Here's the thing: pausing

PauseIn each moment, in each day, we have an opportunity to pause and consider what we want our businesses (lives) to be like.

To me, this feels obvious, necessary, and ongoing. I spend a lot of my time talking with people about what they want their businesses to be like. I spend a lot of time facilitating the pause, and the answers.

But I also know that it’s something that gets squished down to the bottom of the list on a daily basis. I know that it can be incredibly hard to put time aside for this, and to give yourself permission for it.

So, even though it feels (to me) like I say this a lot: take time to pause.

You’ll feel better for it. You’ll gain clarity. And the more you do it, and follow through on whatever you need or want to bring in, the more clarity, happiness, and ease you’ll feel.

You can do it on a micro level, a daily, momentary, what-do-I-need-this-afternoon level.

In fact, you can do that right now. Sit in your seat, take a deep breath. Feel the pause. Feel the potential – you can change your day around from this point forward! What is missing from your business, your life, your surroundings, right now? Perhaps it’s inspiration, enthusiasm, or creativity. If that feels really strong to you – that desire to feel inspired and creative – maybe you could give yourself an hour to read something inspiring, or go to an art gallery. Mix up your usual routine.

As you sit, you might feel like you’re in need of productivity – perhaps you’ve been piddling around all day or all week. What about giving yourself one thing to finish today? Or setting a timer for 20 minutes to work on one task (and one task only)?

On a bigger level, a deeper level, you could take half an hour to wonder about what you want your business to be like. Not just problem-solving the stuff that’s going on right now, but thinking about a year or two from now. What do you want your business to be like then? Let yourself see it, feel it. Be really honest with yourself about what would work for you. (Avoid comparison.)

Then imagine or two things to add into your day or week that might nudge you in that direction. It might be research, or tidying up, or designing something you love (instead of what you “should” be making). Whatever feels like a tangible thing – nothing huge, we don’t want to overwhelm or overturn – build it into your schedule.

Because here’s the thing:

You’re in charge, and your business is here to serve you, to add to your life, not just take away all the time. You need to check in with it, and with yourself, to make sure it feels right, and is giving you what you need.

Aim for fulfilled, not depleted.

Try taking some time off for reflection.

Consider a mentoring session for increased clarity and enthusiasm.

But most of all, be true to you.

Here's the thing: rest and play

The theme for this week has been as clear as day – almost every single client has needed the same message, and the same homework this week. To rest. To take time out. To play, doing something just for themselves.

It’s a slightly weird time of year, with bank holidays and school holidays and sales that can shift and slow down, but lots to work on nonetheless. The freefall of spring can pile the pressure on as much as Christmas sales – possibly more because there’s this sense of an endless list of things to do.

It’s also a time when you’ve made plans, you’ve decided to make lots of things happen this year, to change your habits or your mind, and yet bad habits creep in. Everyday life gets you.

I have a client who works incredibly hard at her business, and has a demanding family life. Up at 6.20 for the school run, then to orders, going guns blazing into her business life. When she stops work at the end of the day, she goes straight to kids and dinner and sorting the housework. There is very little room to take care of herself – and she’s approaching burnout.

Perhaps you’ve felt some early warning signs of burnout too?

It might be headaches, or that twinge in your back again. You might feel like you run circles round yourself just to get through the day – much less make a clear decision. Perhaps you’re always hungry, but forget to eat. Maybe you can’t sleep because your brain is still working, but you’re dead on your feet during the day.

Take any of these (and more) as early warning signs that you need to rest – and play.

There is so much science around our need for downtime and for-no-reason creative play time. Read Stuart Brown’s work or Tired of Being Tired or The Gifts Of Imperfection if you need convincing. There’s so much out there!

We are human beings – we’re not designed to push through to exhaustion. Our stress response symptoms are the same whether we’re being chased by a lion or convince ourselves our businesses will be ruined if we don’t do everything in a single day.

That’s the tough bit: we create our own stress.

We convince ourselves we’re just being lazy or pathetic or not good enough, so we push ourselves harder. We start to believe we’re the only people who can get everything done (to perfection). It’s just not true, and it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Push yourself too hard, and you’ll prove yourself right, because you won’t get anything done to perfection.

No matter what kind of week you’ve had, no matter how busy, there’s always a call for rest and rejuvenation.

So here’s the thing:

Your homework, like many of my clients, is to choose something that is restful or playful, but just for you. I don’t even want to see an Instagram of it! If you really want to, email me afterwards and tell me what it was like to give yourself some rest and rejuvenation.

Here are some ideas:

  • Take three deep breaths. If you need guiding through it, use this recording.
  • Give yourself some screen-free time (no phone, laptop, tablet or TV) for 30 minutes, an entire evening, or even the entire day. See what comes up instead, without the pull of notifications, ‘just checking in’ or getting sucked into another scroll through Facebook.
  • Turn off notifications. Go old school. If there’s an emergency, someone will call you. Everything else can go to no notifications, putting you back in charge of when you check in.
  • Lie down in a darkened room, by yourself. Make it very clear that you’re not to be disturbed for 30 minutes. Just lie in the quiet, or put some relaxing music on.
  • Take a nap.
  • Drink some water. Chances are, you’re dehydrated, especially if you love the coffee or tea. And if you’re approaching burnout, your adrenal glands will definitely thank you for something to replenish with.
  • Go for a walk by yourself. You might take the dog, but no one else is allowed. No talking, no phones, just you. Let yourself breathe and be present in the fresh air.
  • Take a lunch break.
  • Run yourself a bath. The bathroom is definitely a place to be by yourself, just FYI. I love Rachel’s blog about running a good bath.
  • Get out the watercolours, pencil and paper, notebook or knitting needles. Make a mark. Make another mark. Repeat to fade. This is not for business. This is not a new product. This is simply to play. Even if you’re not “creative”, art is therapy. Enjoy it.
  • Book a massage or a facial.
  • Go to yoga. They don’t allow phones or conversation there.
  • Go to bed an hour early. No apologies.

Whatever you choose to do, enjoy it. Know that you’re entirely allowed to rest, to play, to take care of yourself.


Here's the thing: take lunch breaks

lunch breaksIn recent conversations with clients and at the Small Creative Business Retreat, it has come to my attention that many small business owners are not taking lunch breaks. In fact, some are not even eating lunch!

It’s time to change. I’m starting a lunch break revolution because, apparently, we need one.

I’m not going to argue with the wise people who tell you breakfast is the most important meal of the day. That would be foolish, I’m sure.

But lunch holds a very particular significance because it’s right there, smack bang in the middle of the day. Which makes it an ideal – nay – essential time for a proper break. You’ve put in the hours in the morning, and you brain and body are in need of sustenance, both food and time.

You know, if you actually employed yourself, you’d be legally obliged to give yourself at least 20 uninterrupted minutes for every 6 hours, plus tea and loo breaks.

Ask yourself right now: do you get 20 minutes off before you stop working in the evening?

And then ask yourself this: do you often feel overwhelmed, tired, unclear, unfocused, or unsure? If the answer is yes, let me suggest something… Take a lunch break!

Not just any kind of lunch break, a proper one. One in which your brain gets to slow down and relax a bit, or your hands get a good rest. A break that allows you to return to the land of real human beings, not a one-(wo)man business machine. A break in which you breathe, notice yourself eating nourishing food, drink something lovely, and sit quietly for a moment or two.

Things that do not constitute taking a lunch break:

  • Scrolling through Facebook, Pinterest or Instagram
  • Sitting by your computer or laptop, trying to get food in your mouth without looking
  • Any kind of chore, or to do list item

If you’re currently kidding yourself that spending 10 minutes on Facebook, getting worked up about what other people are doing, is actually a lunch break, then please – stop now.

Here’s the thing…

I’m going to tell you something you may find shocking. I take a lunch break every single day, for at least 30 minutes, and usually longer. I get up, make my lunch, and I sit on my sofa – 2 metres away from my laptop and phone.

Sometimes I pull out a (non-work) book. Sometimes I make notes (but only after I’ve finished eating). I breathe. I put on fun music. I stretch.

Sometimes (here it comes) I take a 2 hour lunch break. I go to yoga, or I simply need more downtime in order for my brain and my body to return to work mode. It’s taken me a little while to know that this is okay. I started off worrying that I’d need to schedule in “make up” time so that I was “allowed” to have time off. What I’ve discovered is that having a longer break when I need one allows me to work longer, or get up earlier, without me forcing it. It happens naturally. Honest.

Here’s the bit I really want you to hear: taking lunch breaks is a way to develop self-respect and self-worth. You are worthy of time off to eat a lovely sandwich and think about daffodils! Sometimes, we all feel like we’re not “allowed” to rest, that it has to be hard and we have to suffer for it to be worth it. Sometimes, we measure our productivity on how much we sacrificed to get there. You don’t have to suffer or sacrifice downtime to be successful.

And you don’t have to wait until you magically believe you’re worth it to start taking breaks and looking after yourself. Start taking them, and the belief will start to follow. You’ll be sending yourself the message that you deserve to be cared for, and so you’ll start to feel it, too.

Maybe 2 hours is a big ask for you, but try 20 minutes at least. I dare you!

Here are some ideas:

  • Leave the building. Physically remove yourself from work to clear your head and refresh you body and brain.
  • Breathe deeply. Follow a guided meditation, or simply take big, deep breaths by yourself.
  • Plan delicious lunches. If you have something to look forward to, surely you’ll want to sit and savour it?
  • Turn off all screens. You want to be present in your break, so limit the distractions that could pull you back into work.
  • Get a dog or borrow someone else’s. Dog-walking is great, because you can concentrate on something else, and you have a moral obligation to take a break! Plus, y’know, cute.

Have a wonderful bank holiday weekend!


PS If you’re still thinking ‘Yeah, right, how unrealistic, there’s no way I could do that, it’ll ruin my business’, I’M TALKING TO YOU. Go back to the beginning, read again. Or email me and tell me exactly how taking 20 minutes off every day is going to ruin your business.


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.