avatarNiklas Göke

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Can You Afford to Ignore It?

A simple question to save you hours of wasted time

Image via Stable Diffusion XL // Prompt: man working, focused on his laptop, ignoring a barrage of distractions popping up around him

It might just be everyone looking for scraps of money due to the economy slowing down, but this year, I have been screwed by a staggering number of platforms and services I use to run my online business.

For nine months, my email service provider overcharged me. As it turns out, they automatically upgrade you when you gain more subscribers, but they don’t downgrade you when you lose some. My payment processor and checkout platform casually near-tripled their fees. Meanwhile, the service I use to host my writing course informed me that my “free membership for life” I had won a few years back will now turn into a “pay up like everyone else” agreement — and those are just the issues from last month.

Every time I was confronted with such news, I got angry. I argued with customer support. I brainstormed what service to switch to. I fantasized about taking them to court. After half a day of stewing in misery, however, I always came to the same conclusion: “This is not a fight worth fighting. I can — and should — ignore this problem.”

Yes, I gave my email provider a few hundred dollars too many. Paying more fees on digital product sales sucks. And coughing up $1,000/year for what used to be a free service stinks. If I consider what it would take to rectify these situations, however, especially with respect to how much money I make using these services, the unfortunate reality of business kicks in: You only have so many hours in a day, and you need every single one of them to focus on your true mission.

I can keep arguing with my email service for hours, but I probably still won’t get any credit for what I overpaid. Finding an alternative checkout solution, let alone moving all my products, will take days. And don’t even get me started on moving a 130+ lesson online course. But you know what? None of these are where I make the bulk of my money — and so none of these problems are worth my mental energy.

One way to find focus is to say no to the million directions you could take your project in. That’s hard but necessary. What must follow, however, is maintaining that focus by also saying no to every little distraction that happens along the way. Even if it’s related to your project, it might still be unimportant. And so your job is to ignore every problem you can afford to ignore.

Will it blow up my business if I don’t fight tooth and nail over a few hundred dollars? No. Will it ruin my budget if I pay triple the fees on 10% of my revenue? No. And will I even sell my online course next year? I have no idea.

Problems like this are insidious. They feel important, and they get us to blow our fuse by pushing a sensitive button — the money one — but ultimately, they’ll just keep us from working on what we really need to work on.

Staying focused is one of the hardest challenges in life and in business. Don’t give up on this challenge prematurely by getting dragged into mud fights outside the actual playing field.

For every nagging problem that lands in your inbox, ask: “Can I afford to ignore this?” And if the answer is yes, go about your day as if nothing had changed. Recession or not, the birds are still singing, and you have work to do.

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