me. It’s hard for me to get work done in the middle of the day when I’ve already gone to that big picture mode and I’m overseeing things. It has helped me to use a Pomodoro Timer. It’s a 25 minute timer that uses the concept of 25 minutes of focus and then a five minute break. You measure things out and do them in “pomodoros,” or focused bursts.
- 46:46 I don’t end up usually needing to do multiple pomodoros, because the concept of the first one helps me get into that focused mode and then I’m good. Get rid of all your distractions. Say your inbox is full and you keep putting off replying, you say, “Right now I’m going to schedule a pomodoro time. I’m going to focus.” You set a timer, put your phone in airplane mode, close all your other windows, and you get as much done as you can in 25 minutes. Turn the timer on and go.
- 47:28 For me, it’s a mental thing. All I’m going to do is this one task and I’m going to do it for 25 minutes. Once your 25 minutes in, you’re on a roll. You don’t want to do the other emails later; you want to get all of them. That’s how it works for me and I encourage you to try it.
- 47:57 Matt: I usually do 30 minutes intervals of work and then phone time. I do 30 minutes of focused work and then I’m on the phone for 30 minutes.
- 48:11 Sean: I’ve noticed that. I’ll text you, and you don’t get back immediately. You’re not available whenever; you go into focused periods when you’re unavailable.
- 48:23 Matt: I feel kind of bad because sometimes my family will text me saying they have a flat tire, and I’ll text one of my guys with their location. I try and focus as much as possible, because life can be chaotic in general. When you throw business in there, being focused and getting things done is really challenging. Being a CEO or an entrepreneur means there are so many things to do, so you have to be productive.
- 48:53 There’s no better feeling at the end of the day then to look back on what you did and feel good, to know that you got everything done you really needed to do. If you got all your high priority stuff done, that’s a great day. This is why we work as hard as we can and we focus as much as we can and try to eliminate distractions. I know a lot of entrepreneurs who are trying to get off the ground, and their biggest struggle is just staying focused. I always tell them about your Focus on What Matters poster, Delegate time to focus. Their problem is that they’re putting YouTube videos on or have music playing in the background and trying to work at the same time.
- 49:57 Sean: You’ve got to schedule this stuff. The difference between a big picture person and a dreamer is focus. You might think you’re an entrepreneur because you have big ideas, but:
Entrepreneurs aren’t just dreamers—they do the work.
- 50:13 You can envision this being a company where you can delegate tasks you shouldn’t do, but don’t be so focused on how you shouldn’t be doing these tasks that you never actually do them. Recognize the tasks you shouldn’t be doing and get help on those, but you still have to do them in the beginning. Otherwise, you’re just a dreamer, not a big picture person and you’re not going to accomplish anything. You have to do the work and then delegate it later down the line.
- 50:43 Matt: Don’t be so arrogant that you think you’re above doing shownotes or data entry. I hear that so much from young visionary entrepreneurs. They’ve never done anything, but they want to do all these things. You need to just pick something and do it. You might fail, but that’s part of being an entrepreneur—learning from your mistakes and going forward. Sean and I have made so many mistakes because we’re trying to get to a ridiculous goal and we’re trying to build our businesses. We’re going to fail and make mistakes, certain things might not work, and we’re going to readjust our focus. The majority of things in business are uncomfortable, but you do them anyway to be successful (Related: e012 Outside of Your Comfort Zone is Where You Make Money).
Switching to Big-Picture Mode
- 52:13 Sean: For me, thinking big picture starts with scheduling bean bag time. Bean bag time is sitting back and thinking about what you’re doing and where you’re going. You’ve got to have a reflection time. In Minecraft, you’re underground and trying to dig in a certain direction. Your goal is to dig this tunnel and make it cool with different turning passages that end up at the edge of your castle. If you’re down there for hours or days and you get to the end of your tunnel and you don’t see your castle, it’s because you didn’t check often enough to see if you’re going where you want to be going.
- 54:00 You have to have check points. If your tunnel is going to align with your castle, you need to pop your head up once in a while and see where you are. You need to see what’s going on out in the real world, and you want to see if your business underground is aligning with where you want to be on ground level.
If you’re not checking that you’re going where you want to go, you’re going to end up where you don’t want to be.
Schedule the Mode Switch
- 54:48 Terence asks, “What’s a good frequency to step back and see the big picture? Once a week? Once a month?” Think in terms of zoom lenses. You have a quick, daily bean bag check, an every weekend check, an every sabbatical check, etc. To a degree, it’s like your regular routine of walking or working out. You have different kinds of workouts you do at different times. Maybe you work out once a day, but one day a week is your really hard training day and once a month you do a longer run. You have different levels.
- 55:45 Matt: I’m always keeping an eye out, because I’m thinking long-game. It’s a curse and a blessing at the same time, because some of the stuff I do doesn’t pay anything because it’s the long-game mindset. Every day, I look at the next day. At the end of the week, I reflect on the next week and the month generally. Twice a month, I consider the whole year. As I’m going, I’m thinking bigger picture; I tend to have a lot of bean bag time because I have so much stuff going on. To get away from the chaos, I take that time to sit and I make mental notes.
- 56:48 The best time is white board time. That definitely has to happen. Since I keep starting businesses, I have to do whiteboard time and figure out what the plan is. What is the daily, monthly, and yearly plan for this business and how is it going to be incorporated into the overall picture? Try to do whiteboard time in some way every week, where you mentally go over everything and see where your frustrations are and why.
- 58:29 Sean: Brookes asks, “Is there a way to tell if you’ve been zoomed in for too long or that you’ve always been zoomed in? How can you get clarity on the big picture?” Where are you going? If you’re digging underground, do you know where you are above ground right now? If you know that, you’re fine. Keep your head down and do the work. If you’re writing, do you know what you’re writing for? Why are you writing this blogpost? Why are you working on this course? Why you’re sending out this newsletter? If you know that, keep doing the work. If you start questioning that, it’s a sign you’ve been zoomed in too long.
- 59:22 Cory Miller says, “I have a tendency to think too much about the execution of things and how to get tasks done, rather than looking at what they will produce. It causes me to be someone who is quickly negative about big ideas because the process of accomplishing them seems too daunting. How can I swing back into the big picture role without becoming too zealous and dreaming up things that are not accomplishable?” It’s this pendulum swing of focusing on the details but not being too focused, and wanting to switch to big picture without being over-zealous.
- 59:56 Matt: It’s scary. We’re trying to get a Lambo and that’s not an easy task. That’s daunting. Sean and I know there are a ton of steps to get the Lambo, so you just can’t get scared of all the steps you have to do. Take a breath and figure out the steps you need to do and get them done. Gary Vee was talking about this and encouraged people to think of it as having ten steps to get through the day: five tasks that are small and five that are large that you really need to get done.
Start with easier tasks to build momentum, confidence, and motivation to tackle more daunting tasks.
- 01:01:20 Sean: Dane says, “I feel like I have a big picture mindset already as my default personality. The problem for me is I feel like I need to actively focus on the work at hand. Is it worth it for me to set aside big picture mode time if it distracts me from what I need to be doing?” Be aware of your strengths and weaknesses. If you’re a default big picture guy, you probably don’t have to put much into thinking big picture. You’re going to get to the end of your day and you’re going to fall back on that. It’s like glasses; some people need glasses to see far and some people need them to see close. If you can read, don’t worry about finding glasses for reading. Focus correcting your own weakness.