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.

PS Fancy getting these blogs by email? You can subscribe here.

Here’s the thing: running a business when you’re tired

Friends, being tired is not my favourite.

But it’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently.

I’m six month pregnant, and while my physical pregnancy has been something of a dream, my husband’s recent knee injury has put a lot more pressure on my physical, emotional and mental resources. He’s been out of action; I’ve picked up the slack.

So, for the last 6+ weeks, I’ve been really tired. And that feels like the beginning of the end! With the arrival of a tiny human, it’s not like I’m going to get more sleep any time soon.

We all go through phases, whether we’re parents or not, of being more tired (or stressed, anxious, depressed) than usual.

The question is: how can we make sure our businesses still run when we’re not at full capacity?

The answer, in a nutshell, includes adaptability and process. But they’re not things you can always rustle up when a challenging time hits. I didn’t know my husband would be in an accident. I couldn’t plan for it, or for the weeks of unexpected time off.

There’s plenty that can hit us without warning – family sickness, our own ill health, emotional emergencies and challenges, and the good old blues.

But we can build our adaptability – our ability to cope – and a few simple business practices to make sure things aren’t thrown completely upside-down. Because nothing makes an emergency worse than a loss of income and money worries.

Cultivating adaptability

If you’re a recovering perfectionist, and perhaps have preferences for being able to control everything, I’m here to introduce a new friend to you: adaptability.

The great thing about adaptability is that you can begin to cultivate it any time – you don’t have to wait for an emergency to feel the benefits. It’s about seeing what’s most important to you in any given situation and going for that, even if it’s not perfect or what you expected.

You’ll need big doses of acceptance. Accepting limitations isn’t something you see on motivational Instagram posts, but it is vital to effective business planning. There’s a big difference between accepting something as a limitation when it’s not, and having a genuine limitation on your time, resources and energy.

I like to think of them as laws of physics. There are only 24 hours in a day. If you have new commitments (like driving your husband to hospital for appointments), the reality is you have less time and energy for other stuff.

Acceptance. Then, adapt.

Adapting to new information as you get it is a skill we should really be actively teaching in schools. You learn that a supplier is putting up their prices, so you adapt to it by adjusting your prices or going elsewhere. You discover a stockist is changing their practices, and you adapt by making changes yourself, or walking away. These things require awareness of your bottom line values, and sometimes you’ll find yourself figuring them out as you go.

But with every single adaptability challenge, you get better at it. You get better at seeing through the crap and confusion to clarity.

When you’re really tired, you’ll be grateful for this skill!

Creating wise processes

The other thing you can do ahead of a tiredness hit is to create wise processes that allow for dips in productivity and energy. If you manage anxiety, depression, illness or children, I highly recommend doing this.

The idea is to have a few things in place that kick into gear when something hits. It’ll look a little different for everyone, but here are some ideas:

  • Design an order fulfilment plan that doesn’t rely on you. Maybe it’s a local friend, maybe it’s an outsourced solution. But anything that allows orders to stay on is good.
  • Create a backlog of social media and marketing content. Okay, so planning ahead in general is great, but even if you don’t tend to have months worth of marketing scheduled at any given time, having a few images and posts you can post without thinking about it is helpful. Again, we’re prioritising cashflow and sustaining your business.
  • Pre-write out of office emails you can switch on and off as needed. I love writing them like a little letter so that they’re a positive experience for anyone receiving them.
  • Write a three-level emergency plan. Include details like how long you’ll extend lead times for, which clients or colleagues you need to contact, and any business essentials (like paying rent) that will need to happen, come what may.
  • Cultivate a support team. Sometimes just waving the flag of struggle can be a big help. Sometimes you need practical help. Write yourself a list of people you can call on for help, the kind of help they can provide, and their contact details. You could even approach them to say, “I’d like to put you on my support team for xxx. Would that be okay?” And offer mutual support where appropriate.
  • Have an emergency shopping list – for your business and home. This is something I’ve created off the back of the last six weeks. I now have a standard online shop saved so that I can just check out and get food for myself and my family. You might even have something similar for your business. It’s such a relief knowing it’s there!

What other processes could you add into your business to limit any loss of earnings (and sleep) when you’re in a tight spot? Get creative!

But what if you’re really tired right now?

It’s all well and good talking about building up skills and processes when everything feels good. But if you’re really tired, stressed, anxious or depressed right now, it’s not necessarily the time to work on the bigger picture.

First, let’s practice acceptance. You are where you are. Trying to change it or giving yourself a hard time about it does not help. So please let yourself off the hook. My personal experience is that things actually go better in the long term when you can just sink into where you are and give yourself what you need. Don’t pretend everything’s fine when it isn’t.

Once you’ve let go of your own expectations about how you “should” be feeling – and anyone else’s expectations, for that matter – you can get to the heart of it.

  • What do you need first? Is it sleep? Or food? Or emergency care (physical or mental)? Take action on your highest need first.
  • Give yourself time. Email clients, set an out of office, extend delivery times. Making this decision puts you ahead and will allow you to switch off worry.
  • Call in support. Whether it’s calling a friend, asking a partner to take care of dinner/the kids/the household, outsourcing business tasks, or calling a counsellor, do not attempt to get through everything by yourself.
  • Adjust your to do list. There is nothing so clarifying as an illness or emergency (or pregnancy!) to get to the bottom of what’s most important to you. My radical recommendation is to cut your to do list by at least 50%. See what happens.

I have consistently have calls with clients where their business homework is to get more rest and sleep. Because this nourishes everything else in their business and life.

And a reminder that sometimes sleep is the only thing that can sustain us. Other times, we need downtime when we’re not actually asleep, but resting. Quiet time to ourselves.

If everything’s way over your head in the short term, plan some good stuff further ahead: book a day off and protect it, or book some business support (like coaching or a day retreat) so that you can build long-term success.

I get it.

If you’re really tired, I get it. I know it. If you’re struggling right now, you’re not alone.

I hope that sharing some of these ideas and supports helps you, whether you’re deep in it or able to working on cultivating adaptability and processes that will help later.

I’d love to hear your questions, ideas and experiences, so please do get in touch if you’d like to share!

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