Amy Rees Anderson: The entrepreneur's addiction and taking on massive projects

By Amy Rees Anderson

For the Deseret News

Published: Friday, Feb. 8 2013 10:46 a.m. MST

Trying to pick and choose which things to put first can be one of the most challenging parts of each day.

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Editor's note: This article originally appeared on Forbes.com

Some days I get really frustrated at the fact that there are a million things that need to get done, yet there are just not enough hours in the day to do them all. Trying to pick and choose which things to put first can be one of the most challenging parts of each day. It’s even more difficult when all of the things you would like to do are really good things that all have the ability to make a difference in the world. I find myself wanting to be able to do every good thing all at once. Yet, I am constantly reminding myself that I am just one person and that would be impossible. Oh, if only we could clone ourselves and be in 50 places at once, accomplishing everything that we desire to accomplish in this life.

There’s no perfect answer on how to pick which projects to focus on first. I am still learning how to do that in my life. It is especially hard now that I have more freedom to choose what to do with my time, which is ironic, because you’d think the opposite to be true. Weird, huh? Maybe it’s difficult because for the first time in my life it’s no longer about what I “have to do” but what I “want to do.” While doing those things that had to be done for so many years, my list of things that I wanted to do just kept growing and growing, until it was ready to burst at the seams. There is a need to pick and choose which things on the “want to do” list get to come first — even though I really wish I could do all of them all at once.

Clearly, patience has never been one of my best virtues, which helped me be a good entrepreneur but a terrible prioritizer. In my mind, everything is priority No. 1. Everything needs to get done yesterday. I tend to set ridiculously short timelines on projects for myself in order to get as many things done each day as possible. Is it wrong to do that? I don’t know. It has certainly helped me to be successful in my professional life. At the same time, it comes at a price, and I have to stop and ask myself at what point is it OK to slow down a little?

Last night, I met with Alan Hall, one of my great mentors in my life. He is incredibly accomplished with many more years of experience and still going a million miles an hour, even though he stopped having to work years ago. As we sat talking, I asked him why he hasn’t slowed down in his life — why keep taking on such massive projects that are incredibly draining on his time? His answer was simple and one that I could relate to completely — he doesn’t know how. “It’s addicting,” he said. And he is right. It is addicting.

When you have pushed yourself as an entrepreneur for years and years, it becomes an absolute habit and part of your very makeup. And then, suddenly, when you no longer have to do it, there’s a massive increase — not a decrease — in your energy level because now you are able to focus on all the things you are excited to work on. Nothing is more energizing than that — it’s the best adrenaline rush there is. As he said, “It’s addicting.” More and more I am recognizing that if I don’t control that addiction, it will control me.

Yes, it’s great to tackle all the amazing things on our “want to do” lists, but it’s also important to not overlook the other aspects of life that matter most — in my case, my husband, my two kids, my parents and my extended family. I know that when this life is over, no matter what amazing things I have accomplished, not one of them will ever have as much meaning to me as my accomplishments with my own family.

So, I am working each day to be careful to control this addiction. Like all addictions, I have been amazed at how hard it can be to control. But they say the first step is to admit there is a problem, which I now do very openly. (What better platform than Forbes.com?) I am still working on figuring out the second step, but I will definitely let you know when I get there. I just hope that by being open about this struggle in my own life, others out there will gain insights that will help them, so at least some good can come out of my going through this.

The bottom line is there are only 24 hours in a day and that is an unchangeable fact. (The sick part is I totally would change that if I could to allow for more time to get even more done. I really do have a problem, don’t I?).

Before I do anything, I should probably go ahead and check myself into a rehab center for people who work too much — somewhere with a nice beach where the sun is shining and they bring you little virgin drinks with the cute umbrellas in them. Oh, and one that has a spa on-site! Now we are talking! I believe I’ve just discovered step two of my recovery!

Have a balanced and prioritized day!

Amy Rees Anderson is the Founder and Managing Partner of REES Capital, a Mentoring and Angel Investing Firm. Contact her at amy@reescapital.com or follow her daily blog at www.amyreesanderson.com/blog

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