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Here's the thing: Focus on one thing

footEvery Friday I post a “here’s the thing” blog. “Here’s the thing” is something my mum (and many other wise people) like to say when they’re about to make a good point. Hopefully these posts are also good points.

It is not (I repeat: NOT) easy to stay focused when you run your own business, especially a creative one. Especially one that’s growing quickly, or in an environment that’s changing all the time. (To clarify: in this day and age of ecommerce, everything’s changing all the time.)

It’s also not easy to stay focused as Christmas approaches and it feels like there are a billion things to do simply to fulfil orders, not to mention the billion new ideas and changes you start thinking about for next year.

Tricky.

I feel it. The push and pull of all the different things. The desire to get them all done. The insistence on having Facebook open and pinging away every time you get a notification. I’m not even going to talk about emails. But I know you know what I’m talking about.

At the suggestion of an old colleague, I found a solution: Focus On One Thing, aka FOOT. At the suggestion of my mum, I added a 15 minute timer to this little mantra.

I know Ali over at milly and pip has adapted a similar practice. She makes all her incredible products and runs a brilliant business by focusing on ONE THING for 20 minutes at a time.

It’s not always 15 minutes, but it’s always one thing: a blog post, an email, a product description. All my thought power and energy goes into one thing and anything else gets relegated. I keep my scribble pad nearby so I can write it down to deal with later.

Here’s the thing:

It’s not always easy, and I’m still learning to avoid distractions. On the days I’ve been able to focus on one thing, I feel so much better, so much more in control and aligned with what I’m trying to do.

Try it:

  • Write a little post-it reminder for yourself. (Or draw a foot. But that might not be as obvious…)
  • Get a timer or use your phone. Choose a time period that works for you, whether it’s 10, 15 or 20 minutes. (Any more than that is too long for our brains to concentrate completely on one thing.)
  • Put all your energy and concentration into getting that one thing done, or at least further along. If it’s really boring, tell yourself you’re being a Buddhist monk and it’s a meditation exercise in which you let this thing become your raison d’etre until the timer beeps. Then you leave it to one side.

Just one little thing, one step at a time.

Jx

PS If you need some little reminders over Christmas, don’t forget Progress not perfection starts a week on Monday. There’s still time to get involved, and even a few final care packages if you need a weekly box of encouragement in the post. I’d love to support you!

progress not perfection

Here's the thing: we're all just walking each other home

walking each other homeEvery Friday I post a “here’s the thing” blog. “Here’s the thing” is something my mum (and many other wise people) like to say when they’re about to make a good point. Hopefully these posts are also good points.

This week I found myself wondering about how we support ourselves, and how we gather support from others. There’s a lot of stuff out there about how we’re supposed to be totally self-reliant in business, in our emotions, and in our lives. There’s a lot of emphasis put on the importance of independence at all costs.

I struggle to see and read and take in those messages. When I see something on Pinterest or watch a film that’s all “if you want something done, you’ve got to do it yourself”, I get a little uncomfortable. There’s a plethora of Pinterest stuff in the region of “good things come to those who hustle” and I think, you know what? I’m not going to perpetuate that belief.

Because good things also come to those who support themselves, support others, and receive help where they find it.

And I value my independence, I truly do. I left my job earlier this year so that I could be more in charge of my life, and have more freedom.

I know that that’s something a lot of self-employed entrepreneurs are motivated by: being in charge of their own lives, time, creative pursuits. It’s really important! It’s also really great.

And I really believe that, at the heart of it, we can only really count on ourselves. It’s vitally important that we can take care of ourselves and give what we need. If we’re always looking outside ourselves for The Answer, then we can’t truly find all the stuff that makes us happy.

But.

I believe no (wo)man is an island. We are all connected. We all rely on other people in some way.

In the grand scheme of things, we each contribute support and require support at different times and in different ways. I draw upon the wisdom of others in order to build my life and my business the way I choose. I have a wonderful coach who shares her experience of building a personal service-based business, as well as her expertise in other areas. To have someone who can really listen to what I’m going through, relate, and offer a different perspective – it’s so helpful!

And she has a coach, and finds support through other people. It’s a big old chain that goes in big wiggly circles – we truly are all walking each other home, lighting the way at times, and following the light at others.

So here’s the thing:

First and foremost, let’s all just commit to understanding more about how we can support ourselves. For me and most people I know, this is an ongoing practice. I learn how much something supports me, and then I forget. I have days when it’s easy to ask for help or do something positive, and days when I’m incredibly stubborn and run myself into the ground.

But just as important, I believe we also need to be conscious of the help and support we receive from others. And this requires discretion.

I’m very discerning about whose thoughts I allow to come into contact with mine. I unsubscribe from newsletters that don’t resonate. I never read the Daily Mail (it makes me super angry). I choose to hear from people who are lighting my way.

Because I’m discerning, it’s easier to remember that other people don’t have The Answer. Most of the people I follow and look to for wisdom and support are authentic and human. They have rough edges. They have rough days. Their imperfection helps my recovering perfectionist, and I don’t (often) get caught up in “I have to do it exactly like them”. I strengthen my own beliefs and practices through hearing about theirs.

And, when someone’s said something really awesome, I tend to tell them. This is a new thing for me, as I’ve built my own business and started blogging more. To know when someone has found something helpful is so rewarding, and lets me know I’m on the right track. So I’ve been doing it more. Lord knows, Mara Glatzel has had about a dozen emails from me, simply saying, “YES! Thank you, totally needed this today.”

I haven’t written much about giving support, because I kind of feel like most of us are programmed to do it anyway… Perhaps that’s for another post soon.

All this to say: allow yourself to be walked home by people who resonate. Let them know when they’re onto something that supports you.

I believe it makes a difference to us, collectively. And thank you to everyone who has responded to my posts and emails. It has made a difference to me, individually.

Jx

A sneak peek from my new course

jhydegraphicSometimes, when there’s something you’re excited about, it can feel like you just go on and on about it – you can’t talk about it enough!

That’s how I feel about Progress not perfection, my upcoming supportive email programme.

Having run several e-courses in my previous life at notonthehighstreet.com, I knew I’d enjoy getting into my first independent course. But I didn’t realise I’d get so excited about delivering something that I know is going to help people during the busiest weeks of the year!

Because it’s a bit different, I wanted to give you a little sneak peek of what you can expect. The programme is very low-maintenance, with three emails pinging in a week, for you to take what you need (and definitely leave the rest!). There are fun playlists as well as practical coping tips. Plus registrants can get in touch for meltdown support (if needed). You can also opt in to getting my care packages in the post (weekly!) for extra fun and nice stuff.

If that already sounds wonderful, click here to sign up.

For a bit more detail on what you can expect, read on for a sample email that I’ll be sending out in week 1:

 

The theme for week 1 is productivity.

Being productive isn’t necessarily about doing as many things as possible in the shortest amount of time. It’s about focusing your energy on the most important things, staying focused on what’s possible and achievable, and delivering on your priorities.

For small businesses and especially creative people, productivity can feel elusive. It can also feel oppressive – that voice that says “you’re not doing enough” and “I can’t believe you’ve only made 150 of those, you said you were going to make 200”.

That’s the perfectionist and the critic all rolled into one!

So this week, I want to focus on some practices that will help you to be (and feel) more productive now and over the coming months.

What does good look like?

Start by identifying some clear, achievable guidelines for your work and priorities this week. This is lesson one in progress, not perfection – we want to find things that will feel like good achievements, not perfect or exhaustive or over-worked.

You might set yourself minimum targets for each day, giving yourself a clear cut-off. Then add on the “would be nice” and “if I’m feeling extra energetic” options.

For example, as a minimum each day, you want to respond to customer enquiries and get orders out that are due that day. It’d be nice if you could also schedule some social media posts and get a head start on tomorrow’s orders. If you’re feeling extra energetic, you’ll write next week’s email newsletter.

What tools do you need?

Productivity requires planning and support. If you simply try to work as hard as you can for as long as you can, you’ll burn out. A crucial activity for this week is to get yourself some tools and support in place to make sure you’re at optimum performance levels.

What can you delegate to someone else or find a tool for that will enable you to focus on the crucial things? Can someone else be in charge of cooking dinner? Is there a more effective system for your emails that means you don’t waste time reading non-urgent stuff?

There are simple things that allow you to delve into making, doing, and managing: having enough mugs so that you don’t have to wash up.

Set up a morning and evening routine

Routines aren’t just for kids! It can be incredibly reassuring to have things you do regularly in the morning and evening to ensure you’re checking all the essentials and making it easier for yourself to be productive.

A sample morning routine:

  • Wake at a reasonable hour, shower, and dress comfortably (and warmly)
  • Make tea, coffee and/or breakfast – nourishing yourself is the first step
  • Get the lights on, set up some fun or calming music
  • Go through the list of orders to dispatch today
  • Accept new orders and prioritise them
  • Assign tasks to staff
  • Check emails
  • Write your to do list with “minimum”, “would be nice” and “energetic” filters

And here are some ideas for an end-of-day routine:

  • Clear your inbox, filing away everything that’s dealt with, and leaving anything that needs picking up in the morning
  • Do a stock check or set a reminder to check in the morning
  • Clear your packing areas, desk and workspace – when you arrive back in the morning, you want to see a space that’s ready for action, not in need of a tidy up. Do something that your future self with thank you for!
  • Write yourself (or your team) any reminders so that they’re not looming over you while you’re trying to sleep – it’ll all still be there in the morning
  • When you’re finished, finish. Don’t faff around for another 20 minutes. Light a candle, start cooking dinner – find something that indicates to you that you’re now in evening mode.

You might also want to add in a routine for lunchtime, to give yourself even a tiny break. Whatever works for you! Remember: it’s about making things better, not making them perfect.

Sign up now

If you’re excited by this little sample, get over here and sign up! If you have any questions, get in touch. I’m very happy to answer anything you might be wondering!

Jx

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