Since the inauguration, there's been an essentially constant stream of news from Washington, DC. The deluge of political and social updates is overwhelming. (Which has made it very difficult to find the inspiration to write a blog post!) I took comfort and inspiration from an article about self care and activism. In "How to #StayOutraged Without Losing Your Mind," Mirah Curzer offers four strategies to maintain resistance over the next four years. This article spoke to me. It also got me thinking of the sometimes long struggle necessary to build a business. So, today's post is going to be some of my thoughts about how to start a business or launch your self employment without losing your mind.
One Project at a Time
Often we entrepreneurs have many ideas about what we could (or "should") be working on. A ton of ideas can be great, but they sometimes also result in stagnation. And that stagnation can be stressful, harmful to yourself and harmful to your business. My personal strategy is to keep a list of all my project ideas so I can keep (or even semi-plan) ideas and then save them for later while I work on my current project.
Sometimes the flow takes the shape of an "accumulating project ideas" phase and "making projects happen" phase. These phases cycle and come in waves. If this is your pattern, then it can be helpful to acknowledge that and accept it. If you find yourself in an "accumulating project ideas" phase, then don't worry about working on the projects until you're done with that phase. Vise versa, if you're in a "making projects happen" phase, don't worry about where the next project idea will come from or if you're working on the "right" project. Simply completing the project is huge; you can shift your trajectory on the next project, but you'll never cover any ground if you don't complete the project.
Forward movement is key and that comes from focusing on one project at a time and seeing it through to completion.
Enjoy Your Free Time while You Have It
When you're just getting your business off the ground you might find yourself with more free time than you know what to do with. Sitting idly by is definitely not recommended, and there's a limit to how much you can do. There's so much about starting a business that's out of your hands no matter how much you work. So at some point there's a rule of diminishing returns at play.
In gardening, you can plant a seed and water it and weed it and learn about the best ways to care for it and fret over it, but at the end of the day whether it grows or not is completely beyond your control. In fact, many seeds grow without a gardener's tending, so the fretting really does nothing to help. It's similar in a business: when you're done "watering", "weeding" and learning about business, maybe there's nothing left to do and that's okay. Maybe that "fretting" part is under your control, and you can choose not to fret.
There's plenty of stress and effort that goes into starting a business. Think of the free time as a way to balance all that and provide a modicum of stress relief. So, once you've done your work, don't rob yourself through guilt or fretting and instead let yourself enjoy free time while you have it. Your seedling business will bloom either way, and wouldn't you rather enjoy the process?
Take Care of the Basics
When working on a big project like starting a business, sleeping, eating and exercise can fall by the wayside. Skipping the basics of self care is only going to make a challenging task (e.g. everything about self employment) more challenging. So don't neglect the basics! Your body and mind are connected so you're going to do less good work if you're not taking care of yourself.
Make sure you're making time for sleep. Midnight website overhauls are great, but make sure you're making up for the lost sleep somehow. (Sleeping in or mid-day naps are fine by my "boss", why isn't it okay with yours?!) Schedule time to eat and plan your meals with as much care (if not more!) as when you were employed. Have a back up plan for healthy quick meals to keep you fueled. Find time to exercise. If it takes scheduling a client named "Go For A Walk" then do it! (and remember that Mr. Go For A Walk cannot be cancelled! A client who's trying to book can probably find another day or another time. Missing out on your exercise could negatively impact many clients.)
Balance is Necessary for Joy
Part of your goal in being self employed probably includes having a full, well-rested, joyful life. You probably didn't leave employed work saying "I'm going to work longer hours and be more miserable. Yeah!" Now that you're your own boss, you are the only one responsible for the hours you work and joy or misery in your life. It's up to you to strike a balance between work and the rest of life.
Remember you have other interests besides the business, and loved ones who like to see you from time to time, so make sure those are also a part of your schedule. And make sure some of those things make you laugh! Foster hobbies that bring joy and friendships that bring laughter.
This could mean a shift from before you started your business, and that's okay. You might need to plan time for non-work activities more carefully than before. You might need to spend time with different people than before. You might need to practice being fully present for non-work activities when you didn't struggle with that before. Through planning and being present you'll to find more joy and laughter.
Without Losing Your Mind
There's a lot to keep track of when you're in business for yourself, and that makes it easy to lose track of what's important. We run the risk of that "losing my mind" feeling when we get caught up in the day to day, and we lose sight of the bigger picture and why we became self employed in the first place. By keeping our projects singular and in focus, we'll find the space we need to take care of ourselves, find balance and enjoy our free time. This will in turn make achieving our larger life goals more possible.