Behind the scenes: my Creative Business Day Retreat

Earlier in May, I hosted a wonderfully nourishing Creative Business Day Retreat at Paus, just outside Cambridge.

Having created and hosted six retreat weekends over the last five years, it felt like high time to offer a day retreat that would inspire, remove challenges, and rejuvenate!

The day started with tea and coffee, and a few introductions. I had a very prompt group (or should that be lots of luck with the traffic!) so we had plenty of time to chat and get to know one another.

My job at any retreat is to listen deeply to the needs of the women who gather and make sure they leave with some insight, clarity and practical suggestions for actions to take. So as I guide everyone through introducing themselves and their businesses, I’m listening out for themes and clues for what they really need.

I use meditation to help us all get really present, and to bypass the monkey minds that keep us stuck in fear and old habits. At my weekend retreats, I lead groups through regular meditations and longer visualisations, but as this day retreat was shorter, I kept things pretty focused!

Another tradition of the retreat is the gift of a star with a word on it. It’s a little bit of magic, but also an important symbol: a token to remind guests of their insight and clarity when they leave. Each word is carefully chosen, but ultimately goes to the person who needs in most.

Once we’re all settled in, I lead the group through some writing prompts. For this retreat, it was all about where you are now and where you want to get to. After we spend about an hour digging into some pretty big questions, each person has the opportunity to share with the group, and get some coaching from me.

This is where we really uncover the things that have held us back, that we haven’t been able to see before. Yes, there were tears. Yes, my hormones meant that I was also tearing up! But it’s good. These shifts are important.

Writing prompts sound very simple and straightforward, but the truth is there’s a lot of power behind them. I go deep – asking things in different ways and looking for fresh perspectives. It’s rare that guests don’t find something useful during these workshops.

After a delicious and nourishing lunch, guests had access to the incredible outdoor hot tubs at Paus, as well as time to reflect on the insights of the morning.

We had a little closing ceremony, including a meditation and some declarations of things we’re leaving behind as we go onwards. And of course some happy-sad goodbyes!

The day retreat was such a lovely way to celebrate my last in-person work before my maternity leave, and I loved spending the day at Paus.

If you’re interested in my next Creative Business Retreat Weekend in March 2020, I currently have two places left.

And for more information about future events, you can sign up to my newsletter.

Fancy a private retreat or workshop for a small number of friends or colleagues, get in touch!

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: 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.
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