Sometimes, despite our best efforts, things don’t quite go to plan. The unexpected happens. Life gets in the way.
When you’re working for someone else, there are usually procedures in place to reduce the pressure. Maybe you can delegate to someone else. Maybe you can slack off a bit and no one will notice. Maybe you can even take some time off.
But what do you do when you’re the boss?
What happens when you feel like you have to keep it together all on your own? What if you can’t find the motivation to get through anything on your to do list, even though you know that the success (or failure) of your business rests on your shoulders?
Over the past nine years of being in business, not only have I seen my clients go through these periods of ups and downs but I’ve also been through it myself. To be completely honest, I’m experiencing it right now. As I type these words.
life gets in the way
I want you to know that EVERYONE experiences rough patches in business. EVERYONE puts on a front sometimes, seemingly holding their shit together when in reality they’re questioning things behind the scenes. EVERYONE has days that seem like more effort than they’re worth.
Okay, great. So then what?
How do you hold your business together when life gets in the way? Here are a few survival tactics to try out:
1. figure out what’s critical
Your current, paying customers and contracts need to receive your attention. They are the bloodline of your business. If you neglect them, you will lose money. You MUST maintain your focus for them, deliver what is expected, and put your energy into doing it well.
Your second priority should be active inquiries from potential customers. Try to keep your pipeline full, although you can buy yourself a bit of time here when it comes to scheduling meetings.
But you can drop a lot of other things: meetings for the sake of meetings, demands on your time that aren’t from paying or potential clients (or investors), people who want to pick your brain about something. Just say no, and come back to it when you’re in a better place.
2. delegate or automate
When you’re in the early days of business and money’s not yet flowing, you’re likely to be doing most business activities yourself and saving as much cash as possible. As you learn about your business activities and start to grow, think about what you could have other people do for you.
Can someone else screen and manage the requests that come into your inbox?
Do you need to be the one managing your social media?
Who can help you with your accounts? Your marketing? Your website maintenance?
There are tons of freelancer websites out there with people waiting to take this stuff off your plate. There are also a lot of tools that can make the day-to-day running of your business less time-consuming.
The earlier you think about the support systems you need for your business, the better off you’ll be when the going does get a bit tough. (And it will. So seriously, start to think about this early on.)
3. give yourself space
The good news is, eventually this feeling that you (and I) are feeling is going to pass. So do whatever you need to do to get through them. Go for a run. Cry. Eat cake. Sleep.
Over the past couple of months, I’ve been trying to go easy on myself. If I need to sleep an extra hour in the morning, I do it. If I need to get up fit work around life priorities, I do it. If I need to take a day off, I do it.
Because I trust that my business is going to be there waiting for me on the other side of this rough patch.
And yours will, too.
over to you
What gets you through your tough times in business? I’d love to know your techniques for holding shit together when life gets in the way. Leave a comment below, as others will benefit from hearing your experiences.
Lia Choi says
Thanks Danielle, I really loved this. Thanks also for the link to some cool tools! Knew most but good to see other ones that could be v helpful. Been doing some Business Model Canvas lately and really need to put into place your #2. It’s a bit of a chicken and egg too, e.g. should we be automating things if I don’t foresee massive growth in my client base, what would the ROI be on those if we do invest? Such a vicious cycle that keeps us doing 100% everything by ourselves. It’s the reason why so many of us keep to tallying things in xls when we should probably be investing in better infrastructure. What do you think?
Danielle Anderson says
In this case, my answer is ‘it depends’. It depends on your business and it depends on how much you want to be able to let things tick over in the background while you focus on other stuff. There are other options – 1. you do it or in spreadsheets 2. you invest in a system to do it 3. you have someone else do it for you.
It may never make sense to automate all of your processes nor pay someone else to do them, but at some point you’ll have to ask if it’s the best use of YOUR time.
Jodi Redhouse says
Great article Danielle! Thanks so much for sharing x
Thanks for sharing Danielle – I can totally relate. Constantly reviewing priorities is one thing that helps me sort through the overwhelm but even then, it’s so useful to have an outsider perspective. In my case, it’s my boyfriend who I turn to and he’s quick to interrogate things on my to-do list that can potentially wait/be delegated/ be dropped off. It’s useful to have that outsider, objective perspective sometimes, from somebody who isn’t as emotionally invested in the business as I am.
Your point about space is something that I’m truly embracing now, without the guilt. And it’s quite wonderful how the space itself draws out so many special insights and opportunities. Keeping the faith!
Danielle Anderson says
It’s great that you have your boyfriend to offer you that outsider perspective. I do agree that it can be really useful to bounce ideas off of someone else and get their honest feedback.
I’m embracing the space *mostly* without the guilt, too. I’m waiting to see what comes from it. 🙂
Hi Danielle. Great post. The way I handle it is to not even consider any of those points you’ve mentioned, until I’ve had a decent, quality timeout first. To just step away from it all and go do something else you like outside of work. So you can just centre yourself and be you (and not entrepreneur you.) Even if just for a day or three.
Because when life’s manic like that, you end up sort of forcing yourself to do work, because you know you need to and there’s that guilt if you don’t do something. Which in turn makes doing the work even more of a pressure.
Hope all’s well.
Danielle Anderson says
Great insight, Tom. Thanks for sharing.
Nicola *BelleNoirLoves* says
Love this Danielle! It resonates on so many levels and nice to know I am not the only one who goes through periods of feeling this way. X x
Danielle Anderson says
Hey Nicola. You’re definitely not alone in this! The comments you all have left are a great reminder of that. 🙂