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How to make better business decisions by balancing head and heart

I’m a big believer in balancing our heads and hearts as business owners, founders, and creatives. Building a business requires savvy decisions, smart strategy, and ongoing education, but building a business that’s right for you and aligns with the life you really want — that’s all heart, and maybe some soul too.

So as a small business owner, whether you’re a one-woman-band solopreneur or creative founder with a fantastic team supporting you, how do you engage both your whip-smart head and your super-strong heart?

Before I share three things that will help you use both, let me explain a bit about what happens when you’re out of balance.

Too headstrong (and not in a good way)

If you’re in your head too much, you probably experience some or all of these things:

  • You overthink everything
  • You get caught up in what other people are thinking or doing
  • You spend ages making decisions, even for small things
  • Or you make quick decisions, without really considering whether it’s the right option for you
  • You’re ticking all the boxes of what you “should” be doing, but you’re not seeing the results or feeling the satisfaction
  • You create new products and new marketing content regularly, but it doesn’t seem to connect with your customer base
  • You’ve reached a turnover or income plateau and don’t seem to be able to break through it

Our brains are really clever. Like, better-than-your-computer clever. But they also get stuck in problem-solving and worrying mode really easily. Unchecked, our heads are too logical (think Mr Spock in Star Trek) and have a tendency to lead us down paths that “make sense” but don’t feel good.

Too much heart

If you’re in your heart too much, there are some things you might experience:

  • You have no idea what you made last month, quarter, or year
  • You have lots of creative ideas, but not so much follow through
  • You find yourself doing a lot of tasks manually when they could be automated
  • You get caught out by unexpected bills you could have anticipated
  • Even though you have a team, you end up doing too much yourself because you aren’t managing the people or the work effectively
  • You spend a lot on pretty things or fun-sounding education, but you don’t see an ROI
  • You often under-price your products and services, or offer discounts
  • You LOVE to go with the flow, but important tasks get neglected until they’re really urgent (I see you, tax return avoiders)

Our hearts are our pathfinders. They’re the creative epicentre of our lives and businesses. All things considered, I believe our hearts and souls are the best bosses. But without the wisdom and savvy of our minds, they can get a bit floaty, a bit ungrounded, and kind of exhausted.

In balance

When our heads and hearts are in balance, we’re in flow. We’ve got the gorgeous creative direction, the vision, and the unique creativity that we’re here to share. Plus we’ve got structure and systems that help us to stay creative – and stay in business.

You might find that you nodded your head to some things on the head list AND some things on the heart list. That’s not unusual. It means that you’re giving your heart some of the head’s jobs and vice versa. Balance means you’re strong and healthy in both areas.

Balance is a verb rather than a noun – it’s something we practice rather than something we achieve.

So how can we practice balance between head and heart more?

  1. Give your brain information

Because our brains are super-computers, they thrive when they have accurate data to play with. When we give our brains information, it filters into our unconscious, giving our “gut” (aka subconscious / heart / soul) more powerful responses.

In practice, this means reviewing your sales figures regularly (I’d say once a month), understanding what your bestsellers are, checking your most popular search terms or website pages, and checking how customers actually reach your website. There might be other pieces of data you want to feed your brain, but these are some good starting points.

  1. Let your heart do the talking

Once your brain has data, it will filter it through to your heart. Which means we can fully trust our hearts to be the strongest compass for our decisions and our direction.

If something looks right but feels wrong, that’s your brain doing the talking. If something looks weird but feels really right, that’s your heart and soul shining through. 

  1. Hire your brain as your heart’s VA

Ever fancy getting a virtual assistant to get things done? Your brain is a really, really good VA. When you let your heart set the agenda, figuring out your vision and where you want to go, you can then plug in your brain to do that tippity top problem-solving it’s so good at.

Your head can check out the numbers on that new product you’ve designed to make sure they add up. Or perhaps you set your head the task of creating a nice smooth process for your order management so that your heart has space to create and dream and feel passionate about what you’re doing.

Whatever you do, don’t let your heart do your mind’s job – or vice versa.

So, are you more head or more heart? What can you do to regain some balance and make wiser business decisions?

Jenny x

PS If you’d like to learn how to feed your brain good data and then let your heart lead, this free workshop is for you.

Behind the scenes: my Creative Business Day Retreat

Earlier in May, I hosted a wonderfully nourishing Creative Business Day Retreat at Paus, just outside Cambridge.

Having created and hosted six retreat weekends over the last five years, it felt like high time to offer a day retreat that would inspire, remove challenges, and rejuvenate!

The day started with tea and coffee, and a few introductions. I had a very prompt group (or should that be lots of luck with the traffic!) so we had plenty of time to chat and get to know one another.

My job at any retreat is to listen deeply to the needs of the women who gather and make sure they leave with some insight, clarity and practical suggestions for actions to take. So as I guide everyone through introducing themselves and their businesses, I’m listening out for themes and clues for what they really need.

I use meditation to help us all get really present, and to bypass the monkey minds that keep us stuck in fear and old habits. At my weekend retreats, I lead groups through regular meditations and longer visualisations, but as this day retreat was shorter, I kept things pretty focused!

Another tradition of the retreat is the gift of a star with a word on it. It’s a little bit of magic, but also an important symbol: a token to remind guests of their insight and clarity when they leave. Each word is carefully chosen, but ultimately goes to the person who needs in most.

Once we’re all settled in, I lead the group through some writing prompts. For this retreat, it was all about where you are now and where you want to get to. After we spend about an hour digging into some pretty big questions, each person has the opportunity to share with the group, and get some coaching from me.

This is where we really uncover the things that have held us back, that we haven’t been able to see before. Yes, there were tears. Yes, my hormones meant that I was also tearing up! But it’s good. These shifts are important.

Writing prompts sound very simple and straightforward, but the truth is there’s a lot of power behind them. I go deep – asking things in different ways and looking for fresh perspectives. It’s rare that guests don’t find something useful during these workshops.

After a delicious and nourishing lunch, guests had access to the incredible outdoor hot tubs at Paus, as well as time to reflect on the insights of the morning.

We had a little closing ceremony, including a meditation and some declarations of things we’re leaving behind as we go onwards. And of course some happy-sad goodbyes!

The day retreat was such a lovely way to celebrate my last in-person work before my maternity leave, and I loved spending the day at Paus.

If you’re interested in my next Creative Business Retreat Weekend in March 2020, I currently have two places left.

And for more information about future events, you can sign up to my newsletter.

Fancy a private retreat or workshop for a small number of friends or colleagues, get in touch!

My maternity leave soft launch (or how to work with limitations)

I recently shared a slightly unexpected development over on Instagram: I declared a Maternity Leave Soft Launch for my business.

I received some questions and thoughts, so I thought I’d share a bit more about it, and how it can help you in your business, even if you’re not pregnant! Ultimately, we go through different phases of life and business that require a different approach, so while my current experience is very much pregnancy-related, you may have something else going on that requires a little tweak to your business strategy.

So. It turns out not everyone knows I’m pregnant. To be honest, I haven’t been sharing loads because I’m kind of in it right now, and also because I like writing about business and creativity most of all. But yes, I am expecting a baby girl this summer.

A couple of weeks ago, I hit 31 weeks, and something shifted. I worked hard in the run up to my Creative Business Day Retreat, but I knew that after the retreat, I really needed to slow down.

I had hoped to work as normal up to about 35 weeks, but there are a few things really shifted. One, I’m not sleeping as well as I normally do, so my energy is slower. Two, I really have a lot I want to do to prepare for a new human, and that takes time and energy. Not compatible with full working days.

I also needed to let go of some of the things I’d thought I could achieve before taking maternity leave.

This was a hard step! But looking at my project list, I started to see how doing less would actually mean I’d get more done. It’s so counter-intuitive! But I basically got to the point where I realised if I actually wanted to complete certain things, some projects just needed to shuffle off the list.

So I prioritised things that I actually wanted and needed to do before I sign off, and looked at how much time I realistically needed to complete them.

I decided to dedicate pretty much half days to the following work:

  • Three half days a week of client work (coaching calls, coaching notes and follow up, and one big copywriting project I’m doing before I finish)
  • One half day a week of course and group content (Progress not Perfection, retreat groups and course updates)
  • One half day a week of email admin and getting some lovely stuff scheduled while I’m having baby snuggles

There are a few bits that don’t fit into those categories, but that’s the overview of how I’m spending my time.

The rest of my time is now available for baby prep. And that’s not just napping, resting and reading all the books! It includes things like:

  • Driving my husband to physio and hospital appointments for his knee injury recovery (it’s going well, and I can’t wait for him to be able to drive again!)
  • Doing all the pick ups and drop offs for my stepson (see above)
  • Midwife appointments
  • Pregnancy yoga and exercise
  • Getting someone to fix our oven
  • Decluttering the house (for what feels like the billionth time!)
  • Taking care of my mental health

These things feel really important, not only for the smooth running of our home right now, but also so that I’m not burnt out and exhausted for months and months. Yes, a newborn is going to be exhausting and all-consuming. But I don’t want additional factors to set me back when I’m thinking of coming back to work.

The struggle and the clarity

I faffed around with wanting to do more and getting frustrated for a good few weeks before I realised I needed to change my mind about maternity leave.

Getting the clarity and declaring a soft launch was an incredibly freeing moment. Announcing to myself – and then publicly – what I was planning to do has made me feel more confident and have more energy. It’s helped me to manage my own expectations on what I’m going to do, and to see that the activities I’m committing to aren’t actually reducing my income.

So how can you apply this to your own business?

The truth is that focus can make everything more efficient, and ultimately that’s great for your business.

We often fall into the trap that more work = more money or more success. That more = more. Except it doesn’t. Sometimes more expectations = more disappointment and frustration, which then leads to burnout and giving up.

You can totally commit to a defined period of time of focus, whether it’s a 100 day project, a month of [insert focus here] or even the summer school holidays.

I definitely believe in choosing a defined period of time for a re-focus. Then you can review it at the end and see what works!

Here are some situations you might be up against, when a “soft launch” of a new way of doing things could help:

  • School holidays – if I’ve learnt anything from coaching clients and my Progress not Perfection group, it’s that school holidays have a MASSIVE impact on time and energy. Make a plan! Manage your own expectations!
  • A project or website launch – if you’re working on a big launch, you need to set parameters for what you’re working on as a priority. Once the thing is launched, you can go back to “normal”.
  • Illness, depression, anxiety and recovery from all three – if you’re going through a rough patch health-wise (including mental health) OR have a family member who is, give yourself a break. Declare a “new normal” and stop beating yourself up for having a lower capacity.

Ultimately, what I love about my maternity leave soft launch is that it has a defined period of time, clear goals, and feels really aligned to how I want to feel and what’s important to me.

You don’t need to wait for a giant life event to feel that way! Declare your own short-term project and commit to yourself. I’d love to hear what you decide!

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