There's a lot about starting a business that's very serious, but that doesn't mean that every part of self employment should be free of silliness. In fact, silliness has it's place in your work and you can be more productive and have a healthier work-life balance by embracing silly practices. Here are 5 silly practices that I use in my business:
1. To Done Lists
A "to done" list is pretty much what it sounds like: a list of things you have already done. Anytime you feel overwhelmed by all that you have to do, or feel like you're making no progress, take 2 minutes and jot down a quick "to done" list. It can include the basics like "got out of bed," "ate breakfast" or larger, longer-term things such as "met with 5 clients this week," "got a blog post out," etc.
It might seem silly to list all the things you've already accomplished, but there's a real psychology to it. First off, it's a great pep-talk to yourself and helps you get over the inertia of getting started. Additionally, as Leigh Buchanan at Inc.com reports, taking the time to reflect on accomplishments actually improves productivity. So put on your silly-cap and take a few minutes to increase your productivity by NOT doing for a minute!
2. Embrace "Comfy Poses"
If you're familiar with the idea of "power poses" try their second cousin once removed: the comfy pose. I swear they are actually less silly than "power poses." Here's how comfy poses work: make yourself as comfy as possible at every opportunity possible. A bizarre concept, I know, but you probably didn't become self employed in order to work from a cubical you pay for, or from a coffee shop bench even more uncomfortable than your last desk chair. So simply don't. Find comfy places you can be productive from.
Find ways to work comfort into the tasks you already have to do. For example, when I meet with clients on the phone, I'm shoes off and curled up on my office sofa with the recliner out. And when I need to churn out a blog article, 4 out of 5 times it's achieved from the comfort of my home sofa. Not everything can happen in comfy-mode, but try finding appropriate ways to work it in. Maybe comfy for you is working in the sunshine, or right next to the plate glass windows of your favorite coffee shop so you can feel more outside? What ever it is, work comfy into your routine tasks regardless of how silly it might seem to you.
3. Silly Celebrations
I celebrate when I run out paper on a note pad. Objectively, this isn't a silly practice, it's down right absurd. These are the note pads I use to take notes during sessions with clients. Sometimes a session takes 1 sheet of paper, sometimes 5. Some pads of paper have 100 sheets, some have 120. The completion of a pad of paper has no data-drive relationship to how my business is doing.
But the numbers don't matter; that isn't the point. When the pad is done, I do a little celebration, sing "Another One Bites the Dust" and then put it in the trash and pull out a new pad. (And then I might sing "Another One Bites the Dust" a couple more times because, jeez it's catchy!)
Is this a silly practice? Yes. Does it have purpose? Also yes. Celebrations address three key challenges we face as entrepreneurs:
- We need time to acknowledge all the work we put into this business regardless of the results. It's easy to celebrate when things are going well, but when you're putting the work in and haven't seen the results yet, how do you stay motivated to keep going? Celebrating something silly or non-results focused, means we get that chance to celebrate regardless.
- As self employed folks, we don't have a boss to tell us when we've done a good job. We have to be that boss. We need to find time to say "good job!" to ourselves. If we don't have something that reminds us to do this, we're liable to never do it.
- We've been taught that bragging is a bad thing, and while I agree that "I'm better than you" bragging is harmful, that doesn't mean that acknowledging the things we've accomplished is bad. Acknowledging an accomplishment, no matter how minor, is vital for building and maintaining self confidence. And that self confidence is going to come in handy the next time you pitch your services to a new client!
So find an occasion and start celebrating it! Maybe it's every inquiry about your business (even the spammy ones!) or every time you hand out a business card or every time you have to buy more printer ink. Then find a way to celebrate it: sing it a song, come up with a victory dance, high-five yourself in the mirror. The sillier the better! It doesn't matter what it is, but keep doing it every time that thing happens.
4. Make Your Social Media Practice "Daily"
And, I don't mean a daily social media practice, I mean a "daily" social media practice. Because beyond brushing your teeth, doing anything daily is absurd to me, and a really silly idea when there are so many free automations available!
As a small business owner (or aspiring) you're probably aware of social media's impact on businesses, and you probably believe that you should be on all the social media platforms and be posting at least daily. (Or some other more complicated prescribed best practice for when and where you're supposed to post.) And those "shoulds" are all well and good but a self employed business owner doesn't have time to post on social media all day! So here's how you stream line that sh!t:
- sign up for a free RSS feed reader (I like Feedly)
- google around for blogs and media sites relevant to your customer base
- add the RSS feeds for those blogs to your feed reader
- sign up for a free social media management system (I like Hootsuite, but Buffer is equally strong)
- weekly(ish): schedule your posts for the week in your social media management system. Use your RSS feed reader as a source of relevant content to supplement your own content. Try to maintain an 80/20 split between content and promotion of your products / services.
See what I mean? A "daily" social media practice: the posts go out daily, but you deal with it weekly. Ta-da! (And for those of us that suck at weekly tasks: I schedule as many posts as move me, then set a task with a due date a few days before the last post I scheduled. It's not even weekly!) *Not* automating social media posts is just silly!
5. Un-stuck Yourself with Baby Steps
There's a project that's been on your to-do list for weeks and you've made zero progress. You need a block of time in your schedule to work on it, but that block of time just doesn't exist. Brace yourself for the absurd: take 15 minutes and break that project down into itsy bitsy baby steps. We're talking ridiculously tiny small steps. Get down right silly with how tiny the steps are. Write them ALL out, even the one minute tasks.
(I like putting my tasks in Insightly, because it lets me organize all the tiny tasks into projects which lets me keep the chaos of a billion tiny steps organized. It also lets me set up re-usable sets of tasks called "activity sets." Your CRM probably has a similar feature, or try a task management tool like Trello.)
Here's a hypothetical example: I need to send a letter to each of my past clients updating them on my privacy policies. Here's my task list, in itty-bitty baby step format:
- start list of past clients
- check paper records for all past client names
- check spreadsheet for all past client names
- are there other places past client names / email address would exist?
- check in any additional places
- write an outline of the letter
- draft the letter
- sleep on it
- review & edit the letter
- send letter to client #1
- send letter to client #2
- send letter to client #3
Are these ridiculously small steps? Yes! Will you probably sit down and do more than one at a time? Definitely. But you might not have gotten started if you hadn't broken down the first step. And when you find yourself with a free minute or two, you might be able to write the outline of the letter, but not the whole letter. And once you've gotten started, you have some momentum and it's easier to keep going, so the silliness pays off.
Silliness Helps Your Business
There are a lot of ways to embrace silliness in your business and every silly practice isn't for everybody. Regardless of what practices you do or do not adopt, I hope you find a way to bring silliness or a sense of lightheartedness into your business. So much of running a business is challenging and difficult; you deserve to embrace the silly when you can!