I was excited to welcome in January and a New Year. I had plans, as we often do at the start of New Year. But you know the common saying… “the best laid plans…”
Simply put, January was full of breakdowns. It started with a server crash that took out my websites and email for several days. Then I ran out of gas during a snowstorm (haven’t done that since I was in college!) Our furnace broke down and needed to be replaced. Not to mention a brand new, but broken, laptop and a printer that decided it was done too.
January felt like one thing after another. Business plans took a back burner to getting my websites back up, making sure we had heat in the house, and so on.
I’ve been here before of course. And know I will be again. When you’re self-employed, it’s bound to happen that life is going to present you with challenging times that take you off your game or require you to step away from your plans and goals. It’s something I help clients with all the time…how do you keep your business on track when it seems you’re being challenged at every turn?
Over the years I’ve discovered a few strategies that seem to work best to keep you as close to your plans as possible, without losing your mind. I thought I’d share them with you in case you ever need them.
1) Clarify your top priority.
To do that I ask: If I do nothing else, what’s the ONE THING I must accomplish this week/this month? In times of breakdowns, challenges or crisis, your energy and attention are going in many directions. So it’s critical that you pull in and narrow your field of vision and focus. This is not a time to expand or take on multiple new priorities. It’s a time to zero in on what is essential and necessary. The rest can, and will, wait.
2) Single Daily Action.
I learned this technique in coaching school and it has served me well for over a decade. What is a “single” action you can and will take daily to keep things moving during this time? Our tendency in business it to think we have to complete massive to-do lists. But the truth is, there is usually one single action that is most critical to keeping things on track. Identify it and do it. It might be self-care. That without it, you crash and things around start crashing. Or it might be writing. Or it might be sales conversations. Just get really clear each day what the most important SINGLE action you can take will be. And just do that.
3) Open up to receiving.
During times of stress and breakdowns, it’s tempting (and natural) to start shutting down from outside input. But it’s important to increase and open up to receiving the help, support and opportunities that may show up. Practice noticing what’s being offered. Notice what you can receive. Don’t rely so heavily on your own inner ‘lone ranger’ to grind through what’s happening. Seeing the small ways that help is coming, or people are there for you, will make this time less stressful. And perhaps show you the blessings you may otherwise have overlooked.
4) Check in to see if there’s a lesson for you.
Not that there always is… Sometimes, life happens and life isn’t always just the good stuff. But, there may be valuable lessons in the breakdown that can serve you well in the future. So ask yourself if there is. (And it’s ok if there’s not. Like I said, sometimes it’s just a ‘s*it happens’ situation and we don’t need to give it more meaning than it deserves.)
As I looked at the breakdowns happening in my life in January, I did notice that many of them had to do with ‘power’ issues. The server that powered my website and email crashed. The element that powered our home heating broke. I ran out of gas in the car. My printer became permanently ‘jammed’. My brand new laptop wouldn’t power up. So I looked at that pattern and asked ‘how else might I be having ‘no power’ issues in my life?’ I saw that I was not taking as much time for self-care as I need. I was staying charged up and stressed out over too many things. I was pushing my own system to the limits, and I was going to crash if I didn’t make a change. And so, even in the midst of the breakdowns happening, I started taking daily time out to rest up, relax, reflect and so on. The breakdowns in my life were a wakeup call for me, and that was a helpful lesson.
5) Get ready for the breakthrough.
It might be cliché, but the old saying that there’s a breakdown before the breakthrough is something I do believe in. It’s not always easy to trust that, or to see the breakthrough that’s coming. But having faith can get you through the tough times. Now that the dust is settled on my crazy January, I’m happy to welcome February. And I’m ready for the breakthrough that I know is coming.
I’d love to hear how you handle times of distraction, breakdowns and overwhelm in your business? What works to get you through quickly and without losing too much progress on your business goals and operations? Please share in the comments below!