Perfectly imperfect: the reckoning of 2020

Today’s blog post was supposed to be more practical support with emails and marketing. But as I meditated (briefly) last night, I felt this pull to send out a different message today.

This blog post is directly from my heart.

For so many of us this year, perfection and predictability and pursuing goals have radically changed, if not been thrown out of the window altogether. We’ve pivoted, juggled, reprioritised and adjusted a thousand times, and we’re doing it again this week.

It’s okay to be doing it all imperfectly, making the best of bad situations.

In fact, I believe that getting more comfortable with imperfection and trusting ourselves mid-juggle might be a gift of 2020.

We can’t pretend perfection exists anymore. We can’t pretend to have it all figured out – because none of us have it all figured out.

Instead, we can be in the process – an active, ongoing process – of understanding ourselves and trusting ourselves, no matter what’s going on around us.

You cannot run the perfect business. You cannot expect yourself to anticipate everything or be prepared for every outcome.

Instead, you can believe in your own abilities. You can discover what works for you and build on it. You can practice kindness and determination – yes, both – when things don’t go as planned.

My business dreams are evolving.

Perhaps it’s returning from maternity leave. Perhaps it’s living through a pandemic. Perhaps it’s something about the way the stars are aligning. But this year I’ve been thinking a lot about the dream I had for my business back in late 2013 and 2014, when I left my job and started this journey.

And what I’m seeing is that my business dreams and goals are evolving. It’s fun to look back at that time, when anything felt possible, when I was sure I could make so many things work. And I love my deeper wisdom now: that I know what really matters, like profit is more important than turnover, and how I spend my time directly relates to my happiness.

I also love my understanding of how I want to support not only my clients but also a wider community and society. I’m called to act for racial injustice, for protecting and healing the environment, for human rights. I want to build a business that does all those things.

And I want to build it in a way that allows me to love my family, care for my children* and care for myself. Sleep is highly important.

The great reckoning

I think 2020 (and perhaps 2021) is a big reckoning for all of us. And as we come into this busy time of year, perhaps you’re reflecting on it too. (And if you’re not, that’s okay.)

My offering to you today is to give yourself permission to be perfectly imperfect. To let go of the expectation that you should be smashing it. To decide instead to learn to trust yourself, to ask for help, to discover what works for you.

Your job right now is to build strong foundations through the busy Christmas period. The Survive & Thrive Christmas 2020 recording is available for you to watch (or listen to while you pack orders).

And if you need support with the great reckoning, or even with your to do list for today, I’m here.

With love

Jenny x

*I have a daughter and a stepson. Sometimes I forget to tell people!

How do you prioritise your to do list?

It only takes a quick Google or Pinterest search to be completely inundated by different productivity approaches. And truthfully there are a thousand different ways you can think about your priorities.

I have a few suggestions that I’ve used with my Progress not Perfection group and my coaching clients to help them feel confident and, crucially, to make progress.

Take your to do list, and look at each category below. Mark each item with a £ (money), a ! (important), 🙂 (fun) and Q (quick), choosing no more than three things in each category.

1. Where’s the money coming from?

Take a look at your to do list and mark the items (£) that are going to bring in money directly. Things like listing a new product, invoicing the client, or sharing the discount voucher with your email list. It’s really important that we see the link between the actions we take and the money we make.

Some things might have a longer term payoff, and that’s great too. In fact, I have a whole other post coming up about long term vs short term. But for now, let me say that if you need short term income, you need to prioritise those actions first.

Sometimes this is about prioritising marketing activity. Sometimes it’s cancelling those subscriptions you don’t need, or asking for the refund on faulty goods. Sometimes it’s designing something that will sell later in the year (e.g. Christmas).

Whether you’re strapped for cash or feeling comfortable, this has to be a priority for those of us taking our businesses seriously.

2. What’s important?

Important means different things to different people, and that’s okay. This category is for any item that is important to the running of your business, whether it’s setting up your eco friendly packaging or completing your tax return. It might not be a direct revenue driver and it might not be fun, but it’s vital to YOUR business.

It could be important for you to work on new designs, or a re-brand, or a new website. Perhaps it’s about setting up a new, more efficient process for getting your orders out the door.

For me, writing a weekly blog post is important because it helps me to hone my voice, help my audience, and demonstrate my expertise.

3. What’s fun?

The more joy you experience, the more success you have, and vice versa. That’s my experience, anyway! Especially as creatives, it’s important that we feed our enjoyment of our businesses. We didn’t start them so that we could do loads of boring stressful stuff.

So highlight anything on your list that’s truly a pleasure for you to work on!

If there’s nothing fun on your list, add something. I promise you’ll start to feel better about your business when there’s something you can look forward to on there.

4. What are the quick wins?

Publish the product. Email the people. Put the thing in the mail. Reply to the commission request. Enquire about the space. Decline the invitation. Say yes to the opportunity.

Some things are quick, we just procrastinate them. What is a quick win on your to do list? If it will take less than half an hour for you to complete, add a big Q next to it.

And review your newly prioritised to do list!

Once you’ve marked up your to do list with these categories, you should have something with a bit more of a priority to it. It might not be what you thought it was, but hopefully a couple of things have started to stand out as priorities for you.

If something is going to generate revenue, and is important, that’s the place to start! If it’s fun and important, that sounds great, too. Basically, you start to weed out the things that aren’t bringing in money, aren’t important or fun, and take ages. Why do we need to prioritise those things?

This is just one model for prioritising your to do list. It’s one that certainly helps to get things in perspective.

What do you think? Does this method work for you? Or do you have your own prioritisation preferences?

If you need more help prioritising your business plans, you might like to work with me one-on-one, or sign up for my very affordable group programme, Progress not Perfection, which is only £20 per month.

Breaking the downward spiral – and creating an upward cycle instead

There’s a theme that comes up regularly when I’m talking to clients, whether it’s a one-to-one conversation, or in my group coaching programme, or on retreats.

It’s the dilemma of shifting the flow from a vaguely (and sometimes worrying) downward spiral – low sales, low motivation, low energy – to a positive, regenerative, profitable cycle of business.

We often get stuck on the hamster wheel. We’re overworked, underpaid, with too much to do, which means we don’t have the energy or resources to make a change. We tell ourselves we have to keep going, but not much is working and we seem to be more defeated, further behind, less successful every time we check.

This is a place of short-term, of scarcity, and of fear. It doesn’t tend to generate orders or new ideas or clear focus for what to do next. It can feel like we’re trapped. We certainly aren’t sure if our business will survive when we’re in this place.

Because orders are low, we’re risk averse. We don’t want to invest in new products or in support that could help get us out of this downward spiral, in case we can’t afford it. In case it doesn’t help.

In this place, it’s almost impossible to shorten the to-do list or discover a place of clarity. Everything could be the answer; nothing is definitely the answer.

We can wind up sleepless, doubtful, stressed, anxious, and with no idea how we even got there.

Nerves fray. Tempers rise. Moods darken.

Downward spiral.

The other place (I feel a bit The Good Place, but that’s another story…). The other place, is generative. Everything you do adds to your business. That product you invest in makes money, creating the next wave of investment.

With the wind at your back, it’s easy to keep up momentum – it’s easier to retain customers than find and engage new ones. Each good day allows you to feel better about the next day. You can take the positive results of yesterday, believe in yourself, and put your energy behind your next (brilliant) idea.

It doesn’t matter which item you check off your to-do list next, because they’re all good ideas, making great strides in your business. They’re all going to pay off.

Asking for support feels like a choice you can make when you’re ready, and you can even indulge yourself by asking for exactly what you need, in the perfect timeframe and with just the right person. You can afford to invest in getting the right support for your business, and you get to choose how and when you do.

Any fear is quickly taken care of by a straightforward and achievable solution. You might wonder about it for a couple of days, but then you’re ready to solve it.

This is kind of what people imagine about being on the right side of a mysterious algorithm: the more you sell, the higher you appear, the more you sell, and so on.

This is the upward spiral.

The truth is we’re usually moving between these two directions at any given moment. Neither is 100% realistic or true.

We’re never running into the ground as quickly as we think. And the world isn’t as charmed as we imagine others experience it to be. Worry-free business? Rare. Like unicorn rare.

But there is some truth in it. Partly because that first situation I described is when we’re stuck in the short-term (and fear), and not focused enough on the long-term.

We can achieve more in the long-term than we imagine. But to do so we have to break the cycle of constantly focusing on the couple of weeks in front of us and make a plan that gets us to where we really want to be.

I’ll say this: when you have a long-term plan and are working towards it, it’s much easier to be in the present moment and enjoy your work and life. That’s not the same as being stuck in the short-term. Let’s not confuse the calm, clarity and connection of presence with the urgency, scarcity of short-term thinking.

In fact, presence can be one of the ways out of short-term thinking. Presence can get us focused on one thing at a time, rather than tripping up over ourselves to answer emails while creating a bestseller and writing a wholesale pitch and trying to post something brilliant on Facebook.

Presence is the first step to stop the hamster wheel of short-term thinking.

Step 1: Give yourself presence.

The first thing I recommend is to pause. Be present in this moment. Notice where you are. Are you in the hamster wheel, on the downward spiral? Are you on a positive cycle? Are you somewhere in between? Find yourself on the spectrum.

Step 2: Remember this piece of therapy wisdom:

If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.

In other words, if you want things to change, you have to change them. If you’re not getting the results you want from the actions you’re taking, it’s time to change the actions.

Step 3: Get clear.

Before you make a change, make sure you’re really clear on the results you want. What do you actually want to change? How do you want to feel? What do you want to be true?

Meditate, visualise, take yourself to a coffee shop or a quiet place, and write it all down. Let yourself be really honest about what you actually want, what success would actually feel like and look like.

Maybe you want a certain turnover figure. Maybe you want to get sales from a specific place or type of customer.

Maybe you want to have more time with the kids. Maybe you’d like to venture into speaking at events or being invited to guest post on someone’s blog.

Be as specific and clear as you can. Let it simmer.

Step 4: Be really honest.

Throw out anything that isn’t getting you closer to those dreams.

The free work you’re doing, when you’re not even making enough money to cover your expenses? Out.

The constant development of products you don’t love because it’s kind of fitting the bill right now? Stop.

The need for perfection that holds you back from getting the good work done? Hold it right there.

You know. Deep down, you know what’s holding you back, but you have to see it. You have to see how you’ve been getting in your own way or not seeing the problem clearly enough.

Maybe you’re building sales up to a new level, but you don’t know how yet. Be really honest about the skills you need, the things you need to learn, the way you want to get there. How you get there is as important as getting there.

Maybe you feeling like you’re trying to learn, but nothing’s coming together yet. If you genuinely haven’t learnt anything in the time you’ve been trying, it’s time to try in a different way. Channel your inner Hermione. Make a learning chart. Give yourself gold stars.

Step 5: Give yourself enough time.

Change doesn’t happen overnight. If you’re trying to shift gears, you need to give yourself time to learn, to change, to see results. Be generous with it. Stop thinking short-term, and give yourself longer deadlines, broken down into really, truly, genuinely bite-sized chunks. You’re human. It’s time to stop hoping you’re a unicorn.

And a bonus step: Remind yourself daily what you’re working towards.

Give yourself gold stars for even showing up. Reward each tiny piece of progress. Get yourself a buddy and cheer each other on. Hire a coach or assistant who’ll help keep you motivated and accountable.

Put up your goals on the wall. Remind yourself that you’re doing things differently. And it takes time.

Change your perspective on this. Set yourself free from the hamster wheel. Give yourself the gift of long-term success.

This feels a bit soap-boxy but I know that these things change the course of a business, because I’ve seen it happen. I’ve done it myself, in my own business.

Have a question or need some support? Get in touch. I would 100% love to hear from you.

Now good luck. I’m cheering you on.

Jenny x

PS Interested in getting regular encouragement and cheerleading and motivation and structure? Consider joining Progress not Perfection, my group coaching programme.


Enter The Forge

Life's too damn short to chase someone else's definition of success. I'm here to give you the courage and tools to forge your own path.