My maternity leave soft launch (or how to work with limitations)

I recently shared a slightly unexpected development over on Instagram: I declared a Maternity Leave Soft Launch for my business.

I received some questions and thoughts, so I thought I’d share a bit more about it, and how it can help you in your business, even if you’re not pregnant! Ultimately, we go through different phases of life and business that require a different approach, so while my current experience is very much pregnancy-related, you may have something else going on that requires a little tweak to your business strategy.

So. It turns out not everyone knows I’m pregnant. To be honest, I haven’t been sharing loads because I’m kind of in it right now, and also because I like writing about business and creativity most of all. But yes, I am expecting a baby girl this summer.

A couple of weeks ago, I hit 31 weeks, and something shifted. I worked hard in the run up to my Creative Business Day Retreat, but I knew that after the retreat, I really needed to slow down.

I had hoped to work as normal up to about 35 weeks, but there are a few things really shifted. One, I’m not sleeping as well as I normally do, so my energy is slower. Two, I really have a lot I want to do to prepare for a new human, and that takes time and energy. Not compatible with full working days.

I also needed to let go of some of the things I’d thought I could achieve before taking maternity leave.

This was a hard step! But looking at my project list, I started to see how doing less would actually mean I’d get more done. It’s so counter-intuitive! But I basically got to the point where I realised if I actually wanted to complete certain things, some projects just needed to shuffle off the list.

So I prioritised things that I actually wanted and needed to do before I sign off, and looked at how much time I realistically needed to complete them.

I decided to dedicate pretty much half days to the following work:

  • Three half days a week of client work (coaching calls, coaching notes and follow up, and one big copywriting project I’m doing before I finish)
  • One half day a week of course and group content (Progress not Perfection, retreat groups and course updates)
  • One half day a week of email admin and getting some lovely stuff scheduled while I’m having baby snuggles

There are a few bits that don’t fit into those categories, but that’s the overview of how I’m spending my time.

The rest of my time is now available for baby prep. And that’s not just napping, resting and reading all the books! It includes things like:

  • Driving my husband to physio and hospital appointments for his knee injury recovery (it’s going well, and I can’t wait for him to be able to drive again!)
  • Doing all the pick ups and drop offs for my stepson (see above)
  • Midwife appointments
  • Pregnancy yoga and exercise
  • Getting someone to fix our oven
  • Decluttering the house (for what feels like the billionth time!)
  • Taking care of my mental health

These things feel really important, not only for the smooth running of our home right now, but also so that I’m not burnt out and exhausted for months and months. Yes, a newborn is going to be exhausting and all-consuming. But I don’t want additional factors to set me back when I’m thinking of coming back to work.

The struggle and the clarity

I faffed around with wanting to do more and getting frustrated for a good few weeks before I realised I needed to change my mind about maternity leave.

Getting the clarity and declaring a soft launch was an incredibly freeing moment. Announcing to myself – and then publicly – what I was planning to do has made me feel more confident and have more energy. It’s helped me to manage my own expectations on what I’m going to do, and to see that the activities I’m committing to aren’t actually reducing my income.

So how can you apply this to your own business?

The truth is that focus can make everything more efficient, and ultimately that’s great for your business.

We often fall into the trap that more work = more money or more success. That more = more. Except it doesn’t. Sometimes more expectations = more disappointment and frustration, which then leads to burnout and giving up.

You can totally commit to a defined period of time of focus, whether it’s a 100 day project, a month of [insert focus here] or even the summer school holidays.

I definitely believe in choosing a defined period of time for a re-focus. Then you can review it at the end and see what works!

Here are some situations you might be up against, when a “soft launch” of a new way of doing things could help:

  • School holidays – if I’ve learnt anything from coaching clients and my Progress not Perfection group, it’s that school holidays have a MASSIVE impact on time and energy. Make a plan! Manage your own expectations!
  • A project or website launch – if you’re working on a big launch, you need to set parameters for what you’re working on as a priority. Once the thing is launched, you can go back to “normal”.
  • Illness, depression, anxiety and recovery from all three – if you’re going through a rough patch health-wise (including mental health) OR have a family member who is, give yourself a break. Declare a “new normal” and stop beating yourself up for having a lower capacity.

Ultimately, what I love about my maternity leave soft launch is that it has a defined period of time, clear goals, and feels really aligned to how I want to feel and what’s important to me.

You don’t need to wait for a giant life event to feel that way! Declare your own short-term project and commit to yourself. I’d love to hear what you decide!

Here’s the thing: don’t let problem-solving get in the way

As a business owner and a creative, you’re probably pretty good at problem-solving. Many of us are. Sometimes it’s spotting an opportunity. Somethings it’s rushing through the long list of orders you have to get through, or replying to that tricky customer.

Many of us LOVE solving problems, fixing things, making it better.

And it serves us really well. It makes us good at customer service. It makes us good at creating products and services that people need. It makes our lives better, and helps those around us, too.

Because who doesn’t want fewer problems?

But in business, problem-solving can become a distraction.

When we’re always looking at the list of things that need sorting out, the orders to post, the printer to fix, we’re not able to focus on the bigger picture.

The more we see and solve problems, the more problems come up that need to be fixed.

And all these little problems keep all our attention, which means we don’t have the care or time or energy left to address the bigger issues.

Big questions, like:

Is this really what I want to be doing, how I want to be spending my days?

How can I earn a good living by doing the things I really love?

Where is the profit coming from?

What’s the meaning and purpose behind my business?

What am I here to do?

If we stay in problem-solving mode too long, getting distracted by urgent things that are shiny and have a short-term importance, we wake up in a life and a business that doesn’t quite feel right.

And this isn’t just one big crisis. Sometimes this happens a couple of times a year, or every two years or so.

This is the process. Get good at something. Get good at solving problems. Get distracted. Get restless. Get frustrated.

Then we stop. We reconnect. We look at the bigger questions. We get clear.

Yes, you can look at the bigger questions (and their answers) daily.

Yes, that will help you to stay focused on what really matters.

Yes, you can get EVEN BETTER at solving problems when you look at it from a bigger perspective.

So. Are you ready?

Come and dive deeper into the bigger questions with me on Friday 10th May at my Creative Business Day Retreat.

Let’s celebrate your awesome problem-solving skills, while also getting you set up to feel better, play bigger and find more success.

Dive into the big questions yourself, and you’ll discover clarity, answers, resources and energy that you’ve been missing. It’s thoroughly recommended.

And doing it in a group with a talented guide (ahem) can give you even more strength through community, inspiration, and accountability.

This is why I do what I do.

You matter, and so does your business,
Jenny xx

Here’s the thing: 4 things to let go of as a business owner

As humans, we regularly need to let go of stuff in order to move forward with efficiency, energy and clarity. Today, I’m sharing my top four things I’d love for business owners to release on the regular.

It’s a bit like Marie Kondo-ing your brain so that you have more space for excellent business strategy and clarity.

Are you ready to let go? Here we go:

 

1. Perfectionism

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: perfection is an illusion, and, if you’re a business owner, it can be a costly thing to focus on.

No project is ever perfect. No plan is ever perfectly executed. So stop beating yourself up about it, and please, please focus on all the good stuff you are doing.

The progress you make is worth far more than perfection, which is worth absolutely zero.

If you, like so many of us, try really hard to make everything perfect, consider:

  • Identifying what “good enough” looks like
  • Focusing on one or two things that REALLY matter to you
  • Reading about iterative processes and how valuable they are in business. The Lean Startup is a great book to get you going.
  • Launching something before you think it’s ready, and rolling with it
  • Joining my anti-perfectionism group coaching course, Progress not Perfection

 

2. Expectations

Okay, I definitely believe in forming an authentic, aligned vision for your business. So let’s make sure we know that I’m not saying you should let go of that.

Expectations are different. Expectations are often fantasies of how we hope things will go, without much basis in reality. And, crucially, expectations are usually things we put onto other people.

Brene Brown says, “Expectations are resentments waiting to happen.” And I think we could do without resentment, yes?

Here are some examples of expectations to let go of:

  • The expectation that you will consistently do more than is reasonable in a given day, eg the work of 20 hours in 8
  • The expectation that other people will automatically have the same passion and drive that you do
  • The expectation that other people are as hard-working as you, or will do things in the same way
  • The expectation that other people will be able to read your mind (they really, really can’t)
  • The expectation that your business will consistently out-perform what’s statistically possible

How to let go of expectations? Notice them. Write them down. Perhaps on a daily basis. These things are easy to think without thinking about it, and then will trip you up later!

 

3. Disappointments

Oh, the disappointments. If you’ve been in business more than a year (and/or alive more than 25 years), you’ve probably experienced some pretty hefty disappointment.

Maybe you’ve been let down by someone. Maybe a project didn’t come to life the way you’d hoped. Maybe the decisions you made in good faith turned out to be wrong in ways you couldn’t see at the time.

Feeling let down sucks. And it can be a huge drain on your energy, often leading to a mindset where you can’t imagine trying or trusting anything (or anyone) ever again.

If you’ve been disappointed, here are some suggestions:

  • Feel it. Be angry. Write down everything you feel and would like to say to all involved.
  • Release it. Shout into the sky. Burn everything you wrote. Or rip it up and throw it away.
  • Forgive yourself. This is a big one. Actively tell yourself that you forgive anything you’ve been beating yourself up for.
  • Learn. What are the lessons of your disappointments? What did you learn about what to do next time, or who to trust?
  • Put lessons into actions. The best way to let it go is to move on, and that takes action. End or repair relationships. Change the direction of projects. Start new projects based on your learnings.

 

4. Comparison

If I could make a wish for all business owners everywhere – no, wait, all people everywhere – it would be to let go of comparison.

It truly is the thief of joy, and it can corrode confidence, passion and enthusiasm quicker than you can blink.

And comparing yourself to others is so. easy. to. do.

Especially on social media, where everything can seem shiny and easy and perfect (see above). In reality, everyone is facing challenges and messiness and disappointments.

You can waste so much time and energy on stalking competitors, or even comparing yourself to friends who seem to have it all together. You know what I’d love? I’d love for you to put all that delicious time and energy into YOUR business, your designs and creations and unique gifts.

So let go of it as much as you can:

  • Unfollow people who make you slip into comparison
  • Write down all the things you think “people” are doing / achieving and acknowledge that you have no idea what their behind the scenes really looks like
  • List your own gifts, talents and skills – regularly

 

What else would you love to let go of? Or perhaps you’d like a witness to the perfectionism, expectations, disappointments and comparison you’re releasing now. My emails are open.

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