Many of the business owners I know live, work and breathe their business. They’ve worked extremely hard to get where they are and are often wary of taking their eyes off the ball for even a moment.
Know the feeling? Though it’s wonderful to have so much motivation and passion for your business, working in this way can start to feel very intense over time.
It may sound counter-productive, but putting a bit of distance between you and your business at key times can actually be extremely helpful. If you’re feeling run down, confused, burnt out or are lacking enthusiasm, it may be time to take some space for yourself.
Here are four ways that giving yourself this space can help you find greater clarity:
1. Distance can allow you to renew and refresh
We all need a holiday from time to time. This is true even if you’re lucky enough to run a business you love! It can be really difficult to take time out when you’re in charge, but putting physical space between you and your usual workspace can help you find the headspace you need. What better excuse to take a trip with loved ones?!
2. Distance can allow you to make big decisions
There are a lot of decisions to make in business. Some of these decisions are small: like whether or not to attend and event. Some of them are much bigger: like whether to take on a large client, rebrand or invest in a marketing campaign. Sometimes when you’re surrounded by these decisions it can be difficult to give each one the attention it deserves. Getting some distance can allow you to make intentional decisions you’re happy with.
3. Distance can allow you to regain some separation between you and your business
This one is a particular problem for personality-led solopreneurs. It can often be tricky to tell where the business ends and you begin. If you sometimes feel like you’re blurring into your business, it might be time to give yourself permission to get away from it for a while. Even a few days totally away from work could give you a much-needed reminder about who you are without your business.
4. Distance can allow you to discover how you really feel
When you make choices in your business, do you for the option that’s best for you or the one that’s best for your business? In a perfect world these two answers would be the same… but often they’re not. Just because something is the right thing to do to increase profitability or success in your business, it doesn’t mean that it’s a path that’s right for you personally. Getting some distance can help you work out if you’re truly happy with what you’re working towards or whether you’re likely to find yourself running a business that isn’t really what you wanted.
Have I convinced you that distance is a really valuable tool in business? Luckily, this is a method of reflection that you can take advantage of without having to get too much physical distance! In other words, you don’t have to actually go on holiday in order to get these benefits. (Though, of course, that can be very helpful too!)
Instead, you could create distance in much smaller ways such as visiting a coffee shop by yourself, taking a lunchtime walk, working from a new environment, signing up for a conference or workshop, giving yourself permission to take a mid-week day trip, or working with an outside professional to gain new perspective.
Want to know more about how you could find greater clarity as a business owner? You might be interested in reading about Taking Care of You, Taking Care of Business, my monthly membership programme.
When you’re a business owner it’s very easy to get overwhelmed with all the things you have to do. There are so many plates that need to be kept spinning and if you’re in sole charge of keeping them all up in the air, it can often feel like it’s just too much.
These spinning plates can be things like:
- Fulfilling orders
- Meeting with clients
- Hitting deadlines
- Responding to emails
- Keeping track of finances
- Maintaining marketing campaigns
- Communicating via social media
- Updating your website
- Tracking progress
- Setting goals
- Doing big picture planning
- Reaching targets
When you look at a list like this, it’s no wonder that running a business single-handedly can often feel like it’s just too much to handle! Trying to do all these things at once is nigh on impossible.
Luckily, there is a way around this. It’s a simple technique that doesn’t involve hiring staff, delegating to others or ignoring tasks all together.
Want to know what it is?
Just do one small thing at a time.
Often the reason we feel overwhelmed is because we’re trying to do too many things at once. Technology is a wonderful resource for business owners, but it also makes it incredibly tempting to always be trying to do three or four things simultaneously. It’s not surprising we often feel as if we’re in overdrive.
If you can get out of the multi-tasking habit and resolve to just focus on one small thing at a time, you’ll likely find that your productivity improves massively and that your stress levels drop.
So how can you do this? Here are two things to try.
One: make it a habit to focus solely on one thing at a time
When you are checking your emails, sit down at your computer and check your emails. Once you’ve finished, close your inbox and move onto the next thing. Try to only have the tabs or programmes open on your computer that are absolutely necessary for the task. If it takes a few moments for the internet page to load, use that time to think about the task at hand… not to check something else on your smartphone!
It may only be when you start really trying to focus on one thing at a time that you realise how much you’ve been doing the opposite. Building a new habit can take time, so do be patient with yourself.
Two: break your to do list up into smaller chunks
When you add a new task to your to do list, how do you do it? Do you add tasks by whole project or by individual steps? If it’s the former, that may be part of the reason why you feel overwhelmed. When you add a whole project to your list, it an be difficult for your subconscious mind to work out how it’s going to address it. Depending on your profession, it’s unlikely that you’re going to be able to complete that whole project in one sitting. A web designer doesn’t design a website in one afternoon, just as a shop owner doesn’t manage a new product launch all in one go.
Your to do list is likely to feel a great deal more manageable if you add tasks in manageable chunks. Remember: you’re just doing one small thing at a time.
The great thing about working this way is that those small things will add up very quickly to equal big things and big progress.
Have you got any other simple tips for avoiding overwhelm in business? I’d love to hear them. Why not share them with me on Twitter? I’m @GreenShootCoach.
As a professional coach I often get asked what my coaching style is. This is sometimes tricky for me to answer succinctly as the style of my sessions really does depend on the needs of each client! All my coaching services are offered on a holistic basis: I feel it’s important to look at the whole picture rather than just one particular segment of it. This means that if we plan a session to talk about your business or career, I’ll also be listening out for clues about how other areas of your life are affecting these, and vice versa.
I have always believed in the importance of offering significant value to my clients. Because of this, over the years I’ve made it my mission to draw on a wide variety of experiences, techniques and tools in order to help each individual or business I meet with to work towards their full potential.
Part of that metaphorical coaching tool kit is a range of behaviour techniques. These specialist tools can be designed to help you to change any behaviour patterns that are no longer working for you. Myself and my clients have had some great success with the practise of NLP.
NLP, or neuro-linguistic programming, is an approach developed in the United States nearly fifty years ago. The technique links what’s going on in our brain to the type of language we use and our behavioural patterns. Addressing these three areas can help to make a big difference to the way we act and feel, and therefore bring us closer to reaching our key aims.
Many of my coaching clients complain about finding it difficult to ‘switch off’ from work. Being unable to mentally step away from work in this way can make it difficult to enjoy socialising or even to be able to properly relax during downtime. I have helped many of these clients change this habit using NLP as well as a programme of exercise, meditation and mindfulness exercises.
What else could behaviour techniques help you achieve?
- dropping unhelpful or destructive habits
- overcoming an unhealthy relationship with finances
- being able to better manage stress
- trusting yourself to make better decisions
- creating new positive habits
- becoming more motivated
- improving the quality of your relationships with others
- reducing anxieties and worries
- gaining more confidence
- increasing productivity
Personally, I’m a big believer in the idea that there needs to be a strong rapport between the practitioner and the client in order for NLP to be successful. Presumably this is why this particular technique can be so valuable as part of the coaching process!
When you are looking for a coach, it’s really important to meet with a few professionals and choose someone who you feel you really ‘click’ with. Whether you are seeking support primarily with your relationship, your personal aims, your business or your career, coaching sessions are likely to involve some tough questions and the need to address some deep-rooted beliefs. Navigating all this will be so much more positive and productive with a coach you genuinely like and trust.
Want to know more about where the coaching process could take you? I’ve shared a lot more information here.
Here’s a question: how much do you value the people who work in your company? The answer to this might seem obvious: without them it’s possible your business would grind to a halt. And yet, many of the business owners I encounter aren’t showing that appreciation in any real terms.
The reality is that your business is only as good as the people in your team. Your ideas could be spot on, but if the people on the ground aren’t implementing them in the right way then those ideas are unlikely to succeed. This could be a key reason why your business is failing to thrive and grow.
Personally, I believe that business owners should think of themselves not just as employers but as potential-optimisers. When we choose to employ someone, we typically do so because we like something about what they have to offer. Often this spark is due to potential rather than the finished product. Someone who has never worked in your business before is unlikely to give you exactly what you need on their first day.
Even the most qualified employees need to be nurtured. The most effective employers are the ones who are able to identify and grow the potential of their staff.
Are you just employing staff or are you actively working to build their potential? Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
When was the last time you evaluated your staff?
Staff evaluations and progress reports can be a generic administration exercise… or they can be a brilliant opportunity to assess areas for learning and improvement. Which are they for you? If it’s the former, you may want to think about setting some time aside to genuinely consider how your staff are performing and what might be standing in the way of their development.
Have you invested financially in training your team?
Staff training can be expensive, but that doesn’t mean you should shy away from it. There can be a huge amount to gain from good quality training. Training investment could save you from having to employ a new person, as you may be able to train an existing employee to take on new responsibility.
Do you ever block out work time for professional development?
Potential-optimisation isn’t just about paying course fees. Professional development also happens in the workplace. This can be in the form of evaluation meetings, mentoring, team building sessions and staff forums.
Do you accept what is or do you set out to improve?
When your employees aren’t performing to the standard you expect them to, you have a number of options. You could seek to replace them, you could ignore your disappointment and accept the status quo… or you could support them to improve.
How confident are you when it comes to recognising potential?
Being able to recognise true potential in other people is a very useful skill. Not all of us have it, and you may need to be honest with yourself about whether you do. If you don’t, there are ways around it. You may want to develop your own skills in this area, or you could choose to work with a trusted professional to help assess your team.
Do you value one-to-one coaching with your team members?
When was the last time you sat down with each member of staff in turn and had a one-on-one conversation? This kind of communication can have a lot of value, and not just for staff development. You could also learn a lot from your employees! If this kind of relationship building isn’t your strength, there is plenty of professional coaching help available.
Are you building your own potential?
This last point is an important one. Are you working to optimise your own potential? If the answer is no, ask yourself why. All of us are works-in-progress and none of us should stand still when it comes to professional development. If you find it difficult to value your own potential, it’s likely that you’ll feel the same way about that of your employees.
If your answers to the above questions suggest that you’re not doing much potential-optimisation at the moment, it might be time to think about starting. When you support your team to develop their skills, you will indirectly be working to tend the future of your business. Once again: your business is only as good as the people in your team.
Photo by Cassandra Rae
When was the last time someone asked you how business was going? Business owners hear this question a lot, from friends, family members and other business owners. The issue is that we don’t often answer as honestly as we should.
Most of us are guilty of this. All of us want to portray our business as positively as possible, so we’re likely to answer ‘great!’ without really considering the question.
But what about when things aren’t great? It can be lonely and isolating to pretend that things are wonderful when they’re actually quite challenging.
I recently re-watched Brené Brown’s TED talk on The Power of Vulnerability. It’s a fascinating talk and I’d really recommend it. During the talk Brown muses on the humanity of shame and vulnerability. She says:
“Vulnerability is the core of shame and fear and our struggle for worthiness, but it appears that it’s also the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love.”
This really struck a chord with me. We often think of vulnerability as a bad thing. If we’re vulnerable we’re admitting that our business isn’t doing as well as we’d like, or that we’re not sure about which step to take next, or that we need help.
As a business owner, I can understand the thought behind all of these worries. But as a coach… I see the other side. Many of my clients come to me in a place of vulnerability, but when they do so we’re able to work together to do excellent work. On a daily basis I work with clients to facilitate growth, exciting decisions, creative strategies, new ideas and more. If those clients had been too afraid to admit that they needed my help, these positive things wouldn’t have happened.
Our perception of leadership is changing and it’s now a common school of thought that good leaders do not need to be perceived as all powerful all the time. Being confident enough in your role to show some vulnerability can be a good thing! Not only can it give you space to create relationships with the people around you, it can also enable you to call in help when needed.
After all, even solopreneurs need assistance sometimes. If you never show vulnerability it can be hard to bring in the help and expertise that you and your business need. When you’re honest about the issues you’re coming up against, you may discover that the people around you have access to the expertise you need.
Next time you hear the question: how’s business? Why not think about answering it more fully? By all means tell the asker about all the great things you’re working on, but don’t be afraid to share any challenges you’re currently dealing with too. Their response may be a pleasant surprise!
Growth coaches can be very powerful resources. A good growth coach can help you to maximise profits and grow your business… but only if you’re really ready to take that step.
Not every business is ready to grow. Some businesses take on a growth coach programme only to discover that it isn’t working. Often this is because they have other issues in their business that need to be addressed.
It can be hard to accept that it isn’t the right time for your business to grow, but a difficult decision now could help you to get into a more productive mindset for the future.
Often this decision comes down to gut feeling. If you love what you’re doing and are excited about the prospect of doing more, growth coaching might be the way forward for you. Equally, if you feel like everything is working in your business except your finances, an experienced growth coach could help you translate your into a much healthier bottom line.
But what if your gut feeling isn’t quite so positive?
If you’re unsure which direction to move in…
If you’re finding it difficult to handle the stress of being a business owner…
If you suspect that your product or service offerings need work…
If you think your lack of confidence might be holding you back…
If you’re having communication problems with employees or colleagues…
If issues in your personal life are getting in the way of your business…
If you just have the sense that something isn’t working…
…then it probably isn’t your time to work with a growth coach yet.
This isn’t to say that you need to struggle through these issues yourself. A more holistic business coach could offer just the support you need. Coaches like myself are keen to help you build your confidence and get a handle on the emotional side of your business. We could help you to build better communication strategies, determine what’s right for the future of your business and equip you with practical tools for managing stress.
The best news is that these two types of coach don’t have to be mutually exclusive. You’re not making an either/or decision that could stop you from fulfilling your potential. If you and your business aren’t quite ready to work with a growth coach yet… a coach like myself could help you to get there.
Coaching is a valuable tool that can be used in a way that’s right for you. I believe in giving my clients the freedom to work with me in whatever capacity is best for them. Some clients choose to work with me on a long term basis as a trusted advisor. Others come to me because they have a specific issue they need to work through. For them the work we do together is a means to an end: we’re aiming to solve a problem and when we do they can return to handling things on their own.
In the past few years I’ve worked with many clients who were keen to grow their business but weren’t quite ready to take the next step. With my support these clients are able to address the outstanding issues in their business and get themselves into the best possible shape for growth. This helps them get ready to take on the structure of a growth coach programme. In fact, once we’ve come to the mutual decision that they’re ready to move on, I’m even able to recommend a suitable growth coach for the job!
What could coaching do for your business? I’ll let my clients do the talking: here are ten things they’ve gained from working with me.
We all want to do the best thing for our business, but sometimes it’s difficult to prioritise working on our business over working in our business. (In fact, I’ve blogged about this exact issue before). I often remind my coaching clients that even a small chunk of time can make a difference, especially a couple of times a month.
Almost all of us could commit to setting aside ninety minutes each fortnight to work on growing our business. Need convincing? Here are some ideas from me for productive things you could do for your business in that time.
Review your business plan
Business plans are really valuable tools, but when was the last time you looked at yours? You might want to review it to reflect on how well you’re meeting your objectives and whether you’re moving in the direction you expected.
Set some actionable targets
It can be difficult to move forward with your business when you don’t know exactly what you’re aiming for. An hour and a half putting together some actionable targets could help you to stay focused.
Put together a customer experience survey
If you want to know how well your business is doing, why not ask your customers? Surveying the people who use your products or services could give you some excellent insight on how to improve.
Give your accounts some attention
Many business owners don’t give the financial side of their business as much attention as it really needs. An hour and a half spent looking at where your money is coming from and where it’s going could help you to maximise your profits.
Research outsourced professionals
I’ve spoken before on the blog about the value of bringing in specialist professionals to support your business. An outsourced professional could help you overcome a stumbling block in your business.
Update your web presence
The internet can be an excellent storefront for your business, but only if you’ve invested the time to get your presence right. It’s important to set aside regular time to keep everything up to date and looking good on your website and social media profiles.
Develop a marketing plan
Most business owners would like to grow their business by gaining new customers. If this is true for you, taking the time to actively put together a marketing plan could be well worth it.
Research new product or service ideas
A new product or service could breathe some much-needed new energy into your business. Why not give yourself a bit of space to brainstorm new ideas and research how they could come together?
Have a session with a business coach
What might you gain from discussing your business with an impartial experienced professional? An in-depth session with a coach would give you a whole new insight and help you to pinpoint what kind of growth is right for you.
If this last option sounds appealing, you might want to explore whether you’re ready for coaching. Why not take my questionnaire to find out?
I often get asked who business coaching is for. Or, more specifically, whether it’s right for small businesses and soloprenuers. Many people think that business coaches and consultants are only for big businesses with big budgets.
This isn’t the case! In fact, business coaching is particularly well suited to small businesses and soloprenuers.
Want to know why?
Small businesses and solopreneurs need trusted advisors
As you know, running a business isn’t easy. When you are a small business owner or solopreneur, it can be difficult to know who to turn to for advice. A business coach can be invaluable in these situations as they can act as a trusted advisor. A good coach will be able to act as a sounding board, support you in making difficult decisions, help you to see the bigger picture, and share their experience with you.
Small businesses and solopreneurs need to be smart with their budgets
Most business coaches offer accessible and affordable services. Setting aside part of your budget to work with a coach like this can be extremely productive. A good coach will provide an excellent return on your investment by sharing a wide range of expertise and helping you to increase your profits.
Small businesses and solopreneurs need to protect their business
When you work for yourself your income is generally less protected than when you have a salary. Because of this, it’s smart to ensure you’re safe guarding your business in every way possible! Working with a coach can help to ensure you and your business are working at your full potential. It can also help to protect you against common business shortfalls, and ensure that you spot and act on problems right away.
Small businesses and solopreneurs need an outside perspective
It’s easy to become short sighted in business and only see things the way you have always done them. This is especially true when you’re working on your own or with a small group of employees. Working with a coach can be an excellent way to bring in some fresh eyes and make sure that what you’re doing doesn’t become stale.
Small businesses and solopreneurs need to think big
If you want to compete with bigger businesses, you may need to think more like they do! Big businesses know how important it is to benefit from outside expertise. Many small business owners and solopreneurs overlook this, which often holds them back. Working with a coach is a great way for small businesses and solopreneurs to catch up with their larger competitors.
Are you a small business owner or solopreneur? If you are, you may be interested to know about my business membership programme Taking Care of You, Taking Care of Business. It’s designed to give business owners like you regular access to valuable support.
If you’d like to find out whether this could be of benefit to you, take my questionnaire: Are You Ready for Coaching?
Illustration by Kroszk
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you’ll know that I’m a big believer in taking a holistic approach to business. By this I mean that in order to improve how we work and move forwards we need to make sure we look at the whole picture.
When it comes to running a business, the whole picture doesn’t just mean what happens in the office between the hours of 9am and 5pm. The whole picture also takes in how we’re managing stress outside of those times, how we’re spending our free time, the extra work we’re doing during evenings and weekends, how we’re communicating with our friends and family members, our general emotional wellbeing, and our health.
In other words: our success in business depends on how happy and effective we are in all areas of our life, not just our work.
I work with a wide range of business clients. Their businesses vary hugely in size, experience, industry and style, but these same truths come up for them all over and over again. The happier and healthier you are, the more energy, enthusiasm and creativity you will be able to bring to your business.
It sounds simple, doesn’t it? And yet, so many of us fall into the habit of prioritising short term tasks over our own wellbeing. This may seem like the right thing to do for your business in the short term, but it definitely isn’t in the long term.
Could you be making this common mistake?
Ask yourself if you…
- Skip going to the gym to catch up on emails
- Eat lunch at your desk
- Work late into the evening and miss spending time with your family
- Check emails on your smartphone 24 hours a day
- Take on projects you know will be unnecessarily stressful
- Cancel social events to take on extra work
- Eat unhealthy food because it’s quicker
- Schedule back to back meetings with little time to travel between them or catch your breath
- Fail to give yourself time off
- Worry about work when you should be sleeping
- Forget to drink enough water when you’re at your desk
- Force yourself to work when you’re unwell
- Avoid dealing with stress
- Leave work tasks to the last minute
- Run on caffeine and sugar instead of getting enough sleep
- Don’t accept help that’s offered to you
All these things are key signs that you’re prioritising work tasks over your own wellbeing. You may feel that this is the right thing to do, but over time this approach is likely to lead to burnout, lethargy and a big drop in effectiveness.
Luckily, looking after yourself doesn’t need to be difficult. Small changes can make a really big difference to your health and happiness. And even better? You won’t need to sacrifice hours of your day to make them happen!
Here are a few ideas:
Create better working boundaries
If you find that your working hours are getting longer and longer, it might be a good idea to make a conscious choice to create new boundaries. You could make Sundays totally work free or decide not to check emails after a certain time in the evening.
Set yourself a healthy eating and drinking challenge
How much better might you feel if you were taking more notice of the quality of what you were eating and drinking? Taking the time to make more sensible choices could make a big difference.
Make a choice to take control of your stress
If you struggle with stress, don’t let it spill out into other areas of your life. There are ways you can work to manage this. You could experiment with stress-busting techniques such as mindfulness meditation or yoga… or even just make more time to relax with family and friends. Setting time aside each month to work with a business coach could also help.
Find time to exercise
Thirty minutes a day would make a huge difference to your fitness. What you do with those thirty minutes is up to you! Going to the gym or for a run would be great, but so would taking a walk or practising some yoga.
Have you been sabotaging your business by not looking after yourself? You’re definitely not alone! Why not join me on Facebook for more motivation and inspiration?
Business people who have never worked with a coach often have misapprehensions about it. I often hear things like:
I don’t think I can afford it
We don’t have the time to work on our business
I don’t think coaching will suit me
The idea of talking to a stranger makes me nervous
I’d like to take this opportunity to do a bit of myth-busting about coaching. I believe that almost any business could gain a great deal from working with a good coach… and that there’s a coach out there who’s just perfect for almost every business!
Is coaching too expensive?
The price of business coaching can vary wildly depending on the type of coach and programme you choose. When people think about investing in coaching they often think of growth coach programmes that require an up-front investment of thousands of pounds. If this is what is putting you off: don’t worry! In my experience most business coaches don’t work this way. I, and many of my colleagues, operate on a much more flexible per-session basis. You won’t need to set aside a four figure sum to get started and you definitely won’t need to commit to a programme before you know if it’s right for you.
Is coaching too time-consuming?
Almost anything that’s worth having requires work. That said, my Taking Care of You, Taking Care of Business programme requires just two hours per month from participants. If you’re serious about moving forwards with your business, you’re going to need to set aside at least a couple of hours a month to work on it. You may find that this is much easier to stick to when you have a standing appointment with a coach. That appointment will become a ring-fenced bit of time that you know you will be dedicating to the future of your business, no matter what else crops up during the week. Because of this, working with a coach can often be more helpful when you’re busy.
Is coaching too prescriptive?
Obviously I can’t speak for all coaches, but trust me when I say that the work I do is never prescriptive. I don’t have one-size-fits-all methods that I trot out for every business client! Instead I focus on getting to know my clients and understanding how their business works in order to facilitate coaching sessions that will drive real valuable change. For me, coaching isn’t about telling people what to do. It’s about providing a safe space to explore all the options and becoming a professional sounding board to discuss which of those options is the right one.
Is coaching too obtrusive?
Sitting down to talk about your business isn’t the same as chatting about it with a stranger. Coaches are usually professional individuals with specialist training and years of experience. We’re well-practised at making our clients feel comfortable and at home during our sessions and we tend to have a knack for knowing when to push and when to step back. If your coach makes you feel nervous or uncomfortable, I suspect you’re working with the wrong one.
Do you have any other misgivings about the coaching process? I’d love to help you address them! You could tweet me @GreenShootCoach or send me a private message via email.