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: fear is the biggest distraction

I spent Monday in what I would, in previous years, called a daze. I drank tea, I wrote, I read. I made a rather pathetic attempt at writing emails. A lot of the day was spent staring into space.

Sounds productive, huh?

Actually, it was. And like so much of life, the difference between utterly unproductive and deeply clarifying, productive work could not be seen on the outside. Had you seen me, you’d have thought I was wasting a day.

On the inside, it felt like I was synthesising a whole load of ideas, wisdom, thoughts, needs, and wants. Something was shifting, but the only way to allow it to happen was to be quiet and highly unproductive.

By the time I went to bed, a thought had bubbled up from all this contemplation and it said: All you’re doing is trying not to get hurt.

And, reader, it was 100% correct.

All I have been doing this year is trying to avoid getting hurt. I have played it safe, taken small, calculated risks, mostly about things I don’t care about too much.

I have spent a large proportion of my time this year trying to limit the amount of hurt possible. At the end of last year, I did get hurt – I got hurt in my business. And I have been trying to rebuild things differently, and mostly succeeding, except I haven’t been doing what I’m meant to do.

Fear has distracted me from writing, from planning things I cannot wait to do, from letting go of the things that are getting in the way.

Social media doesn’t distract me – fear does.

Fear tells me that I’m stuck. That I just can’t find the answer. That perhaps there is no answer and I should go and get a job. (Fear knows how to twist the knife, doesn’t it?)

Fear has kept me tweaking projects, refining things that just don’t matter, because to actually try to do something I really want – that will hurt.

Failing at something I wasn’t really that bothered about in the first place is much less painful than even the idea that I might fail at something important.

Also – failure is inevitable. Fear is the one who tells me it’s awful and avoidable, if only I were good enough. Fear tells me that failing means no one will like me and I’ll never be happy again.

Failure is simply part of the landscape – as certain as breathing, sleeping, waking.

So here’s the thing:

This year, for me, has been my life’s lesson in getting back up. The phase I’m in now is how to get beyond survival and into thriving.

Fear has been there every step of the way and, left unchecked, it would keep me stuck and working too hard at things that don’t matter.

And I know that I’ve read articles similar to this one and nodded my head and thought, “Yeah, musn’t let fear get in the way,” while doing everything Fear told me to do. So I know you might do the same, and that’s okay. We can only do it when we can do it.

But in case this hits you at a moment when you’re open to hearing it, I hope you’ll know that failure is part of the programme, and that Fear can’t hold it over us for the rest of time.

I hope you’ll see maybe just one small way that you’re holding yourself back because of Fear.

I hope you’ll know that you’re not alone. That successful, authentic, creative, ambitious people get all caught up in Fear, too.

You don’t have to change a single thing today. You can just notice.

Me? I’m going to start by tipping the balance towards the things that really matter. I can’t wait to fail at them.

Here’s the thing: places we get stuck (and how to get out of them)

I’ve noticed in working with creative entrepreneurs, especially designers and makers, and in my own work, there are certain places where we get stuck. Because we’re individuals, they’re nuanced, but there are definitely themes.

I’ve collected five of the most common blocks to doing our best work and shared some of my thoughts on how we get un-stuck. This list is not exhaustive, and so I’d love to hear your experiences of what gets you tied up in knots and how you untangle yourself. Pop a comment below or email me!

 

Worrying about what other people think

Okay, I’ll admit this is a lifetime’s work for me. I’m a people-pleaser, and every year I think I’ll kick this habit, and every year it is stubborn. So my experience is that it’s a practise. A long one that you have to do every day. I remind myself that I’m not here to please people. It’s not my job to make everyone happy. It’s my job to tell the truth, to be myself, to offer business practises and services that I believe in.

Worrying about what other people are doing

There’s the pleasing, and then there’s the comparison. There are so many books I wish I’d written, courses I’d love to run, events I’d love to host, conversations I’d love to have. And when I see other people doing them, it physically hurts sometimes.

And then there’s seeing other people doing things I hadn’t even thought of! Should I be doing that? How can a change my business strategy to include that, because it’s obviously working? Wait. This is always a signal for a pause. To get off social media, to take a walk, to remind myself of what’s important to me.

Comparison is another life-long lesson. But my best advice is to allow yourself that pause to come back to yourself, and to remember that you have to do what’s right for you.

Note: if either of these first two are big for you, consider Self Care on Social Media for Business Owners. We’ll get you some healthy boundaries around social media, comparison and those silly shoulds.

Creative self-doubt: this font or that? This format or that?

In the last 3 days I’ve had emails from coaching clients double checking their new designs. What do I think of the fonts? Are the colours right?

I can help with these questions for my clients because I already know the answers to the following:

  • Who are you designing for?
  • What do they care about?
  • What’s the most important job for this product / service / offering?
  • Do the design choices reflect these things?

Ultimately, feeling confident in your designs requires courage. It’s never easy. There is often doubt and fear lingering around. It’s about having enough of a connection to what you want to create so that you can push through the doubt.

I could write a whole other post (maybe a book?) on listening to the inner signals of what is right and what is fear, following our creative intuition. All I’ll say now is: I know you have a wise inner creative within you, one that knows the answers.

There’s not enough money

If you’re stuck in the “not enough, not enough, not enough” loop, I recommend logging off. Turn off your phone. Close down your laptop. Stop looking at the to-do list. For 15-20 minutes.

Instead, boil the kettle, make a tea or lemon and honey, and sip it. List a few things you’re grateful for, the prosperity you’ve already received. Go to town if you can. Be grateful for the kettle, electricity, and the chair you’re sat in if that’s all you can manage. This is the seed that shifts the worry and lets your brain know you have resources to get through the hard patch you’re in – or realise you’re not in a hard patch at all.

Alternatively, I also find just walking round the block for 20 minutes can shift the overwhelming not enoughness.

Trying to push through when really we need to rest and reset

This. This, my friends, is a theme amongst hard-working, gifted, creative, ambitious (mostly) female entrepreneurs and creatives. There’s a tendency to push and push and push. We think that’s what we’re meant to do – keep going forever, no matter what.

Your energy isn’t infinite, but it is renewable.

If you’re trying to get through an impossible to-do list. If you keep getting hit in the face by a wave coming towards you, with no chance for a breath before the next one hits. If you are so tired that sleep doesn’t even touch the sides (as it were). If you can’t remember what a clear head feels like.

You. Have. To. Rest.

Rest actually speeds up the creative process. Did you know that? It also speeds up success of all kinds. Because we don’t waste precious energy trying to do stuff that isn’t working when, if we had the mental clarity, we’d know that a thoughtful pivot would yield results.

I don’t write this to be facetious or to over-simplify the complex process of building a sustainable and profitable business. Business isn’t simple, but nor is it as complicated as our fear-based brains like to tell us.

So I write this to offer practical steps to get yourself out of stuckness and closer to your dreams.

I can’t wait to hear what works for you!

Jenny x

 

A few offerings

If you’re getting stuck, you might like:

  • Self Care on Social Media for Business Owners. If I could release creatives from comparison and the distraction of social media, I know that the world would be better off. We’d have more true connection, more amazing products and services, and generally more happiness. Be part of this movement to create healthy relationships with social media, especially for business owners. Lifetime membership is £140+VAT.
  • My January retreat weekend. Yes, you’ll rest and reset. Plus you’ll get time to reflect on your business and make an amazing plan for the year ahead. These retreats change lives, I’ve been told. Places are available for just £700, and you can book a place for a £250 deposit.
  • One-on-one coaching. Let’s get into the detail of where you’re standing in your own way, or coming up against obstacles you can’t figure out yet. Create your own unique plan of six sessions for £750.
optin-cup

Let's Stay in Touch

I send monthly notes of encouragement, plus occasional extras about upcoming courses, events or opportunities. I’d be honoured to be invited into your email inbox.