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Priorities, Pillow Talk and Picking up where I left off…

I couldn’t sleep last night. Took me ages to drift off and then was awake for 4am. I then worked for two hours and went back to bed at 6 where I had a hideous nightmare (rhinos chasing me and no parking spaces, not even got time to analyse that one).

I think the reason is that I was stressed about my massive list- up to 3 pages (nearly typed) and no idea where to start. I’m working through it now but it made me realise that I’ve been feeling out of control since December. I even wrote a blog about it, then was so busy I forgot to post it!! I’ve pasted it below (so lucky you, two blogs for the price of one).

There are loads of different ways to prioritise a list. One friend puts a monetary value to each item; I know some people do it on a FIFI (first in, first out) basis and some on which they enjoy doing (try not to do this by the way, it leads to so much stuff you’ll have put off). I have one friend who categorises all tasks (as frogs, urgently and quick wins) and then does a couple of urgents, a frog and rewards with some quick wins.

Everyone’s different, I’d be interested to know if anyone else has a clever way of doing it?

Anyway, here’s the missing blog and I’m off to get back to my list.

It’s the season to… forget what the heck you’re doing

Generally I’m a well organised person. When it comes to my clients I’m kind of paid to be well organised- although I’m only human so mistakes do happen. However, despite 11 months of successful self planning and managing to run my own life it all goes to pot in December.

As much as I’d like it to be due to a head full of snowflakes and sugarplum fairies the simple truth is it’s more because I have too much on. Obviously there’s clients (but you’d expect that), personal stuff, school stuff, then there’s present buying, card writing, nativity/carol convert/orchestra performances to attend, Christmas parties and the requisite hangovers… then the first world crisis of trying to fit all my beauty appointments in at the busiest time of the year. It’s hardly my fault that my hair dresser can only see at exactly the same time I should be picking the kids up from school!

Needless to say I find December stressful. A few years ago when I had more time I made Christmas Day place name holders from sawn up logs fashioned into cheery snowmen… this year you can sit wherever you want! It’s the 6th and I’ve not written any Christmas cards although they e started arriving! And I have 5 Christmas parties and I honestly promise you I have nothing to wear.

Oh well, it’s nearly Christmas and I’m wearing sparkly mini mouse ears and an alternative Christmas jumper. It’ll sort itself out I’m sure. Now, is it too early to get some festive cheer?

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I wish my brain would stop talking to me…

I love time management techniques, you may have heard me wax lyrical about them before – I can’t help it if I’m more interested in that than whether my eyebrows are perfect (although they are perfect as well)

Different people have slightly different ways of managing their time, I’ve spoken about the Pomodoro technique that I use before (see that blog here), but I was in a meeting with someone the other day that added an extra dimension to this that I found really interesting.

His time management technique was very similar- in that it used intense periods of focus on single objectives. However, it also accounted for the biggest de-railer of time management success… interruptions.

Now, you’d think this was obvious but I think I’m a bit harsh when I’m in Pom mode because I don’t let anything stop me- my phone is turned over or in another room, no one is allowed to talk to me (and I will tell people to go away) and I just crack on. However a) not everyone is quite as bloody minded as me and b) it’s not always realistic as the mind tends to throw in its’ own interruptions.

And this is where it got interesting, these interruptions are inevitable (the psychological reasons for these are even more so but I’m not going to go into those right now) so you need to learn how to deal with these without losing momentum and focus.

The discussed technique was to have a list of your ‘top interrupters’ (those people that interrupt you the most, including yourself) and every time an interruption happens or a thought pops into your head related to that person you note it down under their name, put it aside for later and then put it out of your head and get on with what you were doing.

This does follow through to a lot more formalised rules- such as only looking at your emails once a day in their allocated slot or only catching up with people at a prearranged time but I can’t be doing with that level of rigidity.

Therefore I’m going to take the ethos of it and use the interruption list as a way to unload my brain (bit like a secondary to do list) so I can keep focussing during Pom sessions… I think that’s the key to learning new ideas, taking what suits you and adapting it to your needs rather than picking up ideas wholesale. After all, if it ain’t entirely broke, why reinvent the wheel?

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I’m at least one of Snow White’s little friends…

Today I am miserable, it’s cold and I’m tired. Not that my being miserable stops the merry-go-round, we still have to keep going. It’s actually the first day of half term that I’m off with my children. They both want to go to the cinema (and they agree on the film and my youngest I ant screaming about the dark or the high seats or the loud noises) so based on all of these miracles we’re going to the cinema!

I’ve also got work to do. I’m not in anyone’s office today but the work doesn’t stop. And I’ve got personal things that need sorting, the kind you don’t usually have time for like phoning the water people or cleaning the house…

Oh and I’m miserable- did I mention that? Which just adds to the list frankly. That’s okay though, I run a small business, I’m a mother, nothing stops because I want it to… and actually the thought of sitting in those big cinema seats with my youngest curled on my lap due to fear over the dark/height/loud noises it’s quite appealing right now. So I’ve negotiated that we’ll do that this morning then mummy has to work after lunch- something for everyone.

And who knows, maybe I’ll end up less miserable! And the very least my children will be happy and I’ll have got more work done so maybe I can be the mildly unhappy but satisfied dwarf instead…

P.S. it’s also just occurred to me that rather than spending the last ten minutes doing something off of The List, I wrote a blog instead… equally productive but not helping to shift the mound of work!

P.P.S. It’s okay to be grumpy by the way, perfectly normal and nothing wrong with it, we all get like that sometimes. My point is that you can’t let it stop you, you need to find your way to keep going :-)

P.P.P.S are postscripts supposed to be capitals or lower case? #askingforafriend

P.P.P.P.S just kidding…

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4 is the magic number…

Apparently, so Google tells me, 4 is the number of stability and order – I think that’s because a square has 4 sides and that makes it nice and even but I can’t be sure. Actually, lots of things come in 4s – the seasons, the elements, the horseman of the apocalypse… Oooo even the 4 leafed clover and that’s super lucky.

I’ve got distracted there, I was just trying to open with something about the beauty of the number 4 so I can segue neatly into telling you that today Linkedin reminded me that I have been running my business for 4 years (I love you Linkedin, as I would never have remembered that!). So there, I segued in the most untidy way possible but I’m back on topic.

What have I learnt in 4 years? Here’s my top 4 (see what I did there) …

  1. Nothing is immediate. I’d love to say that you can start a business and suddenly you’re a millionaire but realistically that doesn’t happen. We all have to work hard, we all doubt ourselves and we all do a happy dance at that first sale/client/success. Getting to the point where you feel like you’re actually doing well takes ages and it’s only now I’m starting to feel like that.
  2. Nothing comes to you. Sorry. I know, it sounds negative, but it’s not. When you start running a business you have to work at it: to create it, to build it, to sustain it and nothing will just be handed to you. You have to go out and look for opportunities, for ways to succeed but I can promise you that it will be worth it.
  3. Nothing prepares you. The long nights, the ridiculous hours, the utter panic… nothing really prepares you for the reality of being totally responsible for your own business. You can have studied business for years and still not know a fraction of the reality, but that’s ok – make mistakes and learn from them; develop and react to changes; adapt your ideas to be something that will work… whatever it takes you know you can do it.
  4. Nothing anyone says should stop you. If you’re lucky you’re surrounded by entrepreneurs and small business people who can help and guide and advice or at the very least understand why you feel like smashing you head against the wall repeatedly. However, the likelihood is you won’t and not everyone will understand the long hours the lack of cash flow or the other situations you find yourself in and that means that you should learn to follow your own instincts because no one knows your business better than you.

That’s the 4 sides of my square – my 4 big reflective thoughts as I reach this milestone. Next year I think I might have a party – not just write a blog… any one up for that?

Oh, and one last thing after those sentences that started with Nothing. EVERYTHING – EVERY MOMENT, EVERY TEAR, EVERY STRESS, EVERY HEADACHE – EVERYTHING IS WORTH IT (although I do miss buying shoes as much as I used to).

 

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Everyone wants a peace…

I do know I spelt that wrong, it’s a play on words because I was torn between writing about how everyone wants a piece of me at the moment and how I desperately want some peace… so I kinda mixed the two together!

My client roster has changed a lot over the last 6 weeks, it’s such an exciting and scary time- I’ve finished projects with old clients; started with new ones (which is so much fun) and have some things in the pipeline. I found the other day I’d tripled booked myself which is something I never do- And it made me realise how much I’m trying to do.

That’s another way to use my word play earlier- puzzle pieces. At the moment time management is like arranging and rearranging a giant puzzle to make everything fit together perfectly.

That’s kind of my point for this blog- how I manage when it feels like I can’t manage! Obviously I have a diary, it’s a paper one because I prefer seeing things written down, but sometimes that’s not enough when I’m having think about extra things like childcare or social appointments.

I know this sounds incredibly sad but when it gets like this I draw a chart- one that covers the crucial weeks and allows me to write in everything from childcare, to clients, to evening engagements. Seeing it all in one place really helps and I can quickly see where the gaps are.

I do one annually for the summer holidays as that’s my biggest juggling act of the year and honestly, it makes a huge difference. I know it sounds like more work but I promise if you’ve got a hectic few weeks it’s worth it.

So sort out those puzzle pieces, fit in the people who want a piece and get some peace ;-)