How to Balance Hard and Soft Tasks

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hard and soft tasks

I can tell you without a doubt that owning a business is the fastest path to learning about yourself and learning skills you never knew you had.

For instance, you may have never written a line of code in your life and all of a sudden your very first website has you editing the CSS Stylesheet. Or maybe you’ve been a reserved introverted person (hi, that’s me) the last several decades and now you’re doing webinars, giving talks, or leading trainings.

No matter what building your business has forced you to learn already, it always feels like there’s something new to figure out. One of our rules for success here at ConvertKit is “Teach Everything You Know”, and I’ve always thought that being a student as well as a teacher is how you can make the most progress on your journey as quickly as possible.

We’re rounding out a month of talking about the mental side of business ownership and it’s time to talk about balance. No, I’m not referring to the elusive “balance” that is in every headline from BuzzFeed to Newsweek and we’re not going to discuss yoga poses (though I do think everyone should do more yoga), I’m talking about balancing your time in your business between soft and hard tasks.

If you’re just joining us in this just-now-named Head Games Series, you’ll want to go back and check out the other articles on mindset. They are:
How To Make a Habit Stick
Building a Community of Raving Fans
How To Find Focus On Your One Big Thing
6 Benefits of Staying Small
Increase Conversion Rates with Gamificatio

Before we dive in, let’s define soft and hard tasks.

Soft Tasks:

When the measure changes to determine how “good” you are at something, that’s a soft task. For example, much of what I do here at ConvertKit – content marketing, community outreach, writing this blog – can be defined as a soft task. It’s discretionary if you like or dislike my writing style, topics, or ideas. And the way that I stay connected with our community could look vastly different from the way, say, our friends at Moz stay connected with theirs. Stress management, negotiating, and meeting facilitation are all soft tasks too.

Hard Tasks:

When the measure for greatness is constant for the majority of the world, that’s a hard task. Writing code in Python, balancing your books, and composing contracts are all hard tasks. Checking blog posts for the right version of their/they’re/there (also part of my role in writing content here) is also a hard task.

And this is where it gets tricky. See, soft tasks and hard tasks often overlap so you wind up feeling like you’re doing one when you’re really doing the other. Or you feel like you’re all hard tasks and zero soft tasks. Or vice versa.

How can you learn more about a particular type of tasks and actually balance the hard and soft tasks of running your business?

Let’s say you’re a website developer. You could spend the majority of your day mired in hard tasks. Writing code is straightforward and scientific. But then you go to contact the designer of the website or even the client directly and all of a sudden you’re thrust into Soft Task Land. If you work with that designer regularly, you get to practice your soft skills all the time. Communication is huge when it comes to teamwork and it’s safe to say that with time and practice, you’ll get better at it. You may not be the go-to resource on engaging conversation but, hey, you’ve developed that muscle a little more!

Now let’s say you’re me. I’m a theatre kid who picked her college because there was no math requirement. I write every day and make a living doing so. How do I balance my hard tasks with the soft? One of the key elements of writing and posting this blog for you to read every week is the posting it part. Sure, WordPress makes it pretty simple to post a blog without much knowledge of code but that’s where my balance comes into play. I typically post these articles in the Text Editor side of the WordPress Posts page. I manipulate the spacing, images, and headings using HTML. I practice and I read a lot on w3schools.com so I can learn more over time. And I’ve brought this knowledge into the support ticket queue and am able to help when our customers don’t understand an issue they’re having on their own site. I know that by activating the side of my brain that manages hard tasks (like HTML), the soft task management side gets to take a rest and I am ultimately more creative in the end.

How, then, can you balance your soft and hard tasks in your own business?

  1. Seek out opportunities to do your opposite. Everyone naturally leans one way or the other – soft or hard. So one way to find balance between the two is to go after the one that you find challenging. If you’re always writing and taking pictures, set aside time to balance your business bank account each week.
  2. Practice. If you want to get better at anything, you have to practice it. I have a friend who has done 5 handstands a day for the last year. She started out falling down and now can hold one in the middle of a room. Pretty inspirational (on the handstand front and on the practice front).
  3. Get accountable. Placing a challenge to yourself in a public arena can do a lot to make you get into action. If networking hasn’t been your thing, invite a friend to join you to the next event that catches your eye. Creating accountability is exactly why hiring a personal trainer or even getting a workout buddy is so much more effective than trying to work out on your own.

With opportunities, practice, and accountability, you can bring more soft tasks to your hard task world, or maybe add some hard tasks to your soft tasks focus.

Let’s get accountable in the comments below. I’ve shared the hard tasks I’m working to balance with the soft… what are you committed to balancing out this year?

Val Geisler

Val is a yogi, mom, military wife, and avid podcast fan. She is ridiculously obsessed with sharing and creating content that actually makes a difference in the world, connecting with her fellow bloggers, and doing more with less effort. Val is based on Columbus, Ohio (O-H!) and can often be found oversharing on Instagram at @lovevalgeisler.

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