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For the last decade, I’ve been self-employed in one form or another. While my business world has evolved – from training and product demonstration to project management and now coaching – the need to provide customers with quality work and service with love has not changed.
Once upon a time, I believed that the only way to build my business was to always be available. I slept with my phone under my pillow. I skipped meal times (and found myself devouring potato skins or hot wings at midnight). I responded to emails from 5 AM to Midnight (or later). I snuck into the bathroom on dates to return a text to a client. And on more than one occasion, I’ve answered a client’s call in the middle of a romantic moment.
That changed along with the seasons in 2010.
In the spring of 2010, I had an epiphany: I deserved to be treated with kindness and respect. I embraced the art of forgiveness. I created – and stuck to – a gratitude practice. I allowed myself to feel instead of numbing and realized that my body was wiser than my head when it came to eating. Love and kindness and forgiveness and respect all began with me.
By the summer of 2010, the work around gratitude, forgiveness, and kindness resulted in me falling in love with who I was. I began to understand that if I were to give love to myself and others, then I also needed to allow myself to receive it. It was time for me to risk my heart for passion, love, and companionship. I swallowed my fears and took a giant leap of faith.
By the fall of 2010, I was ready to reflect upon the changes that gratitude, kindness and love had produced in my life. The biggest standout was that I had begun falling in love with myself when I began to apply the art of gentle discipline around my life: regular bedtimes, charging my phone in the office, eating when I was hungry not starving.
I made the decision to close all the portions of my business that required I live out of a suitcase.
By the winter of 2010, my life was the polar opposite of what it looked like a year before. Instead of going to bed alone in a hotel room, I slept in my own bed. I reduced my consulting and focused on my coaching. I sold my house in Texas and created a home in Ohio with my partner. As I began to create a day-to-day life with him that I loved, my business transformed as well.
I allowed my personal life to take priority and created my business around how I wanted to live.
As I enter the spring of 2013, I can say that I am head-over-heels in love with my daily life. I am passionate about my writing and I adore my clients. I am a creating meaningful work in the world that originates from a place of profound love.
I am not a business coach, but I can share these seven tips on how I am creating a sustainable business that I love while putting my life on the front burner.
Create Delicious Boundaries
The most profound gift of kindness I’ve given myself, my business, and my clients is boundaries around how my business is run. One of the most important parts of my day is to sit down to dinner with my partner every evening. To facilitate this, I have coaching hours that coincide with my partners work schedule.
That means I don’t take coaching calls late into the evenings nor do I coach on the weekends. I offer email support as part of my practice and clients are told upfront that I answer emails Monday through Friday until 6 PM Eastern.
By sharing with my clients why I have these boundaries, it gives them permission to step up in their own lives and set boundaries around their work and personal lives, too!
Ask yourself: how loving or kind is it to always be available to your clients and neglect yourself in the process?
Purposefully Add a Dash of Flexibility
I know that some of my clients can only do early evening calls. So, how do I keep the bones of my boundaries in place while serving their needs? I open up my schedule for evening calls 3 or 4 nights a month.
It means that on a rare occasion, I’m in the middle of a call with a client when my partner comes home. The true key to this working has been to do it with a purposeful approach (aka no more than 4 nights a month) instead of discarding my rules. (I also communicate with my partner ahead of time so there are no surprises for him!)
Ask yourself: how loving or kind to my business world am I being if I’m too rigid?
Create Nourishing Routines
Routines may sound stiff, boring, or old-fashioned, but that’s not true. Routines are about managing your energy effectively so that you can channel it towards your real desires and purpose. The most important routine in my work day is my morning routine, which allows me to begin the day with tasks that create order and support.
Ask yourself: am I managing my energy efficiently or am I simply reacting?
Go With Your Natural Flow
Years ago, I read a study on “heat mapping” for better productivity. The concept was to observe yourself for a few days and see when your natural UPS and DOWNS of energy occur throughout the day.
I use this information about my natural energy flow to plan activities that require focus (like writing and coaching) during my high energy periods and save activities that require less concentration (like Pinterest or errands) during my lower energy times.
Ask yourself: am I doing my best work at my peak or am I constantly pushing myself to produce when I’m just flat tired?
Consider a Blocked Schedule
It’s easy to become overwhelmed or neglectful of yourself in all the busy-ness of running your business.
The quality of my work days changed when I began using block scheduling. What’s that? It’s the concept of grouping like activities together. I block of time for writing, time for errands, time for clients, time for social media in big blocks of time on my calendar.
Multi-tasking isn’t effective. Why? Every time you switch gears, your brain has to adjust and you lose traction. Block scheduling is a way to be kind to yourself while still getting all your to “to do’s” done.
Ask yourself: am I allowing myself sufficient time to work or am I constantly losing traction by forcing myself to shift focus constantly?
Listen to the Experts But Trust Your Gut
There is a plethora of fabulous information out there from business gurus, coaches, and productivity experts. When you are beginning a business – or growing it – it’s a good idea to see what the experts are saying. The thing is, though, is that just because someone is an expert, it doesn’t make them experts about YOU.
When it comes down to it, the kindest way to handle expert advice is to evaluate it against your own inner wisdom and only use what feels right to you. Then you toss out the rest.
Ask yourself: does following the expert’s advice enhance my business or does it make me feel like a snake oil salesman?
Cultivate a Life
When I focused the bulk of my energy on work, it became my only life – there was no time for romance or family or play. It’s a powerful thing to have a deep purpose around your work life. I’ve also learned from experience that it’s important to live life.
I’m incredibly passionate about my work. I am always in awe of how mere words can evoke such love and depth of thought. I am so proud of my clients as they untangle themselves and find the treasure within themselves.
By cultivating a life outside of my business, I am better-rounded, fun-loving and fulfilled. This has actually resulted into me being a better coach. Not only do I practice what I preach, but clients gain a little courage from seeing that you can have both a meaningful business and work lives.
Ask yourself: am I living to work or working to live?
Darling, life is short. What is the point of living to work? Aren’t we meant to live our life first? Isn’t one of the draws of self-employment flexibility and freedom?
In order to create a business that you love, you must first create a life you love.
|Debra Smouse is a life coach, writer and Tarnished Southern Belle who helps people fall in love with their lives. An expert de-tangler, she believes in busting clutter as a path to clarity and that within every woman is vibrant and passionate being just itching to make their inner sex kitten roar.|