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!

What does soul have to do with business?

I was having a conversation with a friend-colleague-retreat guest late last year and she asked, tentatively, “Isn’t your work kind of spiritual?”

I paused awkwardly, unsure whether an enthusiastic “Yes!” was going to put her off or draw her in. It turns out it was the latter, and since then I’ve been more determined to say it the way I’d say it in a cosy retreat space… (Because retreats are truly my best work.)

Here it goes…

Your soul (or deeper wisdom or inner mentor or best self) is the part of you that isn’t worried, isn’t caught in the day-to-day doing. Your soul is the part of you that cannot fail, that knows you are worthy and deserving if health, happiness and peace.

This part of you is wise, open, and totally original. It is the BEST place from which to make business decisions.

It doesn’t worry about comparison or looking goofy.

It doesn’t get distracted by other people’s priorities or “shoulds”.

It doesn’t believe that everything’s already been done, and there’s no point.

It simply leans quietly towards the best next thing for you.

When we align our everyday actions with the wisdom of the soul (or whatever you’d prefer to , we create authenticity, we feel REALLY good, and we’re exactly where we’re meant to be.

What does soul have to do with business? It’s the secret link to success on your own terms.

How to get more in touch with your soul, inner wisdom, or deeper truth

There are lots of ways you can sink into your inner wisdom. I’m a big fan of taking time out, on a regular basis, so that you can quieten your monkey mind and keep things centred on you. (I even made this free video series to help you learn more.)

I recommend connecting with people, practices and books that are meaningful to you, the things that make you feel wise. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert is great. So is going for walks in nature.

And, of course, my own retreats and day retreats are created with the particular purpose of soulful business decision making.

Spaces are open to book for my day retreat on 10th May, or my March 2020 weekend retreat.

Here’s the thing: your sales aren’t shit

First, excuse the language, if it’s not the wording you’d use.

But perhaps you’ve said something like that? “Sales are so bad.” Even if it’s just in your head, if you’ve repeated a phrase similar to this more than three times, we need to talk.

I’ve heard it hundreds – if not thousands – of times from clients who are pretty low on energy, looking for a magic answer or at least some kind of good news. And, truthfully, I’ve been there, too.

I’m not one to sugar-coat things. I don’t like spiritual bypassing or anything similar. (“It’s not that bad! Just look on the bright side!” No, thanks.)

But this is where self-discovery and self-development are incredibly useful. Using awareness of what’s going on in our brains, we can change the story, and change the situation.

Here’s what I mean:

You’ve looked at a number, or several numbers, and something in your brain has said, “Sales are shit.” It’s such a clear and powerful message that you may have questioned it briefly, but it’s basically taken hold.

Then, because it’s not a great feeling, you’ve told someone else. “Sales are kind of shit.” And this person tells you they’re sorry to hear it, or that they’re in a similar position, and you feel not alone. Which feels better than sales-are-shit-and-I’m-all-alone.

So the mantra takes further hold.

And then when you sit down to write a to-do list or you’re thinking about your business, your brain is thinking from this “sales are shit” place. You feel desperate, or uninspired – both sides of the same coin. Maybe you have that frantic energy: you’re getting a lot done, but it’s not really changing sales or changing your mind. Or maybe you just… don’t do very much, because it all feels overwhelming and out of your control.

This story – one that you decided on in the blink of an eye based on something that isn’t the full picture – has become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Want to get out of the downward spiral? There are three essential things to do.

Check the numbers you’re looking at.

If you decided sales are shit based on a two-second glance at a dashboard that doesn’t take your entire business into account, you absolutely need to dive a bit deeper.

If sales are down, you’re likely to be looking at turnover, rather than profit. Which is a false success metric, and is definitely going to give you misinformation about your business and your efforts. Track and look at profit as a marker of where you are, rather than assuming turnover is the same – broadly – as profit. (My business is way down on turnover compared to a couple of years ago, but my profit is significantly higher.)

Check the language you use. Clarity is power.

Okay, so as I said, I’m not one to sugar-coat the truth. Telling yourself things are fine when they’re not won’t help you to improve your business or your situation. We need truth. We need clarity.

But there are ways to phrase things that honour the truth without getting stuck in a story.

First, let’s get the facts. If you’ve looked at the numbers, you’ll hopefully be able to say something like, “My turnover is 30% down on last year.” Or, “My profit has dropped.”

Then there’s something to add…

“My profit has dropped, and I’d like to change that.”

“My turnover is 30% down on last year, and my profit is, too. I’m ready to improve my profit.”

Sticking with true statements, we want one that expresses something true about the situation. You’ve got a fact statement about the numbers, and then it’s best to add something that shares what you want to change. In a positive way, of course!

Get a new game plan.

With a more positive mantra, like, “I’m ready to improve my profit,” you can start to put together a more proactive game plan.

The thing about the “sales are shit” mantra is that it keeps you stuck. You can also get stuck with a positive mantra (even if it’s amazing), if there’s no action that relates to it.

So if you truly are ready to change your profit levels or improve your enjoyment levels, it’s time to get creative about how you want to do that.

I’m pretty clear on something: most business women I know can come up with 3-10 great actions to take if they have half an hour and a positive environment to picture possibilities.

Maybe it’s creative ways to reduce your costs and streamline things. Maybe you can create a more efficient way of fulfilling orders. Maybe (and I say this with many years of experience) you need to put your prices up.

You don’t have to change your entire business overnight. But find a starting place. The second part of your new mantra should encapsulate the way you want to feel, say, a year from now.

When you write your next to do list, include something that is linked to how you want to feel.

What do you think? Does this method resonate with you?

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