In this world where being “on” and productive is highly valued, it’s not easy when the energy for your work – or anything else in life – suddenly drops. It doesn't take long before your mind starts telling you tales about why you need to suck it up and keep going. What drives this? Well, there are many things, but I want to highlight one in particular.
We have tied our results so tightly to what we DO that we have forgotten that we are not in charge of the universe, and that life happens.
It happens to most of us who are in business for ourselves. You experience a lull in inquiries for your services, or the well has dried up completely. No matter what you do, what you "know" to do, it isn't resulting in new business. Does it mean you need a skills upgrade, or is it a signal that you’re in a transition and you don’t know it yet?
In this video I talk about those puzzling moments, and how you might shift your view of what's happening.
If business isn’t going well, if you’re not meeting people who feel like kindred spirits, and/or your health is less than optimal, you might simply be in the wrong environment. It sounds crazy, perhaps, but where you live, work and play can make a big difference in your vitality, and your productivity.
In this video I talk about my recent experiences living in a place that simply wasn’t “my place,” Colorado. Even though millions of people love the Rockies and Colorado in general, I struggled enormously.
I recently attended an Introvert's Meetup where we talk about what it is like to navigate various aspects of life with this particular "trait." At one point in this particular meeting we talked about the balance between alone-time and social engagements.
I shared the following quote by Horacio Jones, which a friend shared with me. It starts like this:
"I like being alone. I have control over my own shit. Therefore, in order to win me over..."
Instead of writing a full post, I created a video sharing my reflections instead.
In recent conversations with a couple of women clients, issues of age and future career dreams have come to the surface. I’ve been grappling with this myself, so I thought it worth exploring. The overriding fear/worry is that it’s “too late.” At first I regarded it as a primary issue for mid-to-late career women. (None of my men clients are talking about this anyway.) Then I remembered conversations with my son over the past couple of years - now in his early 30’s - in which he expressed concern that he’s not where he “should” be in his life or career. No doubt, the content of the concerns are different, but the fact that any of us are judging and potentially limiting ourselves due to arbitrary age markers is noteworthy.
Clearly, life markers are alive and well in the collective conscious. My sense is that there was one generation where the prescription for a successful life might have matched the potential to fulfill these expectations:
It got my attention when, within a short period of time, several people apologized to me for “being late” in replying to my call, email or online inquiry. In none of these instances was I concerned about the “delay,” which span was anywhere from 7 hours to 3 days. So, I wondered, why were they? Ah yes, some smart business person decreed that to be seen as responsive one must reply to inquiries by the end of the business day, or within a 24-period. Within these guidelines, it matters not if you have the time, energy or even the interest.
I did some research to see if I could find out who initiated this standard, but came up with nothing that clearly identified the premise, nor who started it. What I do know is that it has been a standard for at least 20 years. And, like all good standards, it’s worthy of pause questions. Is this true? Under what circumstances might this be true? And, what does it do to human beings?
Working to your strengths is not a new idea; it’s been a conversation in the business world for 20-30 years. However, since business tends to give a bigger piece of the pie to people on the sales side, or in leadership roles – if your innate talents aren’t a good match for those roles, you might discount them like I did. The truth? All roles are needed, and those at “the top” couldn’t do their work as well without those in the supporting roles. Without the people who provide the infrastructure, ongoing fulfillment would be impossible and eventually the business will fail.
The service professionals I coach (small business owners and freelancers), are engaged in work that requires long hours at a desk, on a computer, on the phone and/or in meetings. I call it “head” work, which is work that relies primarily on brain power, and involves little or no physical activity. After a full day of head work, even when you enjoy what you’re doing, mental fatigue is likely. Simple “transition rituals” can go a long way towards moving the blood supply from your brain back into your body, making it possible to more easily let go of the pressures of the day and relax into the evening.
Are you often the person who raises his or her hand when someone asks for help? Do you also volunteer to help when no one has asked? (I know, ouch. It’s OK. Just stay with me.) Sure, stepping up to help sounds like a good – even noble – idea, but if you find yourself “complaining” about how exhausted and busy you are, and spend a lot of time working on things that are not YOUR priorities, it might be time to investigate your motivations.
If there is nowhere to go, why can't I get there faster? - Unknown
Some of the words we use to describe our relationship to time and productivity carry a pretty heavy judgment, often not favorable. They are concept words, in that they point to mental assessments that may or may not be true. Furthermore, their repeated use often puts an end to inquiry, other than to figure out how we should be different, or the other person should be different. The judgment is delivered and that is that.
Today I invite you to consider "behind" and "procrastination," two of the more persistent concepts running our lives. You could say that they are different sides of the same coin. After all, if you didn't procrastinate you would not be behind...says the mind.
I’ve been thinking – as I often do – about this whole thing we’ve invented called Productivity. It seems to be one of those areas of life I’m here to question. It might be an outgrowth of the years when I was so ill I couldn’t be a consistently “productive” human being, or a predilection for laziness! I don’t think so (on the latter) but I do enjoy large doses of “time-luxury.”
I have had a front-row seat to the anxiety that plagues “the responsible business person” when their pursuit of success overwhelms their ability to effectively assess their true capacity to do their work. It destroys confidence, makes it extremely difficult to let anything go and to tune into (and heed) the needs of the body.
For many people, the measure of a good day depends on how “productive they are, where productive is equated to results or the tasks completed.
Was it a good day? Yes, I got a lot done. Was it a good day? No, I didn’t get ANYTHING done.
"Why" is a question that has to be answered when you start a business and again – and again - as your business grows and lifestyle needs change. Healthy or not, complicated circumstances or not, if you’re feeling any level of stress regarding your business – or your job – it may be time to reexamine your motivations in order to assess potential conflicts.
I don’t know why I woke up thinking about the word “respect” today. Maybe it was the dream I was having in which a faceless woman had committed to some fairly public project, and when she got to the starting gate realized that it wasn’t right for her. She bravely and publicly announced that she would not be able to step into the position…in my dream.
Or maybe it was yesterday’s meeting with a business owner who habitually overloads his workday plan with tasks he can’t reasonably complete, and then turns his well-meaning plans into “This is what I SHOULD have done.”
Or maybe it was the newsletter I received about an upcoming women’s business event in which the speaker would be addressing the issue of procrastination. Message? Get more done in less time with less stress. Been there, done that, let’s move on.
Or maybe it was the conversation I had with my business partner at the end of the day yesterday. We talked about our “plans” for today and at the end of our chat said, “sounds like a good maybe plan.”
Good self (or body) care is not an after-hours event, but a regular practice of mindfulness that starts with careful consideration of the projects, clients and work you pursue or accept and ends with awareness of your body’s need to move, eat and rest.
Case Study: Cathy is an ambitious woman in her early 20’s. She works for a financial services company that offers independent agents training and support so that they can fulfill the promise of building a million dollar business within 5-7 years…if they follow the guidelines set by the company.
…Cathy was determined to be a top producer so, by her own admission, she dropped whatever she was doing to meet with someone at their convenience.
Yesterday morning started like many of my days, at the Java Love Cafe. As often happens, I enjoyed a brief, but engaging conversation with one of my Sedona friends, Jack (name changed to protect the innocent). Jack is an entrepreneur but not the kind of entrepreneur I often run into. You could say he's a renaissance man; Barbara Sher would probably say he is a "scanner."
Jack has no "job" and doesn't have a pat answer to the question, "What do you do?" As a matter of fact, we didn't get around to talking about work for at least a month, which only came about when talking about medical issues and working...He shared with me that a number of years ago he took (was given) a medical discharge from military service after a severe breakdown associated with PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). Hm, the plot thickens!
I should probably have called this post "My Mind and Money" but I figure if mine wages war on me yours probably does too.
I'm now 1 day shy of 2 weeks living in Sedona, Arizona. Even though all is financially fine, my MIND is giving me a really hard time. IT wants me to GET to WORK and BRING in MORE Money NOW.
So hardy, har, har, the universe granted me an opportunity to "make more money." I was approached by a recruiter on LinkedIn to consider taking over a book of business for an established insurance company in Sedona. You got that right, insurance.
When busyness is the norm and you're the one in charge, it's easy to lose sight of what is really important. I don't say this lightly; I know how easy it is to get caught up in the inconsequential. The 80/20 rule reminds us that only 20% of what most of us do actually matters. That's a hard idea to swallow. The question is, what 20% and how can we increase the percentage of time we spend there. For this question, I want to look at the talent question. What difference would it make if you were to integrate your unique talents into at least 20% of your business day, if not more? Why does it pay to know what your core competencies are? Following are the 10 reasons I've come up with:
1. Know your gifts, love who you are. 2. Well-used talents translate into kick-ass business projects. 3. When you spend 2 or more hours a day in passion work it feels like play. 4. Talents = happy human. Happy human = increased oxygen in cells. Increased oxygen in cells = greater potential for health and healing. Breathe!
The strengths-based approach to assigning business tasks has been in vogue for a good 20 years. Still, as healthy - fun - and effective as this approach is, it’s an elusive little bugger (watched Notting Hill yesterday, so I might be channeling Hugh Grant-speak today.)
Neglecting or postponing use of your favored talents for what you “have to do first” depletes your business efforts, as you will often do things that are best left alone or to others. You suffer, too, but that is not always enough to inspire a change in direction.
If you have gotten lost along the way, I encourage you to stop. It doesn’t take long to recover your Self, but it does take a day. The following excerpt from "Business from Bed" illustrates what makes seeing – and owning – your talents so difficult.
Many of my clients can only work 5-6 hours/day due to health or family priorities. Two weeks ago I decided to challenge myself to the same schedule, as it's been quite a few years since ill health and a teenage son impacted my business day. To get started, I updated my Master Planning Schedule™ to reflect a shorter workday in order to best allocate the time available to work. I'm giving myself a "C" for the first two weeks for two reasons: 1) I failed to stop working at the time I said I would, and 2) I overtaxed my true energy supply. I am giving myself credit for updating my calendar and making notes about what worked and didn't work.
I might say (and I have) that I could not have chosen a worse time to challenge myself this way, as it coincided with the early release of Business from Bed, which prompted me to add activities that are not normal part of my workweek...
You can't be all things to all people and win. You can try, but you're likely to burn up in the process. Even if you have the skills to perform many of the operations in your business it is not necessarily wise, especially time or energy are limited.
I just started working with an owner to develop her business model and revenue plans for 2013. Right now her business model is fairly simple - and working just fine - but with anticipated growth, what works now may not work as well later. Furthermore, by taking the time to think about what she wants her business to look like in the future, her "business ideal," she has the opportunity to shape the direction of future growth. When we talked about her role in the business (those activities that she's most interested in that have the most positive impact on the business revenue) she asked me how you know when it's time to start hiring help.
Myth: If you want to be successful in business you must be immediately responsive to client requests, no matter how inconvenient or unreasonable. If you don’t you’ll lose business.
Truth: If you want to build a sustainable business, you have the right to establish guidelines that enable you to respond to reasonable requests in a reasonable time frame. The best clients for your business will understand and respect reasonable guidelines.
When business owners are feeling stressed about client demands, I encourage them to establish guidelines for “The Way We Do Things Around Here” (TWWDTAH) to remind them that this is their business, and therefore their right/ obligation to clarify best practices. TWWDTAH guidelines can cover the following situations:
It’s been three days since I turned in the last 3 files for my book over to the editor. For the first time in a few months, I wake up to the day without the underlying commitment to write a few pages or do something related to writing the book. I feel a little weird and notice an uncomfortable pressure to get onto the next project.
It took me a good seven months to write the book, and over the last few weekends I took very little time off. (Oh, and there was the 3-day power outage 10 days before my first deadline.) So, what is this thing that makes it hard to take even one day - or three - to “do nothing?"
Picture a rubber band for a moment. With very little tension it sits there “doing nothing,” lying on your desk somewhat formless and lifeless. At first glance, you might think it's not very useful in this state. However, I'd like to think that the rubber band at rest could be equated to the moments in our lives when we are quiet and calm, either in a meditative state or enjoying a good night's sleep.
Put that rubber band to work and it immediately starts to stretch. What happens when you wrap it around a rolled up piece of paper? If it's the right size and width and you wrap it just the right number of times, it becomes an effective tool for keeping that paper rolled up for years on end, or at least until the material wears out and looses elasticity. (You know, like aging.)
Now think about the same rubber band when it's stretched further than is optimal.