Michelangelo spent four years painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, which many consider his greatest work of art.

During the initial wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, we all learned what life would be like with fewer obligations. Business meetings, church services, kids’ activities and other events all got put on hold and we all found ourselves with a lot more free time. Personally, I went from averaging 10-15 in-person meetings per week to 3-4 online meetings per week. I have to admit, it was kind of nice not having to show up anywhere or fulfill certain roles in the community. Instead, I spent more time with my family, worked on my main business (MarketBeat), and re-engaged with some old hobbies that had lied dormant (biking, video games, etc.). There are just some things that I won’t pick up again when COVID-19 recedes for good, because they weren’t that important to me or that important to others in retrospect.

Yesterday’s Priorities are Today’s Legacy Obligations

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In 2014, I wrote a blog post titled Saying I Quit: Spring Cleaning in Business and in Life. I wrote that we often maintain volunteer roles, participate in activities, and maintain patterns of behavior even when they no longer serve a useful purpose. Participation momentum can be a dangerous thing if you don’t take the time to re-evaluate what you are involved with on a regular basis. You might find that you are involved with 10-15 different groups, organizations and activities, half of which you would not miss if they suddenly just went away. Thanks to COVID-19, we all currently find ourselves in a place where most of our non-work and non-family commitments have been put on pause. This has made it easier to identify what we miss from “the before times” and what we do not.

I recently went through the exercise of counting the number of organizations that I am currently involved with (12), how much time they take up each year and which are a priority in the future and which are not. I have also taken some steps to simplify and gradually work myself out of some of these organizational roles and responsibilities. Primarily, I haven’t been operationally involved in GoGo Photo Contest for several years and recently worked out a deal to sell my ownership stake to the other two partners in the business. I will also be wrapping up an investment club that I started with some friends in 2010 that no longer fits the life stage any of us are in. The Alex Jensen for City Council campaign is wrapping up (we won!), so that will free up some time as well.

Take a few minutes make a list of every job, business, volunteer role, church role, kids activity, regular meeting and other ongoing obligation that you have in your life. Write out how much time each of those role takes up and then prioritize them. I’m guessing your list will probably longer than you think it is. Maybe there are some things on that list that no longer serve a useful purpose in your life and you are only still doing them because you don’t want to disappoint someone else or tell someone else “No.”

MarketBeat’s Rapid Growth

I currently find myself in a situation where my business is growing pretty significantly. Volatility in the stock market and increased internet usage has been a shot-in-the-arm for MarketBeat. Our website is getting 15 million pageviews per month. We have nearly 1.7 million email subscribers and the company will probably surpass $10 million in annual revenue in 2020. Things have been going very well lately. Between building out a team, getting a fancy office and our recent revenue growth, I’ve come to realize that MarketBeat will probably be my greatest professional work of at least my 20’s and 30’s (if not my entire working career.)

Frankly, MarketBeat deserves more time than I’ve been giving it during the last few years and our recent growth has made this very apparent. I’ve gone out in a lot of different directions (helping the Christian non-profit community, being a startup community leader, getting involved in local politics) and those community hobbies/volunteer have come at the expense of putting in a full and consistent effort toward MarketBeat.

While we have eight full-time employees, there are nearly 50 people that rely on MarketBeat as a primary income source when you include employee spouses and children, contractors, and vendors. I need to put the majority of my work effort into growing MarketBeat over the next 1-2 years so that I can be responsive to my employees and build a business that helps them achieve their financial goals and dreams (in addition to my own.). When I turn forty about five years from now, I want to look back on my 30’s as the decade where I built a great business and stewarded the money it generated for the benefit of others.

This will necessarily making some hard choices over the next year regarding what organizations I volunteer with, what kind of meetings I take and how I spend my time. I probably can’t be involved in as many things I am now given MarketBeat’s scale and ongoing growth. I don’t know what I’m going to step back from currently, but I’m probably going to have to step back from something. While I love meeting with startup founders and giving them business advice, working with different non-profits and helping run local political campaigns, there are other people that can do those things, too. However, there’s not anyone else that can grow MarketBeat into a $15-20 million per year business. That’s on me.

What’s your greatest work?

If there’s anything that you take away from this blog post, take a few minutes and zoom out on your life. What do you want this decade of your life to be all about? What do you want to be known for (or remembered for)? Is how you are spending your time in alignment with what you want your work life to be about? These are important questions for us to all ask ourselves.