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How to work smarter (not harder)

How to work smarter (not harder)

I hate working hard. Wanting to work smarter and not harder doesn’t make you lazy or afraid of hard work. 

It means you don’t want your work to feel like hard work.

As a business owner/partner/mummy, my time is squeezed at the best of times. And more so right now while the schools are closed and the childcare/homeschool/work juggle is very real. I want to be as freakin’ efficient as possible AND feel like I’m making progress.

It’s the reason why we all do this. 

Fixing the working harder problem

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Who else is fed up of working hard? All. The. Freaking. Time. Early mornings. Late nights. Weekends. Trying to do #AllTheThings was getting really tiring. Yet we all have the same hours in a day as Beyonce sooooo.

I came across a phrase that is a PROPER lightbulb moment, and it’s stuck with me ever since.

Although, it’s been a real tricky time to get my head around it because I have to call myself out on the BS I carry around. 

And getting my head around this ONE phrase makes such a big difference to achieving goals and keeping your sanity. 

In fact, not doing this one this is the reason things keep falling apart. Why you are constantly in planning mode and never finishing the doing. 

Do you want to know what it is?

It’s to stop confusing motion with action.

Motion versus Action

Motion is diligently helping your clients and staying behind the scenes because because it pays the bills and you’re grateful to have clients. I mean, we’ll ignore the idea that some of the tasks bore you to tears, because that work keeps a roof over your head and, hello, there’s a recession, people! Sometimes, you do try to speak up and offer intelligent and relevant suggestions, but you never feel like your ideas are truly heard or appreciated because you can’t seem to shift the label of helper. Nothing is particularly wrong per se. But you do want more. Something more. Not-quite-sure-what more.

When I heard about this motion versus action idea, I seriously needed to call out my own internal BS, but I found understanding the true meaning of it all a little tricky, so here are a few other examples that you might relate to:

Motion is staying small behind the scenes while diligently helping your clients because it pays the bills even it bores you. You try to step up and offer intelligent suggestions, but your ideas are not heard or appreciated your client views you as just the admin.

Action is deciding your ideas ARE worth hearing because you have more to give. You call out your own BS and look at your current reality versus where you want to be, and come up with a plan for change.

Motion is putting on your big girl pants and deciding that you too can benefit from email marketing. So you pop it on your to-do list… for next month.

Action is creating a smart marketing plan and regularly driving your ideal client towards a freebie download that’s relevant to what you offer. And you build an email list to generate more leads.

Motion is signing up for another super fun five-day challenge about how to write that training course in your head. 

Action is doing the hard thing and dedicating an hour a day to write the course that you want to publish and sell. 

Motion is carefully writing the copy for your new sales page to get it absolutely perfect. (Side note to your subconscious: could this be procrastination through perfection?)

Action is hitting publish on that sales page AND consistently telling people about it over the course of weeks. 

Motion is often fun, and it can be the right next step, but it’s never going to help you build your empire or play bigger if you never transition to the next stage – and that’s action.

Action is the hard thing

Action makes you vulnerable because there is the possibility you’ll have a gigantic wet kipper slapped in your face. No-one wants that. I get it.

But without doing the hard thing, your beautiful ideas aren’t going to make you any money because your audience doesn’t know your creative, innovative and intelligent solutions exist.

Over to you… do you call yourself out when you find yourself stuck in motion rather than action?

COVID-19 and the Invisible Increase in Mental Load

COVID-19 and the Invisible Increase in Mental Load

Like most women, I assume many different roles; mother, partner, business owner … the list goes on. This means that I’m constantly being pulled in different directions, each of which feels equally worthy of my (often limited) time and energy.

To wear all the hats and handle all these diverse responsibilities, I’ve learned hard lessons in order to balance that ever-present mental load so I can focus on the right thing at the right time. (Note: multi-tasking is most definitely a modern-day myth.)

Wrangling the invisible yet constant to-do list in my head can be pretty darn tricky (as I’m sure many of you will agree) but during the current COVID-19 pandemic, and in between those super fine margins between working/parenting/adulting/staying sane), there’s an increasing chatter of STUFF going on in my head, more so than ever.

Sometimes I can silence that voice. Sometimes it goes to frickin’ town…

When is life going to get back to normal? How do I explain this situation to my daughter? When will a Tesco delivery slot become available? What else do I need to do to make my Facebook group members feel more supported? When will the shop ever have eggs? Am I spending enough time on marketing? Am I on-brand but not tone deaf? Am I over-servicing my clients because I’m worried they’re not going to see the value in what I do? Where are the dog biscuits? Who has the energy for car insurance renewal comparison sites right now anyway? Do I have enough client work? How can I keep my daughter connected to her friends? What day is it? When will I see my parents again? What’s the weather going to be like so we can play outside? Did that invoice get paid? Is everyone in this house taking their bloody vitamins? Is that a tick on the cat’s ear? What the fuck does a tick look like anyway? Can we google it? Can we afford it? Who has the energy for car insurance renewal comparison sites right now anyway? What beige meal can I concoct based on what little we have left in the freezer? Do we have any veg? When will we finish that bloomin’ jigsaw? Can everyone wash their hands? What games can my daughter play while on a video call? Where are the missing jigsaw pieces? What beige meal can I concoct based on what little we have left in the freezer? Lather, rinse, repeat!

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Being a businesswoman during COVID-19

I’ll be honest: I had a bit of a wobble last week.

This situation is scary, and it’s difficult, and we don’t know what’s going to happen next. The constant barrage of bad news and negativity is hard to wade through. I’ve gone from the frustration and denial phase slowly into acceptance and far more level-headed thinking. But my head has been getting so full in the process that something had to break, and I’m sorry to say that it was me last week.

I thought about how weird this all is and just sat… and cried… and cried.

The uncertainty of lockdown means that a lot of people need more support than ever. I desperately want to be there for my clients, while also continuing the education for my daughter Freya, figuring out how to explain a global pandemic to a seven-year-old who just wants to play at the park with her friends, and feeling like an utter failure when I put yet another beige freezer meal on the dinner table because we don’t have any fresh food in the house.

The new normal

Having a bit of a cry did make me feel better (who doesn’t love a good cathartic cry?) but it also made me realise that I was trying to do too much.

In normal circumstances, I thrive when wearing ALL the hats and I lap up ALL the responsibilities.

But these aren’t normal circumstances for any of us, and we have to remember that not living up to our normal expectations does not make us a failure or bad or lazy or selfish.

Absolutely nothing in the world is normal right now, so we can’t possibly be expected to carry on as normal! It’s important that we learn to adapt to the situation and do the best that we can – and cut ourselves some slack when things get too much.

Tips to balance your mental load

As much as we’d all love to just hide away for a few months, the world keeps turning and our responsibilities don’t just go away.

Here are some ways to better balance your mental load during this difficult time.

Focus on what you can control

For many of us, we’re used to being assertive and in control within our own little life bubbles. If you’re anything like me, the feeling of not being in control of what happens next in the world is quite frightening at times.

But there a lot I can still control – my thoughts and my actions.

I choose to stay at home, to limit trips to the shops unless it’s for essentials, to do my daily walk with my family and the dog because it brings me joy to be outside in the spring sunshine for just a little break each day.

And I choose to limit my media consumption.

Don’t get me wrong, there are people who I love dearly. But their constant negative doom and gloom attitude and latest conspiracy theories of 5G radiating into bats that are then telepathically programming toilet roll spies that are infiltrating our households? Nah, I can’t take it right now. I don’t have the mental capacity.

Consider this to be the permission you didn’t know you needed to temporarily unfollow people on social media, remove news apps from your phone, silence notification pings. Do whatever you need to do to reduce the amount of stuff that’s only going to add to your mental load.

Establish your Minimum Effective Dose

Author Dan Meredith talks about the Minimum Effective Dose. It’s about figuring out the bare minimum amount of effort to scrape by for a short amount of time. If you do anything over and above that minimum, then great – that’s a bonus. But otherwise, you’re doing just enough to keep your head above water. Nothing more.

To-do lists

Write down everything you need to do so you can keep track of your tasks. Scraps of paper, electronically, heck, on the kitchen blackboard. It doesn’t matter. Just get all that crap out of your head to lessen the mental load.

Separating tasks into categories or even allocating jobs/chores to the rest of your household will help you to focus on what’s essential right now, and figure out what can be left until you’ve got enough mental space to deal with it.

Honest, open communication

Give people honest, realistic expectations so they understand what they can and can’t expect of you right now.

This is particularly relevant in client relationships if you’re now working slightly different hours to accommodate children being at home. Perhaps you’re not checking emails as often so your clients need to text or call if they need your support. Maybe you use the out of office function to let everyone else know when you’re next going to be online. Maybe you need more scheduled calls. Maybe you need less because email is a better way to communicate for you right now.

In households, introverts are struggling with being around more people than normal, and extroverts aren’t used to working alone.

Maybe you’re more teary than normal, feeling particularly overwhelmed or disconnected.

We’re all needing to adapt as we work our way through this, so keep up the communication – whether that’s telling your household that you’re going to have 30 minutes to yourself, or deciding to organise a family Houseparty video call for everyone to get together as one, albeit virtually.

Take a moment to be present, be mindful… and breathe

If you’re feeling the anxiety rise inside you, or you notice yourself feeling more stressed/short-tempered/frustrated, take a moment to turn inwards.

Where possible, go somewhere quiet for just a couple of minutes, focus on the steady rhythm of your breathing or use a meditation app to centre yourself and allow time to process those emotions.

Be kind to yourself

Forgive yourself for not being your usual high-performing-5am-start self right now. You’re still doing your best in our current new normal. At least that’s how I’m looking at it.

Celebrate all of your victories and achievements, no matter how small. Sure, you just cobbled together the World’s Most Bizarre Yet Beige Dinner out of the freezer, but your family is safe and well and happy.

Most importantly, remember that this isn’t forever; it’s just for now.

We are in this together.

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Confessions: running a business while having a miscarriage

Confessions: running a business while having a miscarriage

For the last five weeks, I’ve been going through a miscarriage. And I’ve been embarrassed to talk about it more openly because I didn’t want you to treat me differently or think I was suddenly weak or an emotional mess or suddenly less professional or less dedicated to my work and therefore not worthy of your potential business because of the awkwardness.

In fact, I’ve been in two minds about penning (typing?) my thoughts at all, and yes I know it’s an awkward topic, but if I don’t share this, then the taboo continues.

With an increasing number of women stepping into leadership roles or running their own businesses, it feels more important than ever to raise awareness about how freakin’ tough it is to stay strong while going through a miscarriage.

What many people don’t realise is that the sad process of a miscarriage is rarely done and dusted in a day.

It’s sometimes weeks and weeks of hospital visits, scans, tests and crying before there’s closure.

And that has been my life for the last five weeks.

It’s over now. I’m fine. I don’t need your sympathy. I’m good.

 

I am here to speak up and be the change.

I’ve always been quite good at burying my emotions.

But then I quit the booze in 2018, and suddenly I was forced to acknowledge my feelings. Urgh. There was no way of numbing them with Prosecco. Or wine. Or frambozen beer.

And I admit that I’ve been feeling all the feelings the past couple of months.

The highs have been high.

Finding out I was pregnant (an unexpected surprise but entirely welcome none the less) in December motivated me to go full turbo with work – maybe you noticed a sudden surge in activity. Early mornings, Facebook Lives, daily podcast episodes, 11x marketing. By golly, Grant Cardone would have been so dang proud of me. If I was to think ahead to a maternity leave, then I’d need to put in ALL the effort now to reap the rewards later this year.

But the lows that followed have been mixed with brutal blows.

It has been tricky to keep my shit together.

Maybe you noticed the video visibility peter out. I didn’t want you to see my tired face and sad eyes.

Maybe you emailed me to ask where the podcasts had gone. I didn’t want you to hear my voice crack or break with emotion.

You see, the good thing about working remotely is that it’s easy to hide behind positive words and a computer screen.

Throw in a few superlatives, exclamation marks, and the world believes your excitement. Heck, you can even convince yourself too.

No one is any wiser about what’s really going on.

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Meanwhile. Behind the scenes. A miscarriage.

2020 has been tough. Unbelievably tough. I am kind of hoping it’s not a sign of how the rest of the decade is going to be. Or maybe the universe has put the Big Massive Test at the beginning, so I’ll be comforted by a smooth ride for the remaining nine years and eleven months. I can but hope.

The last five weeks have involved far too many hospital visits, blood tests, scans, bleeding and waiting. 

Truth be told, I’ve wanted to hide, sleep and ignore the world.

Instead, I’ve woken up with vertigo/sickness/exhaustion/tears and wondered how I would muster up the enthusiasm to be an Adult With Responsibilities. I didn’t want to be responsible. I wanted to be selfish and disappear for a while. 

I’ve pushed through 10x cramps that have had me doubled over in pain and popped painkillers until I thought I might rattle.

I’ve done my best to show up all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for my clients and to the outside world on social media.

But I’ve also arrived late to things and left early merely to avoid small talk. To avoid forced smiles through tired eyes.

I’ve eaten approximately eleventy million white-refined calories a day in a pathetic attempt to change my mood.

I’ve put on a brave face and turned up to sales calls with prospective clients, mentoring calls with VAs, and meetings with existing clients while my heart was full of sorrow because I didn’t want to let anyone down.

“Being a strong woman is very important to me. But doing it all on my own is not.” – Reba McEntire

You’ll know that I set up this business because Adam and I had an awful miscarriage loss experience in 2016 and we honestly didn’t think we’d have the strength to go through that shitshow of an emotional rollercoaster that comes with another miscarriage.

We didn’t ever think we’d go through another, let alone one with so many complications that would drag out over weeks and weeks.

This draining limbo has felt never-ending.

The only thing I can liken it to is when someone dies, and there’s that weird period where the world still turns, and you’re just stuck standing still. Everything looks the same, but you feel different. Everything IS the same and life seems to be moving along at the same pace as before, and you feel like you’ve been left behind.

There was a time when doing a pregnancy test was accompanied by the fizzy excitement of what might be. I’d allowed myself to feel excited. I wish I hadn’t.

Yet taking that last pregnancy test turned into a clinical process to confirm what I already knew.

“How are you feeling?” the nurse asked me.

How am I feeling?

How *am* I feeling?

Empty. My womb is empty.

My body just didn’t want to believe it and had been clinging to the pregnancy hormones like some cruel joke for the past month or so. The punch line was all pregnancy symptoms without the reward.

But at least now we gain closure and can move on.

If I don’t look after myself, I won’t actually have a business.

The hurt over the past five weeks has undoubtedly changed me, but I feel very positive about the future. After all, I’m probably crossed between a realist and an optimist – I am naturally full of gratitude. That certainly helps.

I’m proud of myself for pushing through this life test with as much ease and grace as I could muster. I’m pleased that I recognised the signs to slow down and be kind to myself. To lean on my team. Stop the daily Facebook Lives and podcast episodes. To turn down opportunities that I knew I wouldn’t be able to do well while in this weird limbo. To say no more than ever in an attempt to protect my mental health and wellbeing.

I’m posting, not because I need sympathy, or because I am brave – I am simply being honest. 

 

I’m ready to thrive and move on.

With an increasing number of women stepping into leadership roles or running their own businesses, it feels more important than ever to raise awareness about how freakin’ tough it is to stay strong while going through a miscarriage.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I don’t want this to be taboo. 

Miscarriage. 

One in four. 

I really don’t want there to be any shame. 

Because trying to act normal, keep the social media posts a-coming, when all you want to do is hide is freakin’ exhausting. 

If you’ve experienced something similar, I want you to know that I’m here for you if you need to talk. Just send me a message if I can help. 

We fall. We break. We fail… 

But then… 

We rise. We heal. We overcome.

 

Resources

The Miscarriage Association

NHS