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: feel the disappointment in order to move forward

Disappointment is a somewhat disappointing fact of life.

And even though we can be in the ongoing process of creating a life with fewer disappointments by adjusting our expectations and our actions, the truth is we can’t guarantee outcomes, and so we experience disappointment.

From minor disappointments, like drinking a cup of tea way after it’s gone cold, to major disappointments, such as business opportunities not being fulfilled, it’s important that we can process everything we feel and make great choices going forward.

Even small disappointments, when noticed and processed, can lead to better situations next time. You might be more mindful of when you make a cup of tea next time, or you might get an insulated cup! For the bigger disappointments, the more we process them, the more we learn about what happened, what fell through, what that means for our choices going forward.

Too often, we’re too quick to try and jump up and move on and pretend nothing happened. Hope no one noticed, including ourselves. In my experience, this can keep us stuck in secret disappointment that we can’t shake off…

I was thinking about this over Christmas, when my five-year-old stepson got really upset at losing a game. My initial reaction is, “Wow, it’s not a big deal. He needs to not overreact like this.” Partly, I don’t want to see him upset, but also it’s so easy to forget how much of a disappointment this is for a small person. (Side note: I’m terrible at most games, so losing is no big deal for me!)

Reflecting on it, I want to help him deal with the disappointment. If he’s disappointed, I want him to be able to express it and process it healthily. I don’t want it to be suppressed so that in the future he’s just aggressively determined to win. He needs to know that it’s okay to lose, to be disappointed, but he can still try again, he can still have fun.

Disappointment points us to what we want

Maybe you wanted to win that game. Maybe you wanted to score that interview in the local paper. Maybe you wanted to win an award, or buy a specific house, or get a wholesale contract with a lovely shop.

Maybe you were disappointed by someone – someone let you down, whether on purpose or not.

I absolutely want you to be able to pick yourself up and move forward. I think that is one of the most important strengths of an entrepreneur. The determination and resilience required to try again is vital in pretty much any self-employed profession.

But I don’t want you to squash the disappointment. Now, I’m not saying dwell in it and take a billion years to move past it. I’m not recommending getting stuck in being the martyr or the victim or starting the buy into the belief that you “have terrible luck”, “just never win anything”, or similar. (Insert your own downtrodden phrase here…)

So how do we hold space for the disappointment in order to get over it?

We have to acknowledge the disappointment. We have to look at it, describe it, explain it, see it. We have to notice what it’s showing us about what we were hoping for, and what we can learn from it.

And then we can make a plan to either get what we were hoping for some other way, or turn our attention to something else.

Sometimes we don’t even realise we’re disappointed until way after the fact. We didn’t realise how much we wanted something until it hasn’t happened, until it falls through. These can be confusing to process, but are some of the most interesting places to discover what you really want.

Sometimes we can attach a whole load of meaning to why we didn’t get what we wanted – meaning that isn’t really there. “I didn’t get that promotion because my products aren’t good enough.” “I didn’t get the house because I don’t deserve it.” “That relationship fell through because I’m not pretty enough.”

Before we jump to conclusions in reflecting on disappointments, let’s avoid making sweeping assumptions, especially when they relate to other people’s decisions. We don’t know what led someone to promoting something instead of yours. We don’t know exactly why someone chose to go in a different direction.

Honestly, I think entire lives can change based on an assumed meaning we’ve attached to something because it’s a tender place or a secret fear. Let’s keep our minds open to the possibilities – and remember that we don’t always know exactly why something didn’t come together.

Here are some questions to reflect on:

  • Start by naming your disappointment. What are you disappointed about?
  • Did it catch off-guard? Were you expecting to be this disappointed?
  • What were you hoping would happen?
  • What is it about that thing that was important to you?
  • What’s the feeling? Can you describe it physically, emotionally? Give it form.
  • What do you need to let go before you can move on?
  • What are you telling yourself about this disappointment? Are there any stories you need to acknowledge aren’t necessarily true?
  • Is there anything you can learn from the situation to help you in the future?
  • Do you still want to pursue the outcome? How might you change your approach having been through this experience?

Brene Brown talks about the vulnerability of actually admitting how much we want something to happen, so that we give ourselves the time and space and support to process it if it doesn’t happen. Let’s not pre-reject ourselves when we’re declaring our big dreams, and let’s not shrug off something that was disappointing because we don’t want to feel uncomfortable.

For me, even the client who decides not to book a session can be disappointing, especially if it’s someone I’d love to work with. Yes, I trust that they are making the best decision for them. Yes, I’ll survive. But if I let that little disappointment go un-checked, I can end up with a story about how I’m no good or will never get a client again.

I need to write about the disappointment, to explain to myself what I was looking forward to, and remember that I can still get that elsewhere and with other clients. And I often end up writing a list of all the factors that could have been – a powerful activity for anyone who tends towards thinking it’s their fault.

Embrace the disappointment so that you can move forward with a clear mind, a clear heart, and more information about yourself and your business. I highly recommend it.

Jx

PS New Year Coaching sessions are still available until the end of February. Get booked in now.

Thank you, 2017

Well, my friends, we’ve blinked and it’s 2018!

January brings an opportunity for that fresh feeling, a clean slate, a new opportunity. And while I recommend caution for trying to make too much change all at once, a little dreaming and intention setting is definitely the theme around here.

But while we look forward to an exciting new year, there’s also a year just finished, one in which many people experienced change and uncertainty, but many also experienced success. And because nothing is ever black and white, it’s a chance to notice and celebrate the good, as well as move happily on to new adventures.

So I thought I’d share a bit of what I’m grateful for – business and pleasure – at the end of 2017 / beginning of 2018…

Thank you for a home

In April, we moved into a new home in north Cambridge, having moved to Cambridge in March 2016 and started looking for a permanent home almost straight away. The move came after a long wait, and my goodness I was ready to settle in and never move again!

Our home has already provided a lovely foundation for life and business. I love having a garden to enjoy, and after a couple of reshuffles, I now have a desk in our front room with a log burner. Bliss!

Thank you for two sell-out retreats

Last January (can you believe it!) I ran two retreats within 3 weeks. They were both sell-outs, and one included retreaters coming for their third year in a row. Retreats have always felt like my calling, ever since that first one in 2015, and the feeling was there again in January.

There’s so much magic in uncovering dreams, opening up ideas, and creating friendships and support. It’s a pleasure to behold, and an honour to be part of.

Thank you for a marriage

Oh my goodness, I got married! And what a day it was. Hot. Bright. Completely delightful! I grinned all day, alongside some tears, and got to hang out with my favourite humans. I’m most grateful for my new husband, who I’m more in love with now than ever.

And of course, there was also a honeymoon which feels like a dream when I think about it now. Tropical beaches, long naps, sunshine, sea, delicious food, books. I’m so grateful for that time and the experience of being somewhere completely new.

Thank you for clarity on my business

2017 was a big year, for me and for my clients. Like many years, it threw up unexpected questions and challenges, as well as some truly wonderful moments. I made some changes at Copper Boom Studio to make it more manageable. For about 18 months, I worked two full time jobs, and so it was a relief to adapt and make everything more sustainable.

I also started getting some clarity on working with clients specifically around the challenges of depression and anxiety. I’ve been working with one client on just this for several months, and it’s been amazing! The feedback, the feeling of progress, the clarity and understanding of how mental / emotional health impacts our businesses. I’m gathering so much goodness for more support in this area in 2018.

Thank you for boundaries

I started working with Randi Buckley in 2016, but 2017 was really the year that healthy boundaries kicked in for me. Boundaries with work, life, relationships, myself… It’s been so valuable to map out what’s okay and what’s not okay, and learn more about how to communicate that.

I created Self Care on Social Media for Business Owners off the back of this work, which has been an incredibly enjoyable course to lead. (And will run again in February / March 2018.) I thoroughly recommend Randi’s signature programme, Healthy Boundaries for Kind People.

Thank you for wonderful clients and friends

I love the people I work with, and that makes every challenge, every long day, every effort totally worth it. I’m as grateful as I can be for all of you who have supported me in 2017 and worked with me. To all the one-on-one clients, retreaters, Planning With Purpose group, friends and colleagues – thank you so much!

And you?

What are you grateful for at the end of 2017? Don’t get me wrong, I’m ready to move on swiftly to a calmer, more successful year! And yet taking a moment to notice all the things that went right has been so helpful to my confidence going forward.

What are the things that boosted your confidence?

Where did you find success?

When did you rely on your amazing resilience and creativity?

What really made a difference to you?

Oh, there are so many questions I could ask – and would love to hear the answers to! If you’re so inclined, I’d love to hear your reflections on 2017 so please do get in touch.

You can also get The Year’s End workbook and video package, which is a more comprehensive collection of questions and reflections on the past 12 months, and looking forward.

Here’s to a wonderful, successful, happy, healthy, wealthy, magical year ahead!

Jenny x

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