Hiring an assistant or a team member isn’t about identifying the “perfect time” to do so–there is no such thing. It’s all about knowing when you and your business are ready. Here are three significant clues you might encounter, especially if you’re a creative entrepreneur, that will tip you off that it might be time to hire some support.

Clue 1: Your highest quality energy isn’t going to your highest impact projects

We’ve all got a finite amount of that really potent energy each day. You know the kind–where you’re zooming through tasks, losing track of time, feeling like a well-oiled machine, bursting at the seams with creative mojo. That’s your peak energy.

Your peak energy is the premium fuel behind whatever you do that lights you up. And whatever it is that lights you up, makes you happy and makes you money? Those are your high-impact activities.

When you channel your peak energy into your high-impact activities, that’s when the sparks fly, when you feel like things are clicking, and when you probably find yourself thinking, “Yes! This is why I became an entrepreneur!”

The goal is for you to channel as much of that finite peak energy as possible (and ideally all of it) to those high-impact activities. It’s not that you can’t do them without the peak energy, but if you’re anything like me, you notice that you tend to slog your way through your high-impact activities (or–gasp and horror!–even start to resent them) when you’ve gone too long without bringing your peak energy to them.

When you have tasks or projects that consistently absorb a lot of your peak energy, and those tasks and projects are not your high-impact activities, it’s a good indication you might benefit from hiring a team member. That teammate or assistant can run with all of those tasks and projects that you’ve been working on that aren’t your high-impact activities, and free you up to focus on them.

Clue 2: That backburner is getting mighty full.

Creative folks, especially creative entrepreneurs, tend to have bustling backburners. We usually have more ideas and flashes of inspiration than we can actually pursue at any given time. That we put things on the backburner or leave them on the drawing board isn’t a problem–it’s good. It’s a sign that we know how to prioritize and that we’ve got a lively stream of fodder for future endeavors.

But what can be problematic is when that backburner starts getting overfull or stagnant–when you’re spinning your wheels so intensely with your own infrastructure or less high-impact duties that you never make the space for anything to move off of the backburner and onto the front of the stove.

An assistant can help alleviate some of those infrastructure tasks and peripheral duties. A team member can go a step further and actually help you keep the backburner from getting stagnant, by keeping her eyes out for good opportunities to roll a backburner idea into a front-of-the-stove project, or by helping you track what’s been on the backburner for too long and may need to either get set aside indefinitely or get moved up immediately, and then creating the action plan to make that happen.

Either way–whether your situation calls for an assistant or a team member–a full or perpetually ignored backburner chock full of wasting ideas and languishing projects can be a tip-off that it’s time to hire some support.

Clue 3: You’re productive, but you feel ineffective.

There are books and blogs and gurus galore who can offer tried and true tips and solutions for helping be more productive and get more accomplished. And initially, those books and blogs and gurus can help you get more done, so that you’re not using up quite as much H&H (headspace ‘n hours) with the “have-to” tasks, leaving you additional H&H for the high-impact activities.

But at a certain point, you’ll probably find that you’re focusing on productivity for productivity’s sake, and you’re not really salvaging much in the way of headspace or hours. At that point, you’re productive, but no longer effective. You’ll still be getting a lot accomplished–but it will no longer be making space for the stuff that fires you up and gets you excited and makes your business successful.

Once you hit that wall of Productivity Without Effectiveness, you might be well served by hiring some support. You might have simply reached a point where no matter how productive you are, you do not have enough hands, headspace, or hours to actually accomplish everything and still make strides toward those Big Dreams and Master Plans that underlie your business & keep you ticking.

Note: At this point, you’re on a parallel path with Clue #1, finding a disparity between what your peak energy would be best spent on, and what you’re actually spending it on. The difference is that at Clue #1 you may not necessarily be inundated with stuff that needs doing–but what needs doing happens to be the stuff that drains your peak energy without being high-impact. At Clue #3, you’ve simply reached saturation: there is no more headspace left and there are no more hours available–all of your energy and time is sapped, peak and otherwise.

A team member can help you by refining those have-to tasks and systems, ensuring they’re both productive and effective. But she’ll also be able to actually take on and take over a slew of that stuff. That frees you up to stop being just a productivity machine, and to instead fill your headspace and your hours with those high-impact activities that need a lot of H&H that would otherwise be smothered by other kinds of to-dos and projects.

What’s your clue?

What clue tips you off that you’re needing some help (whether from an assistant, friends, a significant other, etc.)? How do you know when it’s time to bring some outside help rather than continuing to go it alone?