Updated: Apr 9
Written by: Virpi Tervonen, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
Following this one process, you can leave behind the tasks and activities that push you downhill in relation to your energy, health, and joy. Instead, you get to claim your dream of greater entrepreneurial freedom, living a work-life that is fascinating, productive, and satisfying.
If the company you founded and successfully built has turned boring or makes you feel trapped in increasingly irritating tasks, you are not alone. It’s common among entrepreneurs who started their business using their creativity and innovative capability to materialize their vision.
Instead of spending their time and attention to create exciting breakthroughs, they find themselves in a rut when it comes to managing their personal and professional work time. They are constantly distracted by the unrelenting demands of other people and worthless activities.
Their experience of reality does not match the reason why they started their business: Entrepreneurial Freedom.
The Great Freedom Extender
Entrepreneurial freedom is greater freedom to continually create your own future based on your biggest vision. This is so appealing that anyone who becomes an entrepreneur takes risks that most other people aren’t willing to take. But they do it anyway because of the potential greater freedom.
First and foremost, entrepreneurial freedom is greater freedom of time. It allows you to devote your time to whatever you choose to, both at work and outside of work. Whenever you make a choice on how you spend your time, it’s also a decision about how to not spend it, what do you say “no” to.
Entrepreneurial freedom brings greater freedom to create cash flow and wealth. There isn’t any upper limit or restriction on that on an entrepreneurial path.
Furthermore, entrepreneurial freedom gives greater freedom to work with the people you want to work with, including clients, team members, peers, and vendors.
Most importantly, an entrepreneurial company allows greater freedom of purpose. Entrepreneurial companies are not just business careers. They are vehicles for increasingly living your life the way you want to live it and achieving the things that are most important to you.
In other words, entrepreneurs have a higher level of choices on what they are going to work on, who they are going to work with, and in what kind of situations they are going to be in. They do this by creating their own opportunities and being alert and creative with the existing ones.
Why Do Many Entrepreneurs Feel Trapped in Irritating Activities?
So, since there is greater freedom, why do many entrepreneurs never claim their dream of this greater freedom, living a work-life that is fascinating, productive, and satisfying?
Why do so many get trapped on the ‘hell island’ of being busy with activities that push them downhill in relation to their energy, health, and joy in every area of life?
As a Transformational Business Strategist and Coach to Entrepreneurs, I often work with business owners who have one or more of the following issues preventing them from arriving on their ‘paradise island.’
#1 Operating with Outdated ‘Work Ethic’ Beliefs
From the time we were children, we were told what to do. This is necessary, considering how little knowledge we have about this world when we are just a few years old.
We get conditioned to be suitable for the culture we were born in. We are also given the message that if we keep doing things - also things we don’t like - we end up becoming good at them and, eventually, liking these activities. Which almost never happens. Instead, many go from hating the activity to hating themselves.
The belief that we must keep doing things that we dislike or are not good at, constantly “pushing through,” is an outdated conclusion that many formed in the past, sometimes decades ago in their childhood.
As an entrepreneur, you don’t have to accept the outmoded belief there are irritating tasks that everyone just has to do. If you do, it can make you frustrated and even depressed. It can lead you to procrastinate. It can also erode your self-worth because you end up achieving little to nothing of high importance to you.
#2 They Have Outgrown Themselves or Their Business
Many entrepreneurs have outgrown certain aspects of their business or themselves without realizing it.
It can make them feel uncertain about which direction to go, how to get ahead, and which decisions are right for them. They often feel scattered, dissatisfied, and start doubting themselves and their choices.
In these circumstances, many entrepreneurs resort to a hyperactive working style. It’s their way to buffer any unpleasant emotions they don’t know how to respond to.
Instead of renewing their identity as the natural, internal growth process of an entrepreneur, they put lots of energy and effort into doing lots of things. In this obsessive process of trying to find their way by doing it all, they disconnect from their ability to discern the few vital areas in their business.
Everything appears important. That diverges them from what they love and are best at doing.
#3 Inapt Time Management Systems
Many entrepreneurs use time management systems that big corporations use.
The majority of these systems are not suitable for an entrepreneurial working environment. They were designed for corporate people who lack the level of choices entrepreneurs have regarding their work activities, time, and people. If anything, most time management systems try to make the long-suffering into a shorter one by showing how to do things you dislike, quicker.
On the contrary, entrepreneurs set up their work environment so that they - and the people who work for them - can enjoy and expand their creativity, and sense of achievement and satisfaction.
The systems geared towards the corporate working environment basically replace the satisfaction you get from making great choices with pride from great busyness.
The truth is, however, that consistent busyness tends to waste people’s best effort and undermine their confidence.
#4 Scaling Up Amplified Complexity
The courage and motivation that entrepreneurs start their business with, can grow the business only to a certain stage, especially when the entrepreneur is both the owner of the business and the staff.
To fully claim the benefits of entrepreneurial freedom, other people with skills and strengths that are different from and complementary to your own are needed to scale it up. You need sophisticated use of automation. You need collaboration partners and new peers. You also need a team to multiply your time and free you up from the ongoing, predictable things in your business.
After building the company to the scale-up stage, many entrepreneurs strive to make their own work more interesting, focusing more on areas that fascinate them.
Instead, most find themselves overwhelmed by the new complexity. Instead of having more space for productive creativity, the busy work makes them feel dissatisfied and perhaps discouraged.
They know that improvements are needed, but they don’t know how to accomplish them or the required changes scare them.
Your Escape from the ‘Hell Island’
Escaping the energy-draining situation doesn’t demand anything you would not already possess. It doesn’t require you to learn something entirely new either. If you have been in business for more than a couple of years, you have already been using this process in some form, whether or not you have been aware of it. When you gain clarity of it, you can purposefully shift your thinking so that it will inevitably and permanently improve the way you spend your time.
By your nature, you are drawn to activities that are based on your unique capabilities. They bring you toward unique opportunities, which can exponentially expand all aspects of entrepreneurial freedom. Once you fully grasp that idea, you’ll start looking at time differently.
It’s relatively new to think that it’s important to love what you do. Earlier it was important to have a job, liking it wasn’t part of the deal. Contrary to the still common belief, you don’t need to accept that there are irritating tasks that everyone just has to do. There is a different way of thinking about time and work activities.
As an entrepreneur, you are in a position to pause and look at which activities you are spending your time on and - even more importantly - what is your emotional response to them.
Don’t treat yourself like a machine. How you feel about your work activities matters. Dismissing your emotions and trying to suppress them is a poor strategy. It ends up blowing up in some way. The best thing to do is to turn your emotions to your advantage and resource for business growth.
As the entrepreneurial business guru, Seth Godin, says, “We are emotionally hooked on making this choice about how we use our time.” Without that, we lose the excitement and love towards what we set ourselves to achieve.
When you accept the fact that any activity that irritates you will always waste your energy, you can choose to eradicate it.
It’s the only way out of being tangled in activities you dread and learning to be effective in a way that energizes and motivates you.
Using Your Emotional Response as a Compass
As human beings, we have a wide variety of emotional responses. In fact, Byron Katie, who developed a self-inquiry process called “The Work,” has identified over 300 emotions. If you get a handle on three of them, you’ll be able to sort out all of the others.
The three emotions to pay attention to are feeling irritated, okay, and fascinated. These emotions represent an unpleasant, negative feeling, a peaceful, neutral feeling, and an energizing, positive feeling.
You can probably very easily think of tasks that you have always found irritating when you do them. This emotion tells you rather bluntly when you are not operating from your core strengths, you are not on your ‘playground.’ These irritating activities drain your energy even before you get to do them because just thinking of them bothers you. Most probably, you procrastinate getting these tasks done. After doing them, you might feel pessimistic as these activities never make you feel happy and satisfied. Once you accept the truth that some tasks pain you and that they waste your energy, you can become motivated to stop doing them.
You can also identify things that you do and they neither irritate nor fascinate you. These are your ‘okay’ activities. Things that are just okay for you to do are most probably tasks that someone else in your team could take care of. You are motivated to move on from them when you realize that you personally doing these tasks doesn’t add value to them. Furthermore, they don’t stimulate your thinking. They might have done so in the past, but you have outgrown them.
Then there are the activities that you love and crave to do more of because you find them interesting and they energize you. Identifying something that you do fascinating, you are motivated to perpetually increase the time you can spend doing it. This is when you, as the founder and leader in your business, can do that creative and innovative work that only you can do.
From these three groups, irritating activities provide the greatest resource for your business growth. When you free yourself up from any irritating tasks, you can use your time and energy to do things that you are best at doing.
This is not just about the hours that you can use to do more work that is meaningful to you and how it shifts your energy. It’s also about the impact that creative and innovative work has on your business. It can multiply your business growth.
How to Turn the Irritating Tasks into Business Growth: Process Outline
It begins by identifying what those activities, exactly, are so you can strategically and sustainably free yourself up from them.
This step makes the invisible, visible. I believe that everything you can write down, you can both understand and measure. And what you understand, you can fix.
Start by documenting your daily work for 7 or more working days. Write down the tasks you do and the time it took to do them. Label each task based on how you feel about it, either fascinating, okay, or irritating.
At the end of your documentation period, calculate what percentage of work hours you spent on the fascinating, okay, or irritating tasks.
For most, seeing the result of that calculation is an eye-opening moment.
Use your best decision-making, communication, and action taking to start shifting all of your time spent doing the irritating activities to fascinating ones.
My clients do this incrementally in either 90-day or 6-week cycles, depending on the stage and size of their company. (Download your copy of the Business Scorecard here.)
They choose one or two irritating or okay activities to either eradicate, automate or delegate, and it is decisively done within the period of time they chose. At the end of each cycle, their work will be more satisfying, effective, and productive.
This strategy is integrated into their business because when the business evolves and grows, new things come along. By a regular checking-in cycle, they can keep their commitment to using their time only with activities that are increasingly fascinating and motivating by freeing themselves up from everything else.
Common Obstacles that You Should Know
The process is simple, the rewards are guaranteed. So what might stop you from doing this work?
Some are not willing to tell the truth. Instead, they settle, suppress their emotions, and continue putting themselves up with tasks they dislike doing, like it was a virtue. The process of freeing you up requires a shift of thinking. One cannot start this work without saying “This isn’t acceptable, it will be weeded out from my tasks as soon as possible.” If you have not done that before, it can be incredibly difficult.
Then there are entrepreneurs who think they don’t have the right to do this, move on to activities they dislike. They believe that no one would be interested in the tasks that appear grunt work for them. That is not true. It simply works that is unsuited for them. Every activity you find just okay or even irritating is perfectly suitable and exciting for someone else. By vacating a task, you are actually helping someone else who has a different ‘playground’ from yours or is perhaps at a different stage of their growth path. By doing more of what you love, you are not making someone else more miserable.
Many entrepreneurs aren’t able to free themselves up because they are working so hard to help their team members to do their best work. They feel that everyone else needs to be freed up.
Before they allow themselves to do so. They might worry that doing otherwise would seem self-centered. Or that things would start going wrong if they were not present in everything making sure no mistakes are made. The truth is, if you don’t focus on doing only the work you are best at doing, your team members can’t do it either.
Whether or not you want to admit it, you are the most important resource in your company. You are the first to be freed up to use your time and energy on activities and tasks that you find fascinating, energizing, and motivating. When you have successfully used the process yourself, then you are in the position to lead your team to do the same. In this process, they get the opportunity to take responsibility for how they use their time and be creative about opportunities for themselves and others in the team, helping each other to grow.
Irritating activities are not worthy of entrepreneurs’ time. Creativity and innovation are the most profitable activities you can do to bring in growth and profits. Also, they keep your company unique, bringing you fruitful collaboration opportunities instead of dreadful competition.
A simple process of qualifying your work activities based on your emotional response helps you either eradicate, diminish or expand the time you devote doing them. This means that you can focus on what you do best without worrying about anything else or feeling fatigued, annoyed, or bored.
This shift in how you think about time and use it enables you to move fast forward with your entrepreneurial path and brings your business to an even higher level of growth. Eventually, it gets you to a new, bigger field of play that provides a new world of opportunities to you and your company.
What You Can Do Next
If your goal is to grow your company by focusing on doing things that fascinate and motivate you and become a better version of yourself in the process, and you want my help with it, the next step is easy: Simply message me, Virpi Tervonen. We’ll have a friendly chat on how potentially working together would look like to identify, integrate and expand your business activities so that you can grow and manage a bigger business without stress and enjoy a better quality of life.
Virpi Tervonen, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Virpi Tervonen is a Transformational Business Strategist & Certified Coach to Entrepreneurs in Creative, High-End, and Luxury Industry with over 15 years of experience in entrepreneurial business. Business owners hire her to renew their identity as a CEO or a Founder, have more time and energy to pursue new things, and build and manage a bigger business without stress.
Virpi holds a Ph.D. in Life Sciences and BioPD in Biotech Entrepreneurship. She is a Certified Business Breakthrough Coach and Rapid Transformational Therapy (RTT) Practitioner.
Virpi is the Founder of the Good Entrepreneur, an organization for entrepreneurial empowerment. She is also the author of the “Women Winning at the Game of Business” book (being published in 2021).