I moved last year to the States. As a business owner, I was working full-time before moving. From 8 am to 6 pm I was with clients. When I got home and during weekends, I was doing all the admin work, replying to emails or writing articles on top of taking care of my house, my husband, and my daughter. So my first thoughts when I moved were “what am I going to do with my free time”, as of course, new clients were not going to knock my door on day one.
The good is that never faced THAT problem since I managed to be busy all the time anyway. I went to every networking event possible, as I was not on a tight schedule I was accepting lunch invitations and taking the time go over and over again updating the website and social media.
One day I realized I was feeling completely empty. I was feeling frustrated. Even though I have always been very organized and efficient in managing my time, I was not being able to accomplish what really mattered to me. I was not able to write as much, I was not able to customize my products to the new audience, and I was not having free time either. I was not setting my own boundaries, and I was not enjoying not being the owner of my time.
I realized I was just listening to others, following other people/business suggestions and time schedules, and not following my own intuition. I had the habit to organize my week the weekend before, and I was still doing that, but for some reason, I was not respecting it. I was afraid to fail in the new country, and that was driving me to feel too “out of myself”, feeling that maybe my schedule was not OK. Yes, I was busy, but not efficient to MY purpose.
Dos and Don’ts of adopting new habits
So yes, sometimes we try so hard adapt to the new environment that we don’t keep our shell hard enough to make us feel safe. I always use the metaphor of the human homeostasis. Homeostasis is the ability or tendency to maintain internal stability in an organism to compensate for environmental changes. An example of homeostasis is the human body keeping an average temperature of 98.6 degrees. So no matter if you travel to Mexico or to Antarctica, your body still keep hat temperature. It only changes if you are sick like an infection could make your body raise your inner temperature.
Is not that we should not try to adapt, but we should make it slow enough for us to get uses to the new environment, and keeping in mind that you want to mix the goods of each place. That is, a new broom Sweeps Clean But an old broom knows exactly where the dirt is. You are who you are based on your previous experience, you don’t need to throw it away and replace it completely.
My action plan to go back to be the owner of my time included several working habits that I was always teaching my clients to work smart, but could also be applied to my daily routine:
1. First I made sure I dated the fresh start. No regrets, no useless papers on my desk, no unneeded tasks in my to-do list. Starting from X date, I am the owner of my time.
2. Saying NO to some invitations
3. Not changing anymore my schedules and priorities to attend to other’s priorities
4. Skipping some events that were scheduled frequently if there was anything in it for me, at least for now.
5. Blocking my calendar with the events and activities, like doing exercise, making phone calls or writing that I didn’t want to miss, and keeping them in my real schedule!
6. Writing a monthly and weekly schedule with general tasks that needed to be done. Instead of just doing what was urgent, planning to make sure every category of tasks was kept in the important not yet urgent bucket to maintain my work balance. When you are an entrepreneur, you can’t just top marketing, you need to find the right time to do it or delegate it to someone else.
7. Making visible and tangible some of the reminders. Sometimes digital tools are not good to help us see the big picture, bit only the urgent matters. Visual aids like whiteboards, post-it notes and “work in progress” baskets are key to help you see what you need to accomplish.
8. Trying to be meet strictly the tasks and due dates in my asana.com
9. Starting and finishing tasks. When we multitask we tend to start so many things that we cannot finish, that we end up having a lot of unfinished tasks in our inventory. Asking for help and “taking about it” with family, friends and colleagues.
10. Listening to others but always filtering what was useful and what was not. Other people’s opinion may sometimes influence your thoughts heavily, some people even make it to depression. Your shell never has to leave you naked, no matter who you are talking to: your mother, your daughter or even the best expert business coach in the world. There is no better coach than your inner leader. Lead yourself first, to be able to lead others.
12. Last but not least, reviewing what I had changed that had been useful and what had not. That is not failing, it is just learning. I keep improving myself. Remember, there is always room for improvement!
There is always room for improvement – Lu Paulise
If you are going through a similar situation, don’t hesitate to stop, think and start fresh. This is your turning point, define a date and change your habits. We have to be the owner of our time!