Editor’s Note: Each week Maynard Webb, former CEO of LiveOps and the former COO of eBay, will offer candid, practical, and sometimes surprising advice to entrepreneurs and founders. To submit a question, write to Webb at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q. I’m having trouble figuring out how to manage everything. I have a lot going on that’s important to me and I have a lot of incoming requests—some feel like obligations and some seem interesting. I’m not sure what to focus on or prioritize.
Harried executive in year two of Covid
There’s no shortage of things the world wants from you and wants you to do. If you are not careful you will get pulled. There’s a balance to dedicating time and attention to things you have to do while saving time for serendipity that might open up things that would be engaging and fun.
I try to ensure I allocate the time and resources on things that matter most to me. I think of these as anchor tenants, like the big retailers in shopping malls that took up the most space, captured the largest attention, and generated the greatest returns. By naming your anchor tenants you know what to focus on first. For example, my top three anchor tenants are my family, the Webb Investment Network, and the company boards I serve. There are other things that are also important to me like my foundation and my writing that I dedicate consistent time to.
What are your anchor tenants that will get your attention first? And what two to three other areas are your priorities? Defining this will help you manage what is most important.
One thing to note: these things change with time. While what you have defined as your anchor tenants are top priority for a time, sometimes it can be transient. There are things that happen that demand your attention, but that could be temporary. I recently experienced this when I made a change with a company I was partnering with for an important service. The search for a new team was consuming on many levels but once it was solved it freed me up to focus on other important things.
Ultimately you want to be able to get to a steady state—it is great to be able to spend a little bit of time on things and make progress without a Herculean amount of effort. This enables you to focus on other priorities and can even open time to add another anchor tenant.
You can’t do everything, but you have capacity to do more than you may think you can do. Start by focusing on what is most important right now. Therefore, you have to be judicious in deciding what is an anchor tenant and booting the things that were once priorities or soul food but no longer are. It’s about prioritization; don’t feel badly about saying no to things you can’t do. It’s the freedom to allow you to do something else—something that you’ve defined as more important and meaningful.