In my 19+ years in business, I’ve read just about every book on how to be successful in business, or how to get organized, etc. And while they were all great, at the end of the day I had to find the model that worked for me. A lot of advice out there is about things to do. But what I’ve found is that, surprisingly, success often comes from learning what not to do. From the toxic things, situations, and people to avoid, to discovering the truth behind saying no, and not falling prey to these all too common myths that surround the success conversation.
The Work-Life Balance Myth: If you own your own business, it’s hard to find that balance. In fact, after 19 years I still look for ways to strike a healthy balance. It’s not a one and done kind of a thing, but an ongoing effort to take time away, disconnect. The problem with the work-life balance issue is that if we don’t achieve it, we’re made to feel guilty. Whether its mom guilt, spouse guilt, family guilt – or just guilt – there are a million reasons to feel bad about spending too much time at work. Don’t beat yourself up if you haven’t found your own balance. It’s a daily thing. Finding ways *each day* to create balance in your life. Some days it’ll be making it to the gym to take that spin or yoga class, and other days it’ll be a five-minute meditation. You can only do your best, stop beating yourself up for the rest.
The Always Busy Myth: We live in a world of busy. We can spend hours looking busy on our phones, or buried in our computers. But is that actually productive time? Social media is the thief of everything. Yes, it gives back, but the price of spending a lot of time there is huge. Busy and productive are not the same things.
When social media first came onto the scene (yes, I’m that old), I feverishly logged on, dumping hours of my time I’ll never get back into the various portals. Did it help my business? Sure. Did I need to spend hours on each platform? No.
One thing that’s helped me is a timer, any timer will do and we all have ones on our phone. If you’re doing updates on your social platforms, time yourself. Give yourself 20 minutes to hop on and off and be done with it. You may not get a chance to see *everyone’s* updates, but there’s another time for doing that – like when you’re standing in line at the grocery store or waiting to pick up your kid from school. Work time should be sacred and we all know that a trip down the rabbit hole of email or social media can suck a lot of that time and give very little in return.
The Empty Inbox Myth: I particularly love this one. Why? Because in all of my years in business I’ve never managed it. Yet I read these email management articles with the fervor of someone ready to finally tame the beast. It simply never happens. Here’s the deal: email will continue to flood in. You can delegate, unsubscribe from newsletters you no longer read, etc., but email will continue to replicate like bunnies.
I use a system called Sanebox, which pushes my emails into separate folders that I can check as I have time. This helps to keep my actual inbox clear of junk so I can focus on just the important stuff. I’ve used this for two years and love it. But otherwise, I don’t obsess over having an empty inbox. This doesn’t mean that I’ve given up altogether either. I no longer use my inbox as a to-do list (that was a big one for me) – that’s where Sanebox comes in. If there’s an email I need to take action on down the road, I can tee it up for a reminder and when the time comes, Sanebox will remind me. If there’s a more immediate action needed but I don’t want to drop everything I’m doing to handle it, it gets filed in a folder called “This week,” meaning it’s something that needs my attention and a to-do gets added to my list.
The Undercharge to Get Started Myth: This is a big thing for those of us newly in business, especially if you’re a woman. When I first started out, I had a pathetically low hourly consultation rate. People will tell you to start your rates or product prices lower in order to drive attention. And while I’m not suggesting you charge double what the going rate is, you should at least be charging the going rate.
With my low-ball consulting rates, I got booked – a lot. Which was good and bad – because my rate was so low, the people I was driving to my business weren’t the people I wanted to work with. I found myself doing consultations for a lot of non-serious people who were looking to publish a book to gain instant fame. A friend of mine said: “Double your rate.” And the thought of doing that terrified me, mostly because I worried that I’d be out of business. I worried I would price myself out of the market. But he kept insisting and so when I finally did, I was shocked that people still kept emailing me for work. After a few months of this he said: “Double it again.” And I fought against that, too. I was new in business – didn’t that mean my rates had to be cheaper?
And therein lies the issue we often all wrestle with. No, you don’t have to be cheaper. In fact, starting your business off cheaper than everyone else can set a dangerous precedent you may not be able to recover from.
The I Don’t Have Time for Self-Care Myth: Self-care is very much the “term de jour,” but what people don’t tell you is that most of us are just too darned busy to be scheduling spa appointments or massages. The thing is, self-care is often misunderstood. It’s often described as this thing you do that takes quite a bit of time. Not everyone has the money to get a massage, or the time to binge watch the latest Netflix series, but we do have time for small things. And small things really add up. When I was first in business I was nose to the grindstone all the time. Certainly, there’s merit in that – I mean that’s how you grow a business, right? Well yes, but it’s also a good way to burn out. If, in between taking care of your family and your new business, you just don’t have time, it’s important to make time. Five or ten minutes a day of self-care can make a world of difference. Take 10 minutes and read a chapter in a book, or meditate, or stop on the way home from dropping the kids off to grab a pumpkin spice latte. You know you want one.
In a world that rewards hustle, we often forget that small, incremental moments of reprieve can do as much, if not more, good than taking a lot of time away from your business. It also lets you do it more frequently. Which also helps a lot.
The Myth of Following Up and the Magic of Letting Go: Don’t get me wrong, follow up is important and something I’ve learned in my time in business is that many new business owners don’t follow up as much as they should. But there’s also magic in letting go. Let me explain.
Let’s say you have a contract out to a client you *really* want to sign. But three days after sending the contract for signature, it’s still not signed. You begin to worry, did they change their mind about working with you? I’ve been in this exact spot. I’ve followed up once, maybe twice, but I know that a third follow up will just make me seem desperate and sort of stalkerish. I’ve learned, over the years, to mentally let it go. I’ll actually say to myself – internally – that I’m letting it go. In almost every case, the minute I do that, the contract comes through, or the client comes back saying they’ll sign it soon but have been busy, or whatever. It works like magic. But it’s not really magic, right? We know that when you have a mental stranglehold on a specific outcome for something you really want, it doesn’t allow it room to breathe and happen. The old adage of good things come to those who wait is true here – but it also requires stepping back and focusing on something else while you allow that other thing that you really, really (really) want, to come your way.
I’m a stickler for following up, but I’ve also learned there’s magic in letting go.
The Must Analyze Everything Myth: One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is to manage my own emotions – and the rollercoaster business owners (especially women) live with – sometimes daily. I’m not always very successful at this, in fact I actually often suck at it, but I don’t spend valuable time beating myself up. Acknowledge the mental noise (or demons) and move on. Sometimes you just have to say to yourself: I know you’re there, but I’m going to focus on something else instead. And this has to be a conscious decision because what you focus on grows and expands – even if it’s just in your mind.
Manage your mindset, your thoughts – they can either drive you, or divide your energies. The truth is, we spend more time crafting an Instagram post than we do managing the voices in our head. Spend your mental energy wisely. You’ll be glad you did.