The invisible workload

Jan 7, 2022

I saw a post over the holidays talking about the invisible workload of the holiday season and the weight of having to think about & plan everything… getting gifts, coordinating family dinners, putting decorations up, putting decorations away and taking care of ‘all the things’. As a mom I could totally relate!

This is referred to as the invisible workload because even if we aren’t the one doing everything, we are the one THINKING about all the things and making all the decisions. Who is going to bring dessert for family dinner? What gifts should we get the kids? When do we put up the xmas lights? Should we take the tree down on new years day or wait? I could go on.

And even if we have help in the household – a spouse, partner or kids – we are still the ones having to ASK folks to do things. Sometimes more than once. (something I’m very familiar with having 2 teenage daughters in the house… I’ve asked my daughter to take her dishes upstairs twice already today 😉

As I read this post it occurred to me – this happens in our businesses as well!

How much of what we ‘do’ each day falls into the invisible workload category? Things that aren’t obvious and that we can’t necessarily check off a to-do list, but that can take up a surprising amount of time & energy.

Things like:

  • Thinking about what needs to be done – when, how and by who
  • Delegating what needs to be done – we may not be doing the work but having to ‘pass it along’ to someone else still takes time
  • Following up on tasks – checking in with folks re: “what is the status of this?” is work, in particular when things aren’t getting done or are falling behind
  • Making decisions – be it big or small decisions, there is energy required to think through everything so we can decide (and decision fatigue is a very real thing)

Now to some degree the invisible workload is just part of the gig – as business owners there is always thinking & decision making to be done.

But as our businesses grow we simply don’t have the capacity – or the desire! – to keep all of this invisible workload on our plates. And it can start to show over time through exhaustion, frustration or by things being stalled waiting for our input & decisions.

There are a few things you can do when you find the invisible workload is becoming too much:

  • Hire an OBM to take some of the invisible workload off your shoulders – once you hit the early to mid 6-figure range there is simply too much going on to keep it all on your own shoulders. An OBMs expertise is taking your vision/goals and turning those into actionable plans, getting the right folks in place and ensuring that the work is getting done on time and correctly.
  • Lead your team to take more ownership of their role – where is your team relying on you to make decisions or tell them what to do? Work together to clarify their role and lay out expectations of where they can take more ownership and make decisions on their own.
  • Look to simplify where possible – are you trying to do too many things at once? As a visionary I can easily fall into the trap of “let’s do all these things and do them now!!” which of course means more thinking, decisions and delegation. Instead of trying to do 3 things this month, what if you focused on doing only 1?

I’m curious – where/how do you feel like the invisible workload is showing up in your business?

And if you are an OBM/service provider – where could you take more of the invisible workload off your client’s plate? They may not be asking you for this, but I assure you they will thank you for it when you do!

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