Alright, friends, gather round. It's time for a story and it's one you absolutely want to hear today.
When I was a younger woman, I thought to myself, "Gee Golly. Wouldn't it be nice to turn my hobby into a business?" Wearing rose tinted glasses, I spent many days and nights planning out what I wanted to do, eager to create this business that would leave me feeling productive and satisfied. In fact, I had this crazy vision of what working for myself would look like. You know you want to hear about it.
I'd wake up in the morning and make my kiddos a healthy breakfast and then make my way to my computer to handle orders at around 10 AM. Kiddos would be playing nicely together and I'd be able to take breaks throughout the day to go for walks, head to the pool, volunteer and make homemade bread each day... all while still running a business that I believed would create some type of impact.
And at the end of the day, I'd go to bed and feel accomplished. Deliciously tired but happy with my progress and my completely checked-off to do list.
Ahem. That was the plan. It started out that way, sort of. I mean, it went as well as it could considering I was a young mother of two little boys. My schedule wasn't as easy to predict, obviously, but it wasn't terrible. I went to bed feeling content, even if I didn't get to work leisurely through the day.
And then I had my youngest son. That was the moment when everything changed. Because at some point after having my third C-section, my body decided to revolt. I started to get slower. Started to hurt more. Started to feel more tired. I brushed it off as "just a phase" but it didn't stop. I started seeing doctors, specialists, reading books, you name it. Yet there were no answers.
Meanwhile, I'd somehow amassed a loyal following online. I'd created this business that I was in love with but I was operating it in survival mode. The obvious choice should have been to take a break and keep working towards answers, but I'm a stubborn woman like my mama always said, and I refused to let go.
Which meant that for several years, I didn't go to bed. I collapsed into bed. I worked frantically, trying to reach deadlines, all while putting up the front that I had it all together when the truth was that I was falling apart. I thought I was failing, that I would have no choice but to close down this passion of mine and just deal with the sadness that would inevitably follow.
This story has a happy ending, however. At some point, I had this moment of stepping into the light. I looked myself in the eyes while getting ready and said, "Okay, Erin. Your life is a hot mess. This isn't your fault, but you have control over how this all affects you. What can you do to make this easier?" It was then that I realized I could take back control.
So how do you manage when life is a hot mess? Friend, it's not easy, but it's not a complicated process.
Determine Where the Wrench Is
At some point, you’ve realized your routine just isn’t cutting it anymore. You’re overworked, overtired, overstressed and you’re probably not getting a lot of joy out what you’re doing in your business.
It can be so easy to just say, “Oh, this is just how it is now.” You wash your hands of it and just keep powering through, ignoring the fact that you absolutely have control over what is going on your world.
The first step in gaining control is to determine where the wrench is. You know, the one that was thrown into your plans? Spend time looking at your day to day, at your life. Ask yourself these simple questions.
Have things always been like this?
When did they get this way?
What was going on when this started feeling out of control?
Are there certain things that trigger this?
Once you’ve asked yourself these questions, you’re going to have a lot of clarity about what’s really going on in your world. Now, I know you’re over there thinking, “Erin, I know what’s going on in my world.” But the truth is that many of us are blind to what is impacting us negatively. We absorb the blame and say it’s because we’re not organized enough, not good enough, or not meant to succeed.
That’s what we’re combatting here. We’re gaining clarity so that you can adjust your mindset and accept things for what they are. Life happens. Tough times happen. It’s not a reflection of your abilities, gifts, talents or success. It’s just a hurdle that we deal with.
How Can You Work Around It?
Once you’re clear on what the wrench is, what the real hurdle in your life is, you can start to determine how to work around it.
Not every situation is simple to work around, I’ll grant you that. But as Marie Forleo says, “Everything is figureoutable.” And it’s true. For example, my wrench was a serious health issue. I couldn’t get rid of it. Instead, I had to learn how to work with it, rather than fight against it.
Take time to figure out what your wrench looks like and how you can work with it. If it’s lack of consistent child care, determine what your kids’ routines are so you can work on their time. If it’s a health issue, try to determine your patterns.
I managed to maintain my business by accepting that I was too stiff in the morning to do any sitting with clients right away and in need of a quiet moment by 3 PM. So those times were blocked off on my calendar to help me deal.
Get Rid of What No Longer Serves You
If you’re in the thick of a problem, the last thing you want to do is over-complicate your schedule with a bunch of tasks that don’t benefit you. This is a tricky thing to acknowledge because so many of us feel like we have to say yes to all the things. Whether it’s because we’re genuinely giving people or we’re feeling guilty, women are typically “yessers”.
Take some time to evaluate the tasks that you perform each day. Because time is your most precious commodity, you need to make sure you’re using it to its fullest potential. If your schedule is full of things that don’t benefit you, your business, your family or your long term goals, it’s time to cut some things loose.
Prioritize Your Needs
So you know what’s no longer serving you, which means you know what you absolutely need to do, and what you should follow through with to keep maintaining your business. But you can’t just tackle those like any other laundry list.
Instead, break down your to do list into priorities. I like to do this in three categories; Immediate Need, Should Be Done Soon, and Eventually. Once you put your tasks into these categories, it’s easier for you to know what to focus on during those precious work hours that you have.
This also allows you to find a better workflow when your life is a bit of a mess because you’ll be able to focus on one thing at a time. And that, my friend, reduces context switching, making your work time way more productive.
Ask for Help
Want to know what a lot of women struggle with? Asking for help. This is one area we all need to work on and take advantage of.
Chances are, you’re surrounded by a group of people who are just dying to help. You just need to ask. Asking for help doesn’t make you weak, it doesn’t make you unsuccessful, it doesn’t mean anything negative.
What it means is that you’re human and, like all humans, you need some support. By allowing others to help you, you better yourself and your business. Don’t try to do it all, don’t play “the hero”. You already are a hero! And every hero could use a sidekick sometimes.
Make Time for What’s Important
You may be tempted to use all of your free moments to power through your business. Don’t. That’s not the reason you got into this gig. You did it for something deeper and more meaningful and I know it wasn’t so you would have to take time from your family, from yourself and from the things that you love.
Schedule in those important things. It’s not going to prevent you from growing. It’s won’t cause any more turmoil in your already chaotic world. What it will do is refill your well. You need that time to recharge. To be just you and not you, the business owner.
You need that to do the great things that you want to do. You cannot draw water from an empty well. And self care isn’t a luxury that we put aside because of circumstance.
The most important thing for you to remember as you go back to your day, as you tackle your to do list and your life, is this: You are capable of incredible things. You are worthy and deserving of success. And the tough moments are just moments that are tough. They are not defining moments of your character.
Now get out there and make things happen, changemaker.