Do your small business plans get mired by rabbit holes?

Have you ever had one of those “going down the rabbit hole” days? It happens to everyone. This can be particularly problematic, though, for small business owners who are poor at creating systems to delegate day-to-day operations. Guilty. Sometimes the way you tackle small business plan fails can make the difference between a successful day and weeks mired in procrastination.

Most of my rabbit holes seem to come on the tech front, all at once, across multiple devices. Often, I don’t even know there’s an issue until someone else is kind enough to send an alert. Other times it’s painfully obvious. Usually, once I get around to addressing a hiccup, it’s urgent. Tackling tech issues is one of those to do list items I tend to postpone, so my work plans get disrupted in a big way once smallish issues become big problems. Can you relate?

Let’s hope challenges come in threes

A friend cited a voice mail message she left the night before. I didn’t get it – at least not on my phone. Figured I’d better *86 it to confirm it wasn’t an issue on my end. It was. Of course, first I had to look up how to access voice mail remotely.

Ooops. Imagine my scramble when I discovered this had been a problem for weeks. Don’t ask me how I didn’t notice voice mail stopped. I guess I just figured I was being incredibly efficient with clients and friends & family were busy with lives that didn’t involve me for a spell.

The first message I dealt with related to over $5,000 in fraudulent charges on a new credit card. Oh joy, I’m now talking to India. An hour later of mostly lost in translation conversation, I was told only a local bank branch could resolve this issue. Yippee, more unanticipated run-around time. Verizon couldn’t resolve the voice mail issue remotely either.

small business plan fails can lead to rabbit holes
Going down the rabbit hole comes from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Traditionally it’s used as a metaphor signaling the start of a very strange journey that gets more chaotic as it unfolds. Today, people often use the phrase to indicate losing time due to distractions that start in one place but wind up somewhere very different. Internet “research” is often cited as a big culprit.

At the same time, my computer went so wonky, I couldn’t keep a document on screen or a cursor typing on the same line for more than a couple of seconds. I tried to resolve this months earlier with a local professional. He couldn’t find the cause. Now, the screen shifts had escalated to strobe light speed. My figurative headache quickly morphed in to a literal one. As soon as this outrageously expensive computer is out of warranty, it’s getting recycled. For now, I’m losing half days trying to get on the phone with Dell for a fix. Hurray, it’s India again.

Addressing small business plan fails  

Sound familiar? Sometimes the days we block off for productive work get waylaid by messes we didn’t create. When this happens, it usually makes sense to focus on urgent client needs while asking for time to move the rest to another day. If you’ve built a good relationship with your customers, most will be understanding and accommodating – provided you let them know what’s going on.

You’ll save a lot of time and stress addressing critical, unexpected business issues immediately. The longer you wait to fix such challenges, the more time you’ll spend later playing catch-up or making excuses for poor performance. Of course, there are times when I feel so flooded with crisis I can’t think straight. That’s usually a good moment for me check out and cook a meal. Or to take a nap. Sometimes it’s best to retreat so you can come back with a (re)fresh(ed) perspective to better address small business plan fails.

Reconsider your fallback

For many years, my first instinct was to start cancelling things important to me. That meant my social, spiritual, physical and intellectual activities suffered. I try not to do that anymore. Those things that seemed superfluous provided the energy, enthusiasm, recharge and creative mindset necessary to get through the challenges.

Sure, when you’re faced with crisis, the easiest answer seems to be to eliminate all non-urgent activities from your schedule. If you cancel what gives you joy too much, your business will suffer.

The rest of the story

Ultimately, I decided to spend a few hours completing urgent client work, then blocked off the rest of the day to deal with the unpleasantness of technology fails. I knew I’d lose a lot more time procrastinating and stressing out if I postponed these tasks to another day.

The credit card issue was relatively easy, for me, anyway. I scheduled an appointment with a bank employee (“I’ll have this resolved in ten minutes”). I left at about the 30-minute mark when my banker said he could finish without me. It was a first for him in dealing with the joys of the bank’s India customer service arm. Two hours later he sent me an email indicating he finally found success.

Verizon was a disaster. After more than an hour of wasted time at the local shop, I left with the original problem unresolved along with more features now not working.  A clerk who didn’t know what she didn’t know pressed buttons with abandon. Her ultimate suggestion was to purge everything from my phone then upgrade to a more costly service plan. I decided to pass. I can live with the minor inconvenience of calling in for voicemail and live without the features she corrupted. The time involved in manually loading everything currently on my phone isn’t worth it.

Dell’s still a work in progress. Dozens of hours later and four different customer service reps (yep, India again) I’m able to work without documents coming and going like disco ball lights, but the cursor’s still bouncing around. Perhaps I won’t wait out the warranty on this one. Time’s money, after all.

Sometimes the answer is to do what you can to find a fix then let go of what you can’t control and move on.

How about you?

Do you spend more time procrastinating a task than it would take to finish it? Can you live with a solution that’s not ideal? Do you have a device you’re looking forward to taking a hammer to? Do you find rabbit holes a delightful opportunity for learning? Have you found a trick for avoiding rabbit holes? What’s your biggest challenge leading to small business plan fails? Please do share in comments below.

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