I started my business thingsforkids.com.au, thinking that it would be easier than working in an office. Having some bad managers in the past, and now with two small children, I wanted to work for myself and not have to deal with anyone else’s lack of empathy, bad moods, or questionable support.
What I didn’t realise was that by working for myself, I’ve been confronted with myself and my own thoughts, which were so much worse than any bad manager I’ve had in the past!
Having struggled with anxiety all my life, I see a counsellor regularly. This has helped me to grow my self-awareness, and spot when situations are turning bad.
When I was hitting burnout after the first 6 months of starting my business, or having an anxiety attack about going to networking event after networking event, I was able to pause, reflect and try to work through things.
But what about if you’re not in the right mental space? Here’s a few pointers which I’ve learned along the way, which will hopefully help you through tough situations.
Social media time management
We all know how bad social media is for us, even if we try to disagree because of our attention to it.
When you are on social media for personal and business reasons, across all the platforms, the time spent quickly adds up. And it’s so easy to just start scrolling and not even realise how much time you have spent on it.
It’s also important to pay attention to what you’re viewing on these platforms and who you follow.
On my personal accounts, I have tried to only follow brands and people that bring me joy or provide me with information that fits into my values.
With my business account, I try to provide valuable content and information, and I try not to bombard my followers with too much information at once.
I know that all the marketing people would tell you otherwise, but I want to treat my followers how I would want to be treated. I don’t need to be in their face 24/7 or feed the unhealthy use of social media platforms. But I do want to use social media as a tool to connect with my audience in a respectful way.
There are lots of ways to cut down on your social media use, but something that’s worked well for me is reading.
I’ve started keeping a book with me wherever I go, and when I think to look at my phone, I ask myself if I really need to right now, and if the answer is no then I pick up my book instead.
Personal drive and a need for growth
Learning to understand your feelings, what they mean and where they come from is a daunting task, and hard for even the strongest of people. But doing it is so necessary to become a happier and more full person.
When your business relies on you to be on your A-game 100% of the time, you don’t want to be wasting energy on anxiety or imposter syndrome.
Starting a business and being passionate about success can be a great motivator to start looking at how you can maximise your emotional time and grow as a person.
I see a counsellor once a month, whether or not I’m feeling good or bad. I want to dig deep each and every time I see her, and feel so much better for it especially when I learn a new thing about myself and my life processes.
Is this because of anxiety, or is it good for the business?
We all set up structures in our lives to avoid feeling bad. It might be avoiding a conversation with a colleague because you dislike conflict, or avoiding networking events because they make you nervous.
Sitting with bad feelings is generally not something that is encouraged or practised. We usually want to push bad feelings away, and if possible avoid those situations altogether. But this could very easily be hurting your business.
It’s important to decide what the priorities are for your business. Maybe you’re struggling to fully commit to your business due to fear, or maybe you overcommit, work too hard because you’re worried about failure, and then hit burnout because it’s not sustainable.
You need to be able to see what choices you are making and why. Are they the best thing for the business or am I avoiding an uncomfortable feeling for no positive benefit?
Work out your work-life balance
No one wants to burn out. But usually, it hits you before you know it.
When you’re motivated, it’s actually easy to get stuck working late every night, checking your emails while you are lying in bed. And some people might even tell you that for your business to succeed, you need to do that.
But I disagree. Would pushing yourself that hard really make you more efficient? I think it’s more important to put boundaries around how much you really need to work at night. And give yourself nights off!
Being aware of when your individual needs are being compromised, and taking a minute to ‘fill your cup’ so that you can take charge again is critical. Some things I like to do to help slow down are:
- Having a hot bath while reading a book or listening to a podcast
- Going to the gym
- Seeing a friend for a cup of tea
- Watching trashy tv, and
- Playing computer games — Super Mario Odyssey is my current favourite!
Sometimes I do these things when I know I have to work, or have tried working but find it hard to start. Instead of getting down on myself for not working hard enough, I ask myself if I need a moment to recharge.
Once I give myself some me-time, I’m almost always able to get right back to it with a clearer mind. Be kind to yourself and you might notice your productivity increase!
Do you really want a unicorn business?
It’s important to know what kind of business you need to support your lifestyle. All the media and hype can make you feel like you need to be rushing out to get investment, and turning over the first million in the second year — but we don’t!
You can move at a slower pace, stay self-funded and fully in control, all while earning enough to be able to go on a holiday while the business runs itself.
There’s no need to put yourself under extra pressure for something you think you want, but actually you don’t want or need.
Focus on the future, but stay in the now
Starting a business takes time. Most of the time, it takes a long time to build up any kind of success or momentum. You have to be ok with that — there’s simply no way around it.
Being someone who has a lot of drive I want everything to happen yesterday, but that’s just not possible. At the start I was forever stressed about things I couldn’t change or control. You need to be able to think for the future and push for it, while still having your feet planted firmly in the now.
The last thing I want to talk about is impostor syndrome. It’s real and prevalent in almost everyone I know, in particular with women. It’s one of those uncomfortable feelings we don’t want to sit with, and we push it out or even try to ignore it.
It can hold you back from so much. I’m all for pushing through it, but take a gentle approach. Push hard for a little while, and then refill your cup, however you choose to do that.
The next time you feel that feeling coming on, push forward a little harder — harder and harder each time. It’ll continue to raise its head, until one day, you’ll be riding the imposter syndrome wave with confidence and grace.
It may never go away, and that’s ok. It’s ok to feel it; just don’t let it control you or your choices, personal or otherwise.
Keep attending those networking events, it will get easier each time you attend. Start small, and celebrate every little win along the way :)
Good luck, and remember those immortal words from Rupaul’s Drag Race: if you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody (or something) else?!
Check out my business thingsforkids.com.au