None of these tips will come as a surprise to you really. I think if you’ve been planning or are in the process of starting your business you’ve probably been following a fair amount of business minded people, either on their social media, listening to their podcasts or reading their books. Maybe you’ve done all of the above.
I don’t claim to be an expert, I just know what’s worked for me (and my clients) so here goes, my top 5 tips for staying on the ball as you build your business.
Staying on the ball doesn’t mean that life won’t sidetrack you like a mofo from time to time, what these things have meant for me though, is the ability to bounce back, regain focus and maintain my motivation.
Start your day right
I used to be one of ‘those’ people that woke up at 5am – this started as a side effect of having a child that never slept BUT when I first started my business it really served me well. Now though, my body clock is changing, Josh is a teenager and 5am isn’t so fun. Now I make sure I start my day with these 3 rules:
Don’t go on my phone for at least 30 minutes
Drink, drink, drink I usually go for a glass of water first then have a lazy cup of tea (if you follow me on Instagram you’ll know I share my morning mugshot and bed hair most mornings.)
I have a shower. This is such a simple powerful thing to do and I’m not judging you if you woke up today looking like somebody dug you up and haven’t yet had a wash. I just know that on the days where I shower first thing I feel better, and if I feel better, I do better.
This is something we hear all the time for various reasons. I find it’s really good for my mental health. I take my son Josh to the gym twice a week where I just do a bit of cardio and a few weights and on a Sunday I try to go to a class. The rest of the days I still try to increase my heart rate for at least 20 minutes and I do this when I walk the dog – we get a proper power walk on for the last leg and it really helps my mind clear. Again, it just makes me feel good.
Surround yourself with the right people
This is another big one in the land of self development and business coaching but there is a reason for that. The people in your circle will either raise you up or they will drag you down. This is your choice and if you choose right you will feel AMAZING and you will really leap forward.
This isn’t all about business success either, when you have the right people around you you will find that your passion grows, your enthusiasm grows, your confidence grows and as a result you provide those growth areas right back to those people.
Focus on the quality of your work and commit to excellent customer service from the start
This is actually one of the tougher than you think ones. I have a great phrase that I use when I find myself being a bit of a perfectionist (Done is better than none) but when you are starting in business things can feel a bit thankless, it can be hard to keep the motivation and things *can* slide.
Do what you do really really really well. Be the best at it that you can be and you are already halfway there. Don’t forget, your clients/customers are the biggest asset in your business and exceptional customer service doesn’t take much effort from you but it will mean return customers, referrals and recommendations and we all know how we feel when we feel looked after by the people we buy from.
Be the one they remember for the right reasons.
Remember that marketing is social
This is something that I have to remind myself frequently. So much of our marketing is digital nowadays but the conversation is so often one sided. What keeps me on track is remembering that I don’t just want a random purchase, I want ongoing relationships with my clients. If I want a relationship I have to build it and that means being social.
So don’t forget to show yourself, who you are, what your values are, what the customer means to you and how much you value what they’re doing.
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Feeling like people would like me less, judge me more or just plain stop being my friend, colleague or mentor if I didn’t fit into their plans has been a staple sentiment of mine for years.
I can tell you this, it’s a bitter pill to swallow when that is tied into your self worth. Good old Amy, she will always say yes.
Pleasing people is not the enemy here
I never thought it was wrong to try to please all of the people around me. Friends, family, bosses, clients – I want them all to be happy, satisfied with what I do and who I am and I don’t believe that there is fundamentally anything wrong with that.
The way I did it and the justification I gave myself was a little off though and ultimately I just felt a little off kilter in myself…all the bloody time.
The tension I felt when the orbit of several controlling forces in my universe collided and I had to pick and choose was sickening. Literally – I would get a migraine and I would vomit, ultimately unable to please anyone, least of all me who was actually suffering.
It has to change to be better, I had to change
After years of spreading myself too thin, I was physically run down, mentally run down and I had gotten to the point where (and I say this with every ounce of honesty possible) I didn’t even know who I was anymore. I was skint, I was exhausted and I was overwhelmed. My days were spent full of anxiety and a furrowed brow and I had lost the joy in just plain living.
I didn’t actually realise what a powerful change I was making at first. I thought it was wanderlust, work boredom, career burnout or some such and so over a 2 year period I resigned from 2 jobs that consumed so much of me I wasn’t sure what was left (I loved both of these jobs I just acknowledge that I changed and needed to leave for my own health)
I became a freelancer and definitely started to say no more.
Instead I focused on doing a good job well, on being honest about my time constraints, financial constraints and my own needs.
Did it all cause misery and tension?
No. In fact it has mostly gone unnoticed by other people.
I have spent the last 2 years in particular choosing wisely how I spend my time. I meet with my friends once a month for dinner but we take it in turns to cook what we call kids dinner (usually oven pizza, smiley faces and beans) we wear comfies and laugh and chat for a couple of hours. Sometimes we will go out if its a birthday but mostly what we want is time together we are all in different places financially and romantically and living wise so when we were finally honest we all realised this works better for us.
I have said no to speaking to people in the street who want ‘a few minutes of my time’ I have said no to big gift giving, I have said I don’t fancy the cinema or can’t afford that weekend away and you know what, every single time it has been met with a ‘no worries’ attitude.
It’s not always easy, I found myself inviting people to dinner when I knew I wasn’t really up to it and I have committed myself to spending time with a friend whom I love but feel we have grown apart. Just like you, sometimes I still don’t know how to navigate it.
If you are a people pleaser just like me then I challenge you to count to 5 before you agree to anything. If whilst counting you realise that you are not required to do it and in fact don’t really want to I challenge you to say no. If you’re not comfortable to just say no right now then say, “I’m not certain I can – I will get back to you later today once I’ve double checked.”
I’ve had some huge moments of awesome through being more honest with myself in this area. I can help you too.
Working with a mentor can really help improve the quality of your relationships personally AND professionally. I know that I have better quality of time, I am less ill and I have loads more fun. I earn more, rest more and play more. What is not to love about that!
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Inspiration strikes at strange times, take now for example. I was given a book of 365 puzzles for Christmas, the design shows that the intention behind it is to do 1 puzzle per day. It’s brain training but in bite-size chunks which, if you’ve ever read any of my posts, is exactly how I like to do just about everything.
Whilst I was working on a puzzle I started to think about the day before – a visit to the hospital and what I should take from it and I hit myself smack bang in the face with some home truths that I’d been pushing to the back of my mind for months.
It all started with Friday when I went to my weekly physio appointment in Cambridge, the hospital is about 45 minutes away from where I live and leaving my front door and sitting in the waiting room takes around an hour ‘door – to – bum on seat’.
Yep, thinking about it threw up some uncomfortable truths about my personality type, my behaviour patterns and my general ‘I want instant gratification’ trait that I am not always happy with.
Friday was a process from start to finish and it reminded me of a few very basic things that I’m going to make a supreme effort to bear in mind over the next few months.
I hope it makes you think about your personal goals, habits and lessons learned in such a way that you actually make some changes this year. Not for 2020 but for you, forever.
Lesson 1 – counter balance is a real thing:
First issue I have is that when I feel particularly stressed or anxious on a personal level I search for excuses and not solutions for my own problems.
So yeah, I almost cancelled the appointment because I found a hell of a lot of excuses.
You see, Ryan had eye surgery 4 days before and was still required to posture which basically meant that for 55 minutes of every hour he had to lay on his right hand side.
I was worried about leaving him for what was likely to be a 2.5 hour round trip. I was also worried about driving for more than 30 minutes in case I wasn’t ready for it, after all it had barely been 4 weeks since I had hand surgery.
My head was swimming with excuses to cancel
I should be here because someone might knock at the door and he would have to stop posturing and try to corral the dog who would go nuts.
What if I overran and it spanned the time I needed to make sure he had taken his medication and eye drops?
What if I couldn’t manage a whole hour behind the wheel?
What if…what if…what if.
I was certain I was going to cancel it. I had worried about it all Thursday night and really struggled in the morning too; girlfriend guilt was strong because I felt like I was putting myself first. I’m sure I’m not the only one that struggles with this kind of guilt?
I tried to take a step back and I asked myself how could I allay some of my worries? Was there a way that I could make any adjustments or contingencies?
I was reminded of that phrase that someone once so eloquently said ‘fail to prepare, prepare to fail’.
So instead of cancelling I…
Wrote a note for our front door that asked people not to knock unless it was an emergency as someone was recovering from surgery and it wasn’t currently safe for them to move.
I made sure Ryan had taken his medication in the moments just before I left which would give me 4 hours grace. I also made sure that I’d left it for him to easily use in case I wasn’t back in time.
I left 20 minutes earlier than I normally would and planned a rest break for 15 minutes in the middle of the journey in case I needed it.
Of course it all went fine, I was there and back in 3 hours on the nose. Ryan was fine when I got back (still asleep on the sofa in fact) and I remembered and I’m here to remind you:
I addressed some of my concerns, I put things in place to counter balance them and made some contingency plans for the ‘what if’s’
Lesson 2 – do the bloody work:
During my physio session I was reminded of how improved my hand is. For 2 years I had 0 movement in my finger tip. Not that much of an issue? It was for me. It had meant that my tendons on both sides of my hand were tightening because they couldn’t move freely.
Think of the tendons like a pulley (see image), both sides work synergistically to make the whole process work. Now imagine that the very top of the pulley has been glued so that it can’t move. As you can imagine that means that the other elements of the pulley can’t do their job either.
That was my right hand and as it worked less, more of it was becoming ‘glued’ / stuck which meant I was getting more and more reduced movements and lots more daily pain.
The physio I see has seen me through since day one and is fantastic. We were talking and I was gushing about how happy I was with the outcome of the surgery and how the surgeon was so great – even though I only have 10% movement it has moved the needle enough to enable me to use my hand in my day to day life (like typing, washing my hair, pushing myself out of the bath safely, using a knife and fork properly and supporting myself using banisters etc.)
Jemma paused and looked at me whilst I basically just threw up all the words I knew (I was insanely chatty) and said to me “don’t forget you’re doing the work, surgery wouldn’t have worked without you tirelessly doing your physio when there’s no-one there to cheer you on.”
And I do. Every hour I do around 35 exercises. I wear a splint 3-5 times a day which is super uncomfortable to help lengthen my tendons (which have shortened with multiple repairs) and I wear a thing at night that supports my hand, reduces swelling and reduces the production of collagen. I still have to take mild painkillers every 4 hours or it hurts too much to manage the physio. I also go to my appointments, get ultrasound therapy, put through my paces with additional exercises and do what I’m told.
The surgery gave me the tools but it was my job to use them.
The needle wouldn’t have moved if I had not committed to the work. Even though I hate it, even though it’s painful and frustrating and there doesn’t always seem to be an end in sight.
This isn’t just a life lesson, it’s a key business strategy for any entrepreneur. In business as in life It’s normal to be struggling with where to start with it all. There is help out there if you find yourself unsure.
If you are interested in doing a 1 hour workshop with me to get some clarity then I would love to hear from you – click this link to sign up to my FREE email breakdown on‘DOING THE WORK’and find out more about the workshop.
Lesson 3 – taking care of yourself is NON NEGOTIABLE:
Ok so I touched on this already.
I gave every excuse as to why Ryans health was more important than mine. But by finding a way to go to that appointment I reminded myself that without my taking care of myself there wouldn’t be a me capable of doing the things we all needed me to do.
He needed me to be able to drive and help support his recovery, as a small business owner my business needed me to be able to function and create and do my work, my son needs me for the school run, homework help, study support and love and I need me to be able to live my life well.
I so often think of other people as being more important than me and it’s a bad habit to be in simply that the other person is currently in need of more of my help than usual and that absolutely means I needed to look after myself as a priority.
Reminding myself that taking care of my health is a personal goal for me and not at all selfish but in fact allows me to be generous in physical and emotional support to my loves is important.
Your health should be the very top of your daily non negotiables list. I’m trying to do that more myself.
I know it’s all human behaviour but genuinely sometimes I wonder at the psychology of everyday living and how we often struggle with our own mental health (as well as physical) because we are simply not taking better care of ourselves in the situations where we have the ability if only we could bring ourselves to.
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