There I was, sitting at my desk, my computerscreen staring back at me. To be exact, I was looking at my Inbox, which was completely empty. No messages from co-workers or my boss to prompt me to take action. And no appointments in my calendar I needed to rush to. I felt completely lost.
It had been two and a half years since I had started my own business as a professional organizer. Since then I had been joggling two parttime jobs, growing my business, dealing with family illness and of course taking care of myself. Over time, as more clients came knocking at my door, I had gradually cut back on the hours working at Maastricht University. Untill finally I realised that if I wanted to succeed as an entrepreneur, I really needed to quit my job. Which I did.
So a few weeks earlier, on a sunny Friday afternoon in July 2009, I had said goodbye to my colleagues and turned in the keys to my office, ready to devote all of my time to entrepreneurship and helping my clients organize their lifes, homes and offices.
No other boss but me
I had decided to start this new phase in life with some time off, recharging after working double hours in the hectic months that had gone by. And for three weeks I did exactly that, enjoying a well deserved vacation, reading books, spending time with friends, going on a trip. And then the day arrived that I went back to work, only this time with nobody else but me being my (own) boss.
That Monday morning I sat down at my desk in my home office, feeling refreshed and motivated, a cup of coffee at hand and I started my computer. I had been looking forward to developing an online course on organizing your office and mailbox and there where some other things I wanted to look in. Plenty of stuff to do and I thought I was ready to go. But boy, was I wrong!
The day I had been waiting for had finally arrived and I was waisting its precious hours!
Instead of actually getting to work, I kept checking my Inbox, reading some blogs on internet, spent hours on Twitter and on doing, well, actually nothing much. The day I had been waiting for had finally arrived and I was waisting its precious hours!
That caught me by suprise of course. I had been yearning for more time to accomplish al these plans I had been making, only to find that more time wasn’t what I needed. I had grown so accustomed to being directed by incoming emails and requests from others that I had forgotten how to manage my time completely on my own. Apparantly I also needed some kind of external stimulus in order to get things going. Being self employed and with nobody there to boss me around but myself, that posed a problem.
Moreover, being an expert on time management and productivity I was supposed to know better! But that didn’t really make any difference either. Even though I knew exactly how to tackle the problem, it took me some time and effort to actually put my own lessons to practice. Luckily writing a blog about it (in Dutch of course, you can find it here) helped me snapping out of this procrestination thing.
Over the following days and weeks I struggled to get back in control. I learned that spending most of my hours alone in my office wasn’t helping me, so I scheduled appointments with fellow entrepreneurs and friends. I made an outline for my online course and made sure I had somebody to share my ideas with. I started networking and creating a whole new group of ‘colleagues’ to fill the gap my former co-workers had left.
Instead of waiting for email messages and phone calls from other people I found ways to prompt myself, setting goals and planning my days. I learned to withstand the temptions of social media or getting lost in online articles. Also, after facing the challenge of leading a small team for several years, I finally realized that managing myself was actually the biggest challenge of all. And that personal leadership was the key to a succesfull business and a fulfilling life.
A valuable lesson, perhaps the most valuable one ever. One that also changed my view on time management and influenced the coaching programs I developed as most of my clients are self employed just like me. Sometimes the best education you can get is life itself.