In one of the last episodes of the year, I want you to take stock of the good – and all the things you’re grateful for in your business journey this year.
This is a short and sweet episode where I ask you to do a gratitude exercise (and look into other practices you can do on a regular basis) to bring into focus the awesome things you have achieved this year.
So often we’re focused on the ‘next thing’, and we forget to really revel in the things we have done well – or the lessons we’ve learnt.
During the Holidays, it’s no doubt you get together with family that perhaps you don’t see much of the year.
Inevitably, you will be asked ‘What have you been up to?’When you start telling them about working for yourself from home, I am sure there has been at least one person who exclaims, ‘MUST BE NICE!’Little do they know!
Working from home is not as easy as the stereotype would have you believe.
In fact, it can end becoming MORE work than the ol’ 9-5 you ditched to become a full-time entrepreneur.
Now that’s not to say it can’t be everything you ever hoped for.
Treating your business seriously and learning to practice professionalism and are a must.
Here are five tips in order to keep from losing your mind and throwing in the towel:
1. Always make sure to present your best self. You may not be going in to an office where you are surrounded by coworkers, but this is not the time for ratty sweats and last night’s mascara. Make it a pre-workday ritual, wash your face, comb your hair, get dressed! You wouldn’t present a sloppy piece of work, so don’t present yourself that way (even if no one is around).
2. Create a dedicated working space. Having a space you set aside just for your business, will mentally prepare you to get busy! It also allows you to create that separation from your work when the day is over and you move to the next room (or the other side of your apartment).
3. Always remember, YOU ARE NOT A RECLUSE. Have a life outside of your home. Just because you work at home and live at work you are not a shut-in! You need to make that physical break regularly.
4. ORGANISE. ORGANISE. ORGANISE. Clearly, I think highly of this practice. As a small-business owner, you are juggling many, many roles. You will need to have a good handle on your different tasks and learn to manage.
5. Having a plan will help with this. Do you have yearly goals? Monthly goals? Daily goals? Well you should!
Know where you are going, and plan a clear path. Write down your daily tasks that get you to those goals. Set deadlines! Meet those deadlines!! You always need to know where you are going and how you are getting there, or what is it all for?
Lastly, be prepared to plan again if you get thrown off course.
All that being said, working from home really can be wonderful!
You need to develop discipline, though.
Keep reminding yourself why you love what you do, and stay focused. And maybe you can even initiate casual Friday and show up to work in your gym clothes and top knot.
Do you have your own practices that help you work from home?
Creating that separation between work and home is already hard enough for the average person.
Finding that space is even harder for us entrepreneurs.
Admittedly, I have been guilty (okay, sometimes still am!) of letting the pendulum swing in favor of work. Thankfully, there are a few tricks that help me to keep that tendency in check.
One change I’ve implemented that has helped is creating, and sticking to, a morning routine.
Your current routine may look something like this: wake up, grab smart phone, check emails, scroll through social media updates you missed while sleeping.
But where are YOU in that wake up call?
From that first moment in the day, you are catering to others. Put aside business (and hey, that includes your iPhone!) and allow yourself to transition into work at a more emotionally-appeasing pace.
Here’s a sneak peek into how I begin my days:
Alarm clock. No snooze! No phone!
By having an alarm clock, I’m avoiding the temptation of grabbing my phone. I also NEVER hit snooze. Let’s be honest, 15 minutes extra does not create any sort of satisfaction.
Our bodies deserve to be treated nicely. And what’s nicer than a nice series of stretches after a good night’s sleep?
Warm lemon tea and a Gratitude Journal.
Lemon and water have a magic energizing effect. I am also a big proponent in everyone keeping a gratitude journal. Start your day with some serious positivity.
20 minutes of Reading.
This is my favourite part of the morning. Your mind is clear, it’s still early and quiet, and it’s all for you. I like to read a motivational book for these twenty minutes. Currently reading: A New Earth (again).
10 minutes of meditation.
Lie down. Close eyes. Breathe. Okay, we all know that meditation is not as easy as that! But I do find that in these morning hours, especially after warm tea and a round of gratitude, I am in the best possible mindset to meditate. Practicing focused presence for a short period each day will help you handle whatever comes at you.
Shower and Get Dressed!
Now this is an important one! I feel it’s important to include as part of your routine. Too often as entrepreneurs who work from home, we grow comfortable. And by comfortable, I do mean quite literally as well. Sweatpants and oversize shirts. Take yourself seriously. And dress to impress, even if it is just impressing yourself. You’ll also do better work if you feel good about the way you look.
Of course, your routine can and should vary!
Find something that works for you.
But do remember, in order for it to be effective, you must stick to it everyday. Preferably at, or close to, the same time everyday.
And don’t worry, I won’t tell if your sweatpants do make an occasional appearance…
Now I’m curious, what things will you add to your morning routine?
Despite giving many talks on signature style, market stall prep and business planning (yikes!) the topic I’m most asked about is how I’ve managed to combine creativity with motherhood.
I’m so glad when this comes up because it’s a topic that’s incredibly close to my heart!
Firstly, let me tell you a little bit about me.
I’ve been creating for as long as I can recall. It’d be safe to say that it’s in my blood, and it has helped me though many things over the course of my life.
For me, making and creating is a need that feels as necessary to my existence as breathing.
You can imagine then how it was to have my first baby, 10 years ago. All of a sudden there was no time for self-indulgent weekends filled with painting!
I struggled through the first year uncreatively, yearning for the me I thought I’d have to set aside and then one day I realised I could be creative in different ways to before.
Ways that would work with my new role, and ways that would fit in to my new timetable.
The first thing I did was let go of the idea that my only creative outlet was drawing and painting.
I learnt how to sew and appliqué and made clothes for my first-born, which surprisingly to me satisfied my creative urge at the time. Time went quickly as it does with a baby and pretty soon we welcomed our second baby into the family.
Not long after this I discovered something that changed everything for me. I discovered a whole network of other creative mums online! I connected with them and suddenly I wasn’t alone anymore.
I sketched out and designed complicated appliqué designs and began selling my work at local markets and on Etsy.
It’s now 7 years down the track from that first market and along the way I’ve landed back at my first love of painting and drawing with a little woodwork tossed in for good measure!
I still enjoying sewing and crocheting but now I just do those things for my family.
I look at my 3 kids and see the amazing influence staying true to my creative self has had on them as they see creativity as a normal and everyday part of life.
They are excited and encouraging of my artistic achievements and are most importantly confident in their own creative selves.
Here are my top tips for combining motherhood and creativity
1. Relax your mindset
Sometimes you have to change your creative expression up a bit for a short time.
Join a group, make connections with other crafty people and other crafty mums either online or in your local area.
Treasure your creative side, it is valuable and provides your kids with different experiences and skills.
Create when you can squeeze it in. A quick sketch before breakfast or some jewellery making late at night, if it’s important to you make sure you fit it in.
Create around your family. Let your kids see what you’re doing and they will begin to create alongside you.
6. Let go
Release any guilt you feel from indulging your creative side. Having a mum who is sometimes a bit distracted by her latest creation is much better for your kids than a mum who is sad and lost from not following her dreams.
I’ve been feeling a little bit guilty lately that I’ve let things get away from me with my business and my life.
About 3 months ago I had everything stable and in a great routine.
I was working two days a week on my passion projects, the local Community Centre, as well as being the Assistant Editor here at Create & Thrive.
I was getting my recently re-branded soap business This Soap Smells Good up and running from home and my mini-store, Handmade High Street (HHSt) at Southside Antiques where I work one day a week while I look after their website and social media.
I was also running 4 creative workshops a month which go hand in hand both the Community Centre and HHSt.
Plus, on the back-burner I had a few other little projects which I’d been dabbling in including a market which I organise twice a year for traders in my local neighbourhood
My plate is full.
But it doesn’t feel full most of the time because I’m used to it and I have a pretty strict routine which helps me to keep all the balls in the air.
We live in sunny Brisbane and my husband worked at the local Children’s Hospital which was only 4 minutes drive away and we had one car, our little house and two rascally pups.
I also almost started a Graduate Certificate at University this Semester but I have now deferred until 2016.
Recently, husband has started a 6 month stint at a hospital around 1.5 hours away from our home and we have moved part-time to my family’s house which is close by. (It does mean that I will have to do that 1.5 hour journey once a week for my Centre job but it’s not so bad).
He has also started studying again so he’s going to need my help to get his work done and that piece of paper signed off at the end of it all.
Now I can feel those juggling balls slipping out of my fingers: I feel like I am trying to grip each too tightly, not giving me enough time to catch the next one in line.
I looked at the list of things which I am responsible for and I had a sudden realisation:
I’ve lost my focus.
I’m a ‘yes’ person. I love to do more, try everything, never say no!
But in reality, consecutive rather than concurrent will give each project, task or job more clarity and will ultimately make you feel more accomplished and on the path upwards rather than in the wiggly track I’ve found myself on.
So here’s my tips for getting your focus back if you’ve got yourself into the bother that I have and need to streamline your business and life… and even cull some of the extraneous tasks or jobs to help you have a better work/life balance.
1. Write down every project, responsibility and job you currently have
Make sure you write down everything.
Don’t leave something off to make your list look easier or more achievable, that’s cheating yourself and you’ll lose clarity.
Here’s mine as an example: believe it or not, there used to be more on it.
Fundraising and Grants Portfolio
Town Hall Meetings and Annerley Support Meetings
Annerley Junction Traders Association Markets
Create & Thrive
The Thriver Circle
This Soap Smells Good
Handmade High Street Mini Store
Southside Antiques (media and marketing)
Grad Cert Community Development
Look after Husband when he’s working long shifts and studying
Look after two dogs
Keep the house tidy and household happy
Look after me
You can’t focus without specifics so it would be a good idea at this point to drill down on each of these jobs and projects with individual tasks and the time it takes you on average each week to achieve them.
Breaking things down into smaller parts makes it clearer how much time and energy they are taking up in your day.
I’m not going to bore you with mine – we might be here all day!
2. Decide what can go and what must stay
What’s the bigger picture here? What do you want to get out of your business and how will that balance with your life?
After writing that list I realised something really important.
Look where I put the words ‘Look after me.‘
There I am, right down there at the very bottom.
We’ve talked about self-care many times on this blog and I’ve realised that I’ve slipped out of the routine of looking after myself.
Also, where can I fit in my ‘useful distractions’? Things like hanging out with my friends and going out to dinner with my husband are important for overall happiness in my life.
Now, it’s time to decide what’s going to stay on that list and what’s got to go.
You’ll know what needs to stay and I bet you can look at my list and make the same decisions I would. Some things are so important that you can’t take them off the list – I can’t just stop looking after my dogs, my husband and myself can I!?
But there are going to be some things on that list that you’ll realise straight away are time-eaters or might be able to be postponed to a time when they are more achievable.
What can you put on the back-burner for while? Or maybe get rid of completely?
3. Make a Pros and Cons list for the things you’re not sure about
I have been thinking about some of my roles for a while and I just can’t seem to make a decision about whether or not I should keep going with some of them.
The important part here is getting out all your emotional, practical and logistical thoughts about each project or job and thinking critically about whether you want to do it, should do it or can do it… or not!
If you’re really into analysing your data, there’s a great post here about how to write an amazing Pros and Cons list.
After you have made your list for each task, really think about it with your heart – can you bear to let it go? Are you really invested in it?
If you feel like you can let go, it’s time to make a move on culling those things in your life which just aren’t working for you – at the moment.
You might find some of them can be left on the back-burner whereas others are now-or-never kinds of projects and roles. Make sure you take this into consideration.
4. Start a calendar and plug in times for each project, job or task
Take a break and make sure that all sits well with you. It’s a really tough thing to do but finding Focus takes… well… focus!
Now is the time I start looking at my time and a calendar is a really great place to start.
I looked at all the tasks I wrote and ‘drilled down’ on in the first place and see how much time each one of them takes.
I use Google Calendar but you could just as easily use a paper calendar or make one yourself.
First thing I have done is lock out Saturday and Sunday. I don’t want to work on weekends and that’s part of the reason I own my own business and have such a flexible work situation.
I want time off with family and friends on the weekend when everyone else is free.
Then I have slotted in things which have set hours so that I know those times are booked out and I can’t schedule other tasks there.
I also have multiple Google calendars so I can turn them on and off if I’m taking a holiday or having a break from one of my projects or jobs for a week or two. Plus I can see them all on my phone when I’m not near the computer.
When and how do you do your best work? Make sure you’re slotting things into your calendar at times and in timeframes that will allow you to give the best output.
You might realise after slotting everything into your calendar that it’s still a bit cramped.
5. Streamline each Project or Job
Go back to the beginning of this list and see all the jobs and projects you now have on your plate after your cull.
Look at the tasks that go along with each one: where you ‘drilled down’ and elaborated on each job.
Are there things which you are doing which might be able to be dropped or at least put aside for now?
What can you outsource or get help on?
Can you take a little extra time now to work on streamlining a process which will save you time in the longrun?
Could you ask someone in the same industry to help you find a quicker way to get a task done?
You could also do the exact same process we went through with your Pros and Cons earlier but on a deeper level of your list.
Once you have streamlined these tasks, you can rethink how much time you spend on each job or project and help you to prioritise time into your calendar.
6. Review, review, review
Now you have taken a step towards a more focused life and business, you can sit back and ride the wave of success.
You’ll need to keep an eye on your jobs and projects within your business and other aspects of your life or things can have a habit of creeping up on you.
This is exactly what has happened to me!
If you feel like things are becoming too much, you can’t keep all the balls in the air or you’re simply not getting enough ‘me time’, take a deep breath, and start from the beginning of this post again.
I feel much more secure now I have really thought through all my roles in life and made decisions which will make me happier and healthier in body and mind.