With tomorrow being the 2nd anniversary of my working for myself, I started to reflect on the lessons that have shown themselves to me. I know I'll continue to learn indefinitely, but it also feels right to be aware of the learnings I've had thus far. While I won't tell you what to do or how to learn these lessons yourself, I'll share a few tips that have helped me so far.
1. I realized that some days I will get nothing done, and some days I will get #allthethings done, and it is my responsibility to myself to have both be perfectly ok.
My productivity fluctuates constantly. Instead of getting frustrated with myself on days when the to-do list doesn't get tackled (or let's be honest, looked at) I try to let myself have an off day. The days when I'm totally on fire creatively more than make up for those slower days; and I'm learning to accept that there is downtime involved in creation. Treating myself with self-compassion means being okay with some days having only two hours of quality work and taking two steps forward.
If you're struggling with this, try reframing in this way:
I choose to work with my energy instead of against my energy.
I accept what I've accomplished today and I choose to feel pride in my self and my work.
2. I shifted from 90% learning and 10% doing to 10% learning and 90% doing, and that has made all the difference.
I can't remember which podcast I was listening to when it happened, but it was as though a switch went off in my mind. My mode up until this point had been to consume, consume, consume content - not doughnuts! but I mean, those too. :) Then, one day, I realized that it was time to shift modes from consumption to action. This doesn't mean that I stopped learning completely, only that I finally realized I was going nowhere fast by not taking action steps every day.
I started to insist on implementation time - a good rule of thumb for me is this:
For every hour of content I consume:
- listening to a podcast...
- reading blog articles...
- scrolling through social media for research purposes...
I spend two hours implementing RIGHT AWAY before moving on to the next item on my learning list.
3. I finally accepted that there is no such thing as perfect, and that a willingness to do my best and admit when I’ve made a mistake matters much more.
Every website I've launched has had at least one tiny bug that gets noticed after launch. It's true, and I'm not afraid to admit it. Sometimes it's a button that links nowhere. Other times I've forgotten to send the launch graphics. Once, I forgot to brand the mobile menu on a Squarespace site and the template fonts and colours were still showing. #oops
I could let things like this get to me and allow myself to feel like a terrible web designer, but the honest truth is that I don't. I look at it as an opportunity to get better for the next time, and a chance to show my clients that I value them enough to fix my mistake really quickly.
If letting go of perfection is hard for you, make this quote from Sheryl Sandberg really visible next to your workspace until you notice an improvement in your mindset:
4. Social media is wonderful and evil all at the same time. Coming to this realization, being aware of how I am spending my time, and responding appropriately is key.
When I'm on Instagram or Facebook, it is the worst of times, and it is the best of times, it is the age of wisdom, it is the age of foolishness - ten points if you get that reference - send me a message on Instagram if you do! ;)
On the one hand, scrolling through social helps me to pick out new strategies I'd like to try, decide what I want my feed to look like and what I don't want to emulate, get clear on my brand voice and connect with my ideal clients. On the other hand, I can easily spend 4 hours on here during an average day and call it work, which it generally is not. See # 2 above for the note on implementation time - this helps me to keep myself in check.
I've noticed that myself and other entrepreneurs can confuse the performance of our businesses for the performance of our social media feeds. If you think this might be true for you too...
Try pushing your social media posting + engagement closer to the end of your workday once you've already accomplished other items on your to-do list.
5. My ideal client has shifted many times and will continue to shift all the time - it’s my job to learn more and more about her every day.
With each project accomplished, I learn a bit more about my favourite kinds of people to work with. For me, that's clients who ...
- email back promptly and get as excited as I do over new drafts and proofs
- have invested in high quality photography
- make beautiful artwork or deliver beautiful results to their clients and customers
- are fired up about their businesses
- are happy to be connected to other entrepreneurs
- like to take small design risks with big payoffs
- are continual learners and are engaged in the design process
The more I think about that target client, the more often I manifest people exactly like her. They seriously pop into my inbox all the time now that I put continual effort into noticing who I like to work with most.
My top suggestion for refining your ideal client:
Make notes about your favourite aspects of each client you've worked with (focus on the positives!)
6. Noticing the small milestones that bring me toward my big goals will help me move faster and be happier, every time.
The way I work best is by going from benchmark to benchmark. I celebrate every new page draft, every revision, every client "yes" and every subtask completed. Celebrating small wins is a tip I picked up from the Happier podcast and then applied to my business. I used to get overwhelmed and feel like I wasn't accomplishing enough. Once I applied this mindset shift, I was (yes, happier) but also more productive and more at ease in my workday.
To notice your small wins, why not...
Keep an action journal - this is where even the smallest action steps start to add up, one line at a time.
7. I've - slowly - learned to budget 20% more time for every task than I initially think is necessary.
This learning came from my business coach Kyla Roma via a worksheet in her signature coaching program: planning for things to take more time than I think is necessary REALLY WORKS.
Now that I've implemented this strategy, I...
- feel more comfortable with how my offers are priced (and my resulting hourly rate.)
- don't need to rush to finish projects, and make my deadlines much more comfortably,
- enjoy my work more because I have reasonable expectations for myself.
Add in some buffer time to your routine tasks as well as your one-time tasks, and see how you feel!
8. Water, lemonade, coffee, tea, hot chocolate… are all my best friends.
I know this one sounds silly, but this is key to keeping me motivated throughout a workday that usually involves me, on my own, sitting at home. Not only do I stay hydrated, but this gives me the opportunity to stand every so often, take a break from my computer, and introduce a little variety into my day.
No tip here, but I do want to know... email me to let me know your favourite work-from-home beverage!
9. No matter how many websites I’ve launched, launch day ALWAYS feels exciting.
This is how I know that at this stage of business, I'm doing the work that is in alignment with my higher self. More importantly, if there comes a day when the launch doesn't feel so great, I'll know that I need to make some mindset shifts or learn something new so that I'm staying in that aligned zone.
Not sure if this describes how you feel about your work?
Take 5 minutes at the end of your workday to close your eyes, breathe deeply, and meditate on the most exciting aspect of your day. This will give you a clue as to what you enjoy most and help you to know where to shift your work time and priorities.
10. If I’m putting something off, it’s for a good reason. A better time to complete that task will reveal itself and the end result will be so much better than if I had insisted on it the first time.
Forcing myself to complete a task that doesn't feel right never ends well. It's also never enjoyable. That means that I work best not scheduling my days. Although cognitively I know that batching and scheduling tasks is a better use of my time, marking 3 hours on a Tuesday for blog writing and sticking to it OR ELSE just isn't my thing. Instead, I flow from activity to activity doing what I feel like doing next. I realize this doesn't work for everyone, and that's my main point. If specific time scheduling works for you, by all means, enjoy it! If a less structured flow feels better, more power to you.
Keeping in tune with my intuition just happens to make more sense for me. I've noticed that if I'm avoiding a task, it's typically because an experience or a teaching I need first to complete it well just hasn't occurred yet. Following my intuition is a constant work in progress but every time I listen it gets a little bit easier.
What you can try:
Give yourself two options for the next task to complete. Wait, and ask your heart or your gut (depending on your Human Design authority!) what feels more right. Ignore the mental chatter and go with the heart-based or gut-based decision, then see how you feel!
11. My work cannot make me happy. I choose to be happy first, and then good work will follow.
Relying on external conditions to create happiness just plain and simple doesn't work for me anymore. The more I learn about consciousness and alignment through meditation and personal growth, the more I am certain: the feeling of happiness starts from within.
In practical terms, I create happiness before I start my work day as well as individual tasks. For me, this could mean:
- meditating, doing a body scan practice, or taking one full deep breath
- clearing my email or messages inbox to have a blank slate
- playing this week's Apple Music Chill playlist in the background
- refilling my beverage (see # 8)
- reading for 30 minutes daily and sharing a #quartzquote with my Instagram followers
- keeping my phone out of my bedroom and keeping my screentime to what feels reasonable for me
- checking in with a friend or fellow entrepreneur
- taking in inspirational quotes and messaging
- checking my astrology reading for the day on CoStar
This one's simple:
Find what makes you happy, do it first, and watch your feelings about your workday transform.
With good vibes and gratitude,