J is for Juggling

The most frequent complaint I hear from clients is that they are juggling too many things at once. It is a familiar refrain, though the picture shifts slightly from one profession to another. Meeting with clients, managing projects, marketing, keeping up with billing and bookkeeping—there is too much of everything to do. When time gets tight it’s usually the “new kid on the block” that gets dropped: learning to use that new software, or moving forward with a web presence plan.

But there is a problem with the juggling metaphor: a juggler mostly stays in one place, dealing with the same stream of flying objects for as long as possible. There is no forward progress in juggling, no goal other than duration, and no exit plan except for dropping the balls or throwing them to someone else. So when a client complains about too much juggling, my response is always: Does all that juggling move you toward your long-term goals, or keep you standing still? If your daily routine does not also include actions to help position yourself in a year, two years, or five years from now, then you may as well learn to like it because in the long run nothing is going to change.

Those who are already successful and want to make the leap toward being influential tend to have more difficulty than most in shifting focus. These people typically have a very active Rolodex and have done quite well on the strength of their contacts and experience. They know how to bring in work and have fine-tuned their daily routines to keep that flow going. With strong real-time networking skills and relationships they don’t really need a web presence plan to help them stay successful, but they do if they want to build influence by having their ideas to catch fire in a wider circle. The question is, how?

Having a strong web presence doesn’t just mean putting up a website anymore, though that is a strong platform to have working for you. It means creating a dynamic stream of thoughts and ideas through a social media channel and leveraging that content on at least two separate platforms. Linking the two platforms and feeding the stream consistently creates the traction that builds your influence.

Social media channels like Twitter, Google+, Facebook, and Quora are all great choices for creating that dynamic stream of content, as are the many blog platforms available. Choose one or two at the most that have the most relevance for your expertise and skillset. It is no longer a difficult task to bring the feed from any of these sites into a static website, LinkedIn profile, or Facebook page. Once these links are established they keep working for you, and you can concentrate on feeding the content stream.

The myth of using social media is that it takes all your time. While it certainly can expand beyond the time allotted for it, there is no reason why it has to, and this is where disciplined people with a focused plan have the advantage. There are many strategies for creating a content stream that people want to pay attention to, and not all involve doing everything yourself. Here are just a few possibilities:

If you are good at collecting links that you want to publish, hire somebody to turn your links into short blog posts or tweets. Google Docs are your friend—if you want to post things yourself but don’t like searching for the relevant links, hire somebody to browse the web and create a Google Doc with links for you to post. Or create a Doc listing of blog post topics and have someone create rough drafts based on each one; you can then fine-tune the content and post.

Taking a more active role on social media, follow the thought leaders in your own or related industries, and join those conversations already taking place. It is a good idea to consult with someone who will coach you on establishing the right tone and etiquette. In the long run, your reputation hinges as much on how you say something as what you choose to say. If you don’t have the patience to be prudent in your online communication, hire an intern or assistant who does.

The good news is that effective engagement in social media can be reduced to a series of small steps that don’t have to take much time. The bad news is that it is easy to get mired in the details and lose sight of the big picture. So the first and most important thing to do when you are juggling lots of balls is to re-affirm your central mission. Keep your web presence plan lean, and whittle away everything that is not directly connected to your ultimate goal. Once you have the system in place, stick with what works. Don’t start more than you can maintain, and for heaven’s sake keep your eye on the ball!

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