I had a breakthrough this week.
We’re all responding to COVID-19 in different ways. I’m doing what I do best — getting things done.
There’s just one challenge. It takes more to get through this thing than getting things done.
It’s tough to be amazing when you’re not taking care of the basics (like sleep) because you’re too busy getting things done.
I was talking to someone trying to figure out why can’t I shut down at night. Why is it so hard to close the computer lid and log off?
Somewhere in the conversation – the age-old question arose as a possible culprit. “Am I enough?”
I got a little worked up when they mentioned it. Indicative of it being at least partly true.
So I let it sink in later. Why did the idea of me “being enough” get to me right now?
When I want to ponder big questions, I often take a few moments to quiet my mind and just listen to what emerges.
You know the voice. It’s the buried nuggets in our subconscious that are just below the surface. I do a lot of things with that voice. Sometimes I construct incredible stories. Occasionally we get into a shouting match (why am I raising my voice at myself?). And then there is sticking my head in the sand and pretending it doesn’t exist.
But most of the time, I just don’t hear it because of everything else cluttering up my mind.
So I’m sitting there, listening for the nuggets, and I hear a few words.
“You know you’re enough. The question is — do you believe you are doing enough.”
Wow. Gut punch right there. The answer is, I never think I am doing enough.
So I went on a journey to explore the shape of enough in a time like 2020. Here’s what insights emerged for me.
I hope one business owner’s confession can help another.
Insight #1: The question isn’t whether I’m doing enough, it’s what shape enough takes
We are all in such different circumstances. Here is just a sampling of the questions that start to pull out the unique threads for each of us:
What income sources, reserves and financial resources do I have and need?
What is my expected revenue flow, and how long can my business and I (personally) make it with the resources I have?
What clients do I serve, and what do they need and want from me right now?
Do I need to adjust my services, products, pricing, or support to meet them where they are?
What regulations exist that affect me?
What delivery alternatives do I have?
What expenses can I reduce (personally and professionally)
Without jeopardizing my company’s viability or my household’s well being?
What do my household and family need right now?
This situation has tested the definition of a family unit. We need to consider our family and household separately and together. How healthy are they, and what are their risk levels? Do I have kids to teach at home while working or a multi-generational household to consider?
What do I need to be healthy and well?
Physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually?
How do I want to show up during this time?
What are the values I want to live out? How do I want to develop?
These aren’t small questions. They are essential questions. In the past few weeks, we all spent a lot of time crunching the numbers, but if this is going to continue, it has to be more than number crunching. There is no one-size-fits-all solution for COVID-19.
To shut off, I needed to get clear on what enough looks like for me right now.
Insight #2: Goals are fantastic. And sometimes they need to change.
None of us know if the goals we set in January will pan out, but if you’re like me, you crunched some numbers and looked at some info and realized things had changed a lot.
I set financial and enabling goals every month; and re-set 12-month forecasts. I use the insights to review impacts to the big picture.
What I had planned to do is not happening, but new things are. What I had expected to sell won’t sell, but I’m piloting new ideas. Sometimes seeing the forest through the trees is missing a bunch of goals and knowing that’s okay because you are doing what you need to be doing. Goals I doggedly pursue that aren’t bringing value are not measures that matter, and I had to remind myself of that this month.
Insight #3: Theme the week. Theme the day. And write it down.
I lack certainty right now, and that’s a breeding ground for my scattered mind to go everywhere. I started a theming practice that’s brought me significant focus without a lot of work. Every Sunday, I take a few minutes to write down on a one-page one-week planner (I use a wet-erase Rocketbook I picked up thanks to a client’s recommendation):
Weekly Theme: What is the one strategic topic I need to move forward this week? One week it was launching a new offering. That topic gets any mental space I can free up during the week and is my primary measure of success at the end of it. That doesn’t mean I don’t also do the other things. It just means it’s my first thing.
Daily Theme: Every day has a theme as well. It can be different from the week’s topic. Still, I need to accomplish the week’s subject through my daily actions, so I prioritize enablers at least 2-3 days of the week.
Time Blocks: I also make sure I block enough time off each day for the focus I’ve selected so I can get it done without burning the midnight oil.
The beauty of it is its simplicity. Fifteen minutes on a Sunday afternoon gets my week organized. This practice has helped me stay more focused at a time when that is complicated.
Insight #4: Say it out loud & celebrate it.
I found my work bleeding into other tasks and time slipping away. Now when I finish my theme and meetings, I say. “I’ did it!” There is something about saying it out loud that closes the day and reminds me of my commitment not to lose myself to work.
But it’s more than saying it. It’s how I say it. I say it with a smile, a laugh, a little dance, or a compliment for myself. I celebrate that I accomplished my theme in small ways. A celebration or reward doesn’t have to be epic; it just needs to flood you with positive emotions.
I get that it feels weird; but it does get easier. There’s also a science behind it. If you’re curious, check out BJ Fogg’s TED talk or read James Clear’s “Atomic Habits”. The latter book is a personal favorite of mine packed with practical ways to drive habit changes including different techniques to reward yourself.
And if I finish at a decent hour, a dip in the hot tub doesn’t hurt to release what I think I should do — and replace it with the clarity that comes with doing enough for me.
How are you staying focused and cultivating the habits you want to right now?
Author’s Note: I haven’t yet gotten to the finish line. I decided the timing was more important than perfection based on what I’m hearing from people. I’ll let you know the results when I do!
Jenny Erickson grows micro-businesses by getting them from where they are to where they want to be through advice, coaching, and fractional-COO support. Which business are you?