About a year ago, I started asking myself a question that gave me dramatically more clarity (and joy!) in my work and life.
The question was:
Is it fun and easy?
Why did I start asking this question?
Because I was overwhelmed by the “shoulds.”
I have ALWAYS have been overwhelmed by those blasted shoulds, but I felt particularly overwhelmed as a new entrepreneur. Suddenly, I, alone, had to dictate how I would spend my precious time.
Being an entrepreneur can be incredibly freeing. But, there’s also no road map. No clear strategy. No “right” answers.
After a year of trying to do all of the “shoulds,” I signed up for an online course called 31 Days to Flow. I had learned about “flow” previously in my career, and I was intrigued about how I could apply it in this new phase.
Essentially, “flow” is a state where you feel totally in the zone. You don’t notice the time passing. You feel energized. You feel like you’re excelling at what you are doing or you’re seriously enjoying the process.
(Doesn’t that sound better than “should”??)
The course instructor asked us to spend almost two weeks identifying our core values. I was somewhat dismayed at this request since I had spent countless hours (days!) in my previous corporate and non-profit life identifying values. What?! Values?! But I signed up for flow!!
Alas, I really liked the course instructor, and I had paid for the darn class already, so I obliged.
The results ended up being one of the most game-changing exercises I have ever done.
After much soul-searching, ranking, debating and word-smithing, I came up with a list of 5 (soon to be 6) values that would become my new compass for EVERYTHING that I do – not just in work, but in life.
My values are (in order of importance):
These six simple words unlocked new wisdom about what I seek in life – in others, in my work, in my parenting, and so much more.
I could bore you for hours on the significance of each of these. So let me save you from that and instead offer a few examples. “Depth” alone explained why certain friendships filled me up, while others depleted me. “Quiet” explained why I turn into a crazed person from those hysterical Snickers commercials if I don’t have some quiet time in my day. “Beauty” came later, as an antidote to a world that often feels out-of-control.
Our instructor promised us that if we began to follow those things that aligned with our values, we would find more flow. More fun. More ease.
And so it was.
The question “Is it fun and easy?” became a shortcut to test if something “checked off my value boxes.”
I made some significant changes as a result.
By following the path of “fun and easy,” I have found more flow, ease, and joy. I’ve accepted the radical notion that I can follow what energizes me.
I know what you’re thinking. Not EVERYTHING can be fun and easy. So true, my friend. So true.
Luckily, for those things that aren’t fun and easy, we can often eliminate them, delegate them, or find creative ways to make them just a bit more joyful.
Starting today, how can YOU find more “fun & easy” in your work and life?
First, we want to acknowledge that walking up to a perfect stranger and selling the idea of your business isn’t easy. Not everyone will be happy to see you and you need to be willing to expect and accept some rejection. The more you do it, the more comfortable you will feel, and when it starts to pay off and your calendar starts filling up, you’ll be plenty glad that you went for it!
Networking is a marathon, not a sprint.
People need to get to know and trust you before they will use your business or refer you to others. Show up consistently and you will be rewarded!
“Networking is an investment in your business. It takes time and when done correctly can yield great results for years to come.” – Diane Hilbig
THE FOLLOWING NETWORKING TIPS WILL COME IN HANDY:
Always set goals. Goals can be small; schedule 3 one-on-one meetings or get 10 email addresses, but always start your day with a purpose. This helps you hold yourself accountable and helps you track your improved networking skills!
Show genuine interest in other businesses. Be prepared with a list of questions to find out what their problem points are so you can craft the best message to address their needs. When you ask questions of other businesses, it shows you are interested in them and want to learn from them as well.
Give a little, get a little. Build allies and refer business to other members and they will be much more likely to return the favor.
Take notes. Promptly after a meeting, make note of who you spoke with, their position, any other names that were mentioned, personal information, and any interesting anecdotes they may have mentioned. These notes will be invaluable when you draft a follow up email and for future meetings.
Follow up! Never leave an office after a first meeting without setting up a one on one meeting for the near future.
Always wear branded clothing. This is free advertising that invites the question, “What is ___”?” You may be surprised by how much business can come from just walking around and showing off your company name.
No matter who you are meeting with, always be sure to travel with the following items:
• Business cards – always keep in your wallet and car.
• Brochures – keep some extra marketing folders and brochures specific to target industries available for that unexpected encounter with a potential referral partner.
• Giveaways – whether it’s sunglasses, pens, or magnets, branded items make a lasting impression; more so than business cards, and are visual reminders to use our service.
• A good attitude and a smile! – You are the face of your business. Impress everyone you meet with your cheery demeanor and your passion for the business, the environment, and your community.
While sheltering-in-place we’ve been spending a lot more time baking. And wouldn’t you know: Stressed Spelled Backwards is: Desserts!
I saw that catchy phrase after delivering my 5th batch of muffins in April. To avoid gaining the dreaded Covid-15 (think Freshman-15) I delivered Tupperwares to my neighbor, who appreciates my zero-sugar recipes.
With my last delivery of cranberry-sweetened pumpkin millet muffins, I wrote “sorry for dumping my stress-baked goodies on your doorstep.” She texted back “TY” with a link to “Stress-baking is a real thing!”
My 3 favorite therapeutic benefits to baking:
This “proof of progress” is where I want to focus.
I don’t know about you, but I am:
• losing a sense of what day it is
• not as productive as I was before Covid-19
• feeling less accomplished despite feeling almost as busy
So I reflected on the tools I used before Covid-19:
Here’s why I’m returning to these habits:
I can’t take credit for figuring out…stressed spelled backwards is desserts!
A recent RieOrganize! poll on Facebook came up with the following: Stay at home. Boredom. Facebook. Zoom meetings. Gratitude for front line workers. Frustration about having to wear a mask. Death. Telecommuting. Homeschooling. Social isolation.
Until recently, I knew of only a handful of friends who were dealing with COVID-19. Most were friends who live out of town or who were dealing with their friends/family members who were dealing with the virus. Yesterday, I was told that a friend is in the ICU with novel coronavirus. While we were not close friends, we did keep in touch over the 30+ years that I’ve known him and his husband.
What I realized today, however, was how much I did not know about them. For instance, who is my friend’s next of kin? My immediate answer would be, of course, his husband. But his husband died last week of a non-coronavirus-related illness. I don’t know if he has a health care directive or, if he does, who is listed as the alternate proxy because his husband just died – or where this document is located. I know that his husband took care of most of their financial, legal and daily responsibilities. I don’t know who will be responsible for all of that now and, more importantly, nor does anyone else. Everyone is scrambling to try to figure out what to do!
While this is indeed stressful and sad, I have to ask myself and you…
· How many of us or our friends or family members could find themselves in a similar situation?
· Have we taken care of our own medical, legal and financial paperwork? If we have, does anyone know where it is located or have easy access to it?
· Will you or someone you know find themselves sick or dying alone with no one who knows what you would want to happen medically or, if you should die, with your belongings?
According to our informal Facebook poll, not everything in our world today is discouraging, heartbreaking, disheartening or grim. Looking at some of the memes on Facebook or Instagram can make you smile or laugh out loud.
There is little wrong with cooking or baking too much, using Zoom or Facetime to be connected to friends, relatives and colleagues, binge watching Netflix or taking naps. There is much kindness, laughter and sharing. Neighbors are helping neighbors.
This can be a time of transformation – interpersonally, socially, economically and globally. It can be a time to focus on the people and things that are important in our lives.
And this is where we all come in to transform our world into a better place in which to live. Thinking about medical and financial preparedness is not high on most people’s lists of things they want to do, but, especially during this time, it is essential.
First, we should examine our own paperwork. How prepared are we? Then, we should take a look at our contact lists. Who do we know who may need help?
Few people want to talk about the possibility of being sick or dying. In this age of COVID-19, it is imperative that we do so and that we talk with those whom we love and help them to prepare as well.
This is something that cannot wait. Please take steps to ensure that someone will know what you want to happen if you are unable to speak for yourself.
Stay well, stay safe and stay home… and if you are one of the many who must go to work to keep us safe, healthy, fed, informed or otherwise (relatively) sane, thank you.
First and foremost, our thoughts and prayers are with those who have contracted this virus. We wish you a speedy recovery. For the rest of us, we face several weeks of home confinement. I don’t know about you but when I stay home for longer than one day, I tend to become lethargic and unmotivated. This time I’m determined not to let that happen. Here’s my plan of action:
As we head into a new month, continued stay-at-home living in most states, with the kids out of school, and a large percentage of the workforce working from home, most of us are starting to wonder just how much longer we can survive through this pandemic. This downtime has been a blessing for some and a curse for others, and right about now, I bet most of you are struggling with staying busy, maintaining a routine and downplaying anxiety. If you have kids, you might be pulling your hair out amidst boredom, complaining and fights. In my house, we have had high highs and low lows. We have moved almost daily from amazing family moments of laughter and warmth to stressful bouts of fighting and discontent. This rollercoaster might look a bit different for each family, but I think there are some things we can do right now to combat the negatives and approach each new day with a sense of accomplishment and hope. None of this is new, but I know that I personally enjoy the timing of a good reminder when I need it the most.
The main thing that I have been working on lately is to be intentional and own my perspective. We all get bad thoughts occasionally, and with the scary things that the media is sharing, it’s no surprise that most of us are being hit with thoughts of worry, anxiety, and fear. It’s human to feel these things, and we shouldn’t necessarily fight them off when they show up. They are sometimes there to warn us against a real danger or protect us from something that might be about to happen. On the flip side, they can also be brought about or intensified by our imaginations or fears, generated from negative experiences in our past. Owning your perspective involves allowing all thoughts to enter and float by, analyzing them to obtain any useful information as they move, and letting them continue their journey out of your brain. Follow up with a positive affirmation, take a step forward anyway, and change the dynamic. The key for me has been to let the thoughts go. Don’t hold onto them, don’t brew over them, and don’t go to bed at night thinking about them. Instead, read a good book, listen to a motivational podcast, pray with intention, or call up a friend or family member to talk about something else. Simply dismissing a thought can feel easier said than done, but I have found that the magic is just as simple as distracting yourself and replacing the thought.
For the first few weeks after the schools closed, my family and I were all sick, so our lives resembled something like those of a pack of wild dogs, scrounging for food and doing whatever needed to stay alive. I joke, but it felt a bit like complete chaos. As we are healing, we are picking up the pieces, getting the laundry done and assessing the inventory of our pantry. Now is the time to reassess the state of your own household and determine things like what supplies are needed, how schedules will change, and who will be responsible for required household tasks. Reinventing and implementing a routine is key for feeling like you have some control over your situation. If you use a family command center or large calendar, erase the scheduled soccer practices and instead schedule a time for things like school or professional work, exercise, chores and free time.
As you acclimate to your family’s new routine, don’t forget to relax and give yourself some grace in this process. Most of us have never lived through a pandemic like this, and it has literally upheaved our lives in a matter of weeks. Most of us have never been trained to navigate in this time, and we are all in the process of figuring things out as we go. If the dishes are dirty and the laundry is piled up, it’s okay. If the kids are not yet in a home school routine, they will survive. If you are using tissues because the toilet paper ran out, everyone will still be fine. Take a deep breath and remember that you are smart, capable and blessed. If a routine or schedule doesn’t work out as you envisioned, change it. The sky will not fall, and you WILL go on to live another day.
I certainly don’t claim to be a therapist or guru in the art of living, but I can confidently claim the title of a real wife, mom, neighbor and professional who is also learning to navigate this strange time right alongside the rest of you. I am finding that readjusting my perspective to focus on the positive, continuing forward momentum, resuming a routine for my family, and giving myself the grace to show up in whatever capacity that I can bring to each day is helping to make great, slightly sweetened lemonade out of this batch of sour, slightly bruised up lemons lying in front of us.