Struggling with your weaknesses isn’t the path to success. Playing to your strengths is a better option.
When was the last time you struggled with a project, idea, or responsibility that you weren’t that great at? It’s frustrating!
I recently worked myself into the ground trying to do things that I wasn’t great at. I took on more projects than I could handle and agreed to do things that I knew I would struggle with. And I regretted every second of it. Eventually, I ended up in “burnout mode.”
Have you ever been there? When you wake up as tired as when you went to sleep? Think about that time you had zero motivation to do anything because you were so overwhelmed. There’s a fair to good chance that you were doing things that didn’t align with your strengths.
Only 20 Minutes…
For me, it was time management and project management. I’m great at systems, but sometimes I lie to myself, thinking I’m a superhero who can do it all.
I kept thinking to myself “That will only take an extra 20 minutes out of my day, I can handle that.”
But I needed that extra 20 minutes to unwind a bit, and then I accepted more responsibilities. I sustained my responsibilities for a little while, but finally crashed.
My list ended up looking a bit like this:
- Be a great husband and father.
- Focus on building an email list.
- Get booked out for 6 months in advance for tattoos.
- Help my wife build a business.
- Continue producing finished designs every week (on top of client drawing time).
- Stay active on social media.
- Produce videos for marketing – and edit them.
- Do a daily vlog.
- Write an article every week.
- Write a book on a tight deadline.
- Around 15 other things that would be impossible to do.
It was a recipe for disaster, and I didn’t have much on the list that was playing to my strengths.
I’m comfortable on video, but I’m not a great videographer or editor, just competent. I don’t love social media, but I use it. And I don’t have time to focus on my marketing if I’m doing 500 other projects.
I’d found myself in a horrible time sink, overwhelmed and exhausted, and I had to escape. If you’ve ever had thoughts of selling your possessions, going off the grid, and living like a hermit – you know exactly where I was.
Here’s how I got out of it.
Analyze your strengths.
The first step was analyzing things I enjoy doing. What are my strong suits? What are the things that I’m good at?
A great resource to find out your top 5 “themes” is the Cliffton Strengths Finder. I took this test ages ago and recorded my results.
It’s surprisingly accurate. My major strengths are:
You don’t need to take a quiz to find out what you’re naturally drawn to. Look at your past and find out a few themes that seem to make you happiest and most fulfilled. I’ve added “Parent” and “Artist” to my list of strengths because I always feel fulfilled when I’m doing family stuff or drawing. 🙂
Looking at my list, though, I didn’t see much on it that was playing to my strengths. It was time to take an inventory.
Taking a brutal inventory.
After I analyzed my list, I found that I was doing a lot of stuff that wasn’t in my “strength zone.”
I wasn’t giving myself time to learn something new, I didn’t have time to think, I couldn’t deliver on every commitment. Too many goals were falling short.
I had to change what I was doing before I found myself hiding under the blankets every morning, not wanting to face the day.
HOW to do it is the big question. Analyzing and taking inventory is great and all, but taking action is scary. Think about the last big decision you made involving your career or personal life. It was terrifying, even if it was exciting. Your brain is wired to keep up the status quo, even if the status quo is killing your soul.
Let’s short-circuit the fear, first.
Change the frame of what you’re doing.
Look through your list of responsibilities, then compare it to your list of strengths. I like to think, and I like to coach – so my book still “fits” pretty well. I left it (but I did cut back on the amount of time I was spending on it – more on that later).
If something on the list that just fits, leave it. Not scary at all, right?
Now, look through those lists again, and see if there’s a way to alter what you’re doing so it aligns with your strengths.
Vlogging, for instance, is a great platform for me to coach people. I can share life lessons, do a “talking head” video to educate people and offer advice. Again, it’s something that I considered leaving on the list because I can re-frame it.
Do this for every item, and be honest. If you can’t change your frame or alter the responsibility in a way that suits your strengths, it might be time to…
Remove or reduce the things that you’re not great at.
I’m much better at writing than I am at creating videos, so producing video needs to cut from my list or reduced.
I still want to use video as a coaching opportunity – the vlog. But it’s not something I want to produce a ton of for marketing. I was brutal with myself, here. It hurt, but I’ve decided to only produce ONE video per week for marketing, less than 5 minutes long.
My wife and I are still discussing the vlog, but it’s probably going to be a weekly release.
I also decided to cut out or postpone the email list building. Would I like to spread my message to more people? Most definitely, but it’s not a priority now, and it’s not playing to my strengths in a way that gets me motivated.
Rank what’s left.
Helping my wife build a business… I didn’t have time to pursue it in a way that was very effective, so I had to take a step back.
This is one of those things that I re-framed and reduced. Now, rather than having a very direct hand in the growth of her business, I’m more of a coach. It only takes a few hours every week instead of being half the driving force behind the business.
I don’t particularly enjoy social media, but it had to stay on the list. It’s how I generate leads for my tattooing. Simple is better, but it’s still high-priority. Gotta stay on top of social media.
The book is now a low priority, but still a project. I’m not giving up, but I’m not going to rush through it, either.
When it comes to creating designs, client art comes first. If that means I’m not going to have time to create finished “bonus” designs every week, that’s fine by me.
Being a husband and father is always my highest priority, so that stays on the list.
And everything else got cut. Relentlessly.
I still have a lot of work to do. And so do you.
I’m not going to lie to you – I’m still trying to get things under control. But this system is working for me. I work through this process every few days, asking myself “does this play to my strengths or will I struggle?”
And I still have to make sure I don’t take on too much. I’m happy to say I now have time to sit and think, I now have time to write, and I have time to learn.
I’m more fulfilled than I was 2 weeks ago. And that’s a huge boon to my productivity.
So, what would you do if you were playing to your strengths? How could you do more and feel better about what you were doing? Let me hear it in the comments!