What the hell just happened?!
I don’t think anyone was expecting 2020 to go like this. If you did, frankly, I’m a bit worried about you. That’s a serious amount of anxiety you’re carrying around. I mean, I have a tendency to catastrophise, but this was beyond even my active imagination.
I don’t know about you, but I ended 2019 brimming with optimism and excitement. I’d got the pretty vision board, and the goals for how I wanted to feel, and so, so many plans for how my business was going to grow and projects I was going to start.
Then, I essentially spent most of the year hiding in a cave trying to stave off a nervous breakdown.
It’s been a nightmare. Trapped at home with a very active toddler in need of constant engagement, my husband and I both trying to work full-time in half a day each so we could share childcare, only able to go out once a day, with no real workspace and the toddler constantly running in trying to take control of the laptop. I’m deeply grateful that my daughter is too young to need home-schooling (hats off to those of you who’ve been tackling that!), but it’s also hard that she’s too young to understand what’s happening. Or to entertain herself for half an hour.
But now life is opening up again. We can have childcare again (hallelujah!), we can go to parks and soft play (which I now recognise is the greatest thing in the world ever), and businesses are getting back to normal. We’re supposed to be raring to go and attacking our work with renewed energy and excitement.
Except it’s not that easy.
The last six months have been exhausting. Many of us are feeling deeply physically, emotionally and mentally drained. The government talking about us “getting back to work” makes me want to scream. Most of us never stopped working. We’ve been working this whole time, except we’ve been doing it crammed into corners of our bedrooms, perched at kitchen tables of squished on our sofas, while the kids run in and out screaming for attention and biscuits.
So if you’re not feeling ready to hit the ground running and fully launch yourself into reinvigorating your business, that’s ok. You’ve just survived a huge and, dare we say it, unprecedented ordeal. And you made it. Before you do anything else, give yourself a pat on the back for just getting through it all. No, it doesn’t matter how much TV your kids watched or how many biscuits you let them eat. It matters that you kept on going and kept them going. You’re a hero.
It’s been a stressful time financially for a lot of people, so many of us don’t have the luxury of sitting back and resting to recover from all of this. We’ve got to get the money coming in to make up for the hit we took while the world was shut. So how can we do that if we’re already on the floor?
Take it steady. Be realistic about what you’re able to achieve. If you’ve got childcare back or the little hooligans are now back off to people who are actually trained to educate them, work out how many hours you have available to work – but make sure you block out time in your day for rest and self care. You will not get your business back on its feet if you work yourself onto your knees. One step at a time.
There are probably a million things you feel like you could or should be doing right now, but you can’t do all of them at once. What’s the one thing you can do right now that will make the biggest impact on your business? Focus on that. How long will that take you? One month? Three months? Six months? Give yourself a reasonable amount of time to get it done, then plan to start on the next biggest thing. Work your way through your priority list in a manageable way.
When you know how many hours you have, be honest with yourself about what you can get done in that time. I need to listen to my own advice here – I’m always putting eight hours of work into my planner for a four-hour work slot. Trying to over-achieve isn’t good for you, it just sets you up for failure. Then you feel depressed and exhausted at the end of the day. That’s not going to help you tomorrow. So be honest about what’s doable. If you’ve got four hours, plan in three hours worth of work. Because you will need a cup of tea or a wee at some point. And the kids will run in and demand a biscuit. If you do get through that work in three hours, you’ve got an hour left to either do something from tomorrow’s list or have a much-needed lie down. Either way, you’re boosting your morale and lifting your energy levels. Winner.
We have this need to maintain a cookie-cutter Instagram-worthy facade over our lives, making out that we’re all super successful entrepreneurs who never have hardships or difficulties. Whose kids are always immaculate and perfectly behaved. It’s all nonsense. Everyone has stresses and struggles. Everyone’s kids are total shits sometimes. During these times, we’re all having more struggles than usual. Don’t be afraid to be open about where you need help. If you’re looking for work or clients or advice, reach out to your friends and your online networks. It doesn’t make you look weak, it makes you look strong. You’re doing what you need to do to keep going. There’s no one out there who won’t relate to that right now.
Look after yourself
You’ve been through a really tough time, and it’s not over yet. Life is going to be hard for a while, if we’re all honest with ourselves. So now’s the time to be your own best friend. Don’t beat yourself up over what’s not going perfectly, celebrate the smallest of victories and give yourself a break. Literally and metaphorically. Take time out to rest wherever you can. Make your partner or a family member or a babysitter take the sprogs for a few hours each week and go and do something that makes you happy, something that’s just for you. Pamper yourself with a bubble bath and a face mask once a week when the kids are in bed. Get away from your screen during the day for a quick walk round the block to get some fresh air. You’re too important to not take care of. Where would everything be without you?
We’re living through dark times right now, but it won’t last forever. We will get through this. We just have to keep walking through the tunnel until we see the light. There are opportunities springing up and new possibilities on the horizon. Take a measured and balanced approach to going after them, and they can all be yours. It really is all going to be ok.