Feel Guilty When You Say No? Say This, Instead

Feel Guilty When You Say No? Say This, Instead

One of the greatest aspects of owning an online business has to be the ability to set your own schedule. For me, time freedom—setting my own hours—was the big dream, and I know plenty of other online business owners who want the same thing. But if your dream got a little tarnished with the harsh reality that being an entrepreneur is time-consuming work, you’re not alone. And if you have a hard time saying no, then managing your time becomes even more challenging. Which is why I want to teach you an easy way to say no (even if you’re a people pleaser).

“But,”—your IRL friends say—”You work for yourself! Can’t you come out to lunch with us? Can’t you volunteer for EVERY SINGLE ONE of your kids’ field trips? You have all the time in the world! Right?”

Well, yes… and no.

The fact is, you have all the time in the world regardless of what your job looks like. Whether you’re a corporate 9-5-er, Queen of the Side Gig, or you’re a full-time online entrepreneur, you have the same 24 hours available every day. And while your available weekly 168 hours will look different from someone else’s depending on your work and life responsibilities, it’s still 168 hours.

No matter your work situation, if you want control over your time, you have to prioritize and set boundaries. 

If you’re trying to regain a healthy work life balance, one where you aren’t overwhelmed with obligations, then setting boundaries starts with knowing the danger of the word “yes.” I’m talking to you, people pleasers.

If you find yourself thinking, “When I say no, I feel guilty” or “I’m just not good at setting boundaries,” or “I can’t stand to disappoint people!,” hear me out.

I’m a real people pleaser. It’s a huge (I mean HUGE) part of why I’ve chosen my line of work. If I hear the words, “Can you help me with…” my ears perk up like a dog hearing his kibble hit the bowl. There’s not much that gets me more ramped up than my clients saying, “I’m hoping you can help me figure this out.” I love helping people solve problems.

But I’ve also learned that saying “Yes” automatically to most requests leads directly to a seriously crappy work-life balance. I’ve learned it the hard way. And it sucks.

Here’s the part that might surprise you, though:

“Yes” and “No” are not your only two options.

Contrary to what some business leaders might tell you, you don’t have to eliminate the word “yes” from your vocabulary. Even if you’re a people pleaser. But if you’re looking for an easier way to say no—one that feels more attainable or more polite—build the habit of saying, “Let me think about that.”

Give yourself the gift of time to consider requests. If you were to take on the request, where would it fit in your schedule? What would you have to move or remove? Would it make you feel overwhelmed? And does the new request serve you and your goals better than something else that you’ve already planned for?

Going through this process of evaluating new requests teaches you to consider your time and prioritize. And once you decide where it falls on the priority list, then you can choose whether to say “yes,” “no,” or even something else like “yes, but with these limitations…”

How does this sit with you? Does “let me think about that” feel more reasonable than assuming that “yes” and “no” are your only options? What are some of your other favorite ways to set boundaries with your time? Hit up my DMs and let me hear about them!

Want even more help with time management? Pick up my free time-audit tool so you have a super-clear picture of how much time you ACTUALLY have available.

How to Prep Your Business for the Post-Pandemic World

How to Prep Your Business for the Post-Pandemic World

Does the coronavirus pandemic have you afraid to make new offers online? Does selling your services as an online entrepreneur suddenly feel different? Scarier? I’ve heard a few variations of this fear in the past few weeks. Maybe you’re telling yourself: “Nobody is buying,” “I can’t raise my prices NOW,” “I’ll make my offer again when things go back to normal.”

Are these familiar?

Here’s the truth as I see it: Yes, some people are watching their budgets more closely right now because of economic instability.

But it’s NOT true that no one is spending any extra money right now.

In the last month, I bought two fitness programs, a social media content scheduler, and a course on Instagram.

I had 3 new potential clients reach out to me last week.

Things are happening right now in online business. Are things normal? Obviously not. But has all life (and online business) ground to a halt? Also no.

If business is slower than usual for you right now, let me offer a few suggestions so you can have some inspiring wins, even if you’re feeling sluggish.

Tip #1: Prep your business to return better than ever

This is a great time to concentrate your energy on your internal systems. How can your business run better when life goes back to a (little more) normal? What systems can you set up now so that when your workload increases, your work feels better and easier than before?

Take 2 or 3 of your routine business tasks. For each one, write down:

  1. One to two sentences about the purpose of this task. (For example, “Combine all of my business receipts into a folder so I can easily send them to my bookkeeper at the end of the month.”)

  2. The materials you need in order to complete the task (Dropbox, links to a specific website, etc.)

  3. The step-by-step process to finish the task. There’s a couple of ways to do this. The most straightforward is to go through the process and write down the steps as you work.

And guess what? Now you have a documented process.

Benefit #1:

As you write down steps, you’ll be forcing yourself to think through your process. Are there unnecessary steps in it? Are there steps you do out of habit or because they used to be required, but they’re not anymore?

Benefit #2:

Congratulations, you’ve just written a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) that you can hand off to a Virtual Assistant.

Tip #2: Acknowledge your wins and address the future

Write down a few recent wins. Even if it’s “I buttoned my jeans and they still (mostly) fit!”

Then, identify one thing that’s working well for you in your life or business (that’s a “Keep Doing”), one thing that’s not working (Stop Doing), and one thing you’d like to try (Start Doing). And honestly, right now? Maybe you can even make that “Start Doing” one optional.

Tip #3: Do some market research

This is the PERFECT time to massage your messaging. Get a sounding board (or a group of them who fall into your “ideal client” category.) Show them a piece of your messaging that isn’t getting results. Maybe it’s your FB ad copy or a sales page. Get their feedback. What resonates? What gets them excited?

Bonus points for setting up a call with a small group and giving each other feedback on one piece of marketing.

Which one of these are you excited to try? Leave a comment below and let me know.

Feeling PRESSURE TO DO MORE during the pandemic? Here’s how to deal.

Feeling PRESSURE TO DO MORE during the pandemic? Here’s how to deal.

A few days ago, I asked people in one of my communities how they were experiencing the stress of the pandemic in their businesses.

One of the most common responses I got was that people are feeling a lot of extra pressure right now. Pressure to:

  • Be more visible

  • Have new offers ready to go, sooner

  • Create more content

  • Be extra nurturing in your communities

Another way to think of this pressure is as an increased sense of URGENCY in response to the Coronavirus Crisis.

Are you feeling this urgency?

Here’s how my friend Wendy of Your Happy Workplace put it:

“I’m feeling like if I don’t continue to put content out and keep myself visible, that’s like neglecting to water a plant (my biz being the plant).”

I really like this plant analogy, does it resonate with you?

Do you feel like you’re neglecting your business if you aren’t creating new offers all the time? New lead magnets or free offers? Going live in all the social medias every day? Dreaming up new and different ways to offer support to your community during this weird time?

Look, I know there’s a lot of noise right now. There are lots of business owners freaking out, and you’re hearing a lot of advice from all angles. And I think, despite our best efforts to tune out the noise and just listen to and process the little bits that we can, we’re still feeling bombarded.

Let’s return to that plant idea. Here’s the thing about plants: they don’t grow when you dump buckets of water on them everyday: they die. Plants don’t need a new kind of fertilizer every week. They don’t need to be dug up and re-potted every month.

They need just a little bit of water. Just the occasional plant food. And time. They’ll grow.

The same is true for your audience. You don’t need to dump buckets of content on them. They don’t need a new freebie every week. You don’t need to present a new offer every month.

Look, you guys know I’m all about productivity. But I’m never an advocate for unnecessary stress or burnout. If you’re feeling extra pressure and urgency right now, here’s my challenge for you. Ask yourself, “Do I have to do this thing now?” And if the answer’s yes, ask yourself “Why?” Then sit with that “Why” for a little while.

Is your “why” coming from a place of fear? Fear that your audience will disappear? That your plant will die?

Obviously, your business isn’t a houseplant. Thankfully, it’s much stronger than that.

Stop. Breathe. Provide what you’re inspired to and leave the rest behind. Your audience won’t disappear.

5 Ways to Know If Your Creative Business Is Leading You to Burnout

5 Ways to Know If Your Creative Business Is Leading You to Burnout

Often, organization doesn’t feel easy for creative online entrepreneurs like you. When you’re multipassionate, trying to corral those exciting and brilliant ideas can feel like herding (mental) cats. Let me ask you a question: does managing your business feel more time-consuming, frustrating, and like just more work than you think it should? Do you ever feel like you’re on the edge of burnout as an online entrepreneur? Does the idea of organizing your business leave you feeling emotionally drained? There’s a good reason you’re feeling that way. Without the right support as an online entrepreneur, you’re inviting burnout and mental exhaustion.

If you’ve found yourself spending way too much money and way too much time on tools that promise to fix all of your admin worries (but don’t work), I might have an idea of what’s gunking you up.

Here are 5 of the most common ways that running your business is leading you to burnout.

Do any of these burnout symptoms sound familiar?

1. YOUR EFFORTS TO STREAMLINE YOUR WORK ARE ACTUALLY CAUSING MORE WORK.

We’ve all been there. We have the best intentions to get organized but then end up getting distracted, redirected, or lost along the way. Here are some classic scenarios:

  • An online entrepreneur recognizes she’s stretched too thin and wants to delegate tasks to someone else. To do so, she spends precious hours of her own time and energy each week/month spoon-feeding this new person information, and creating new To-Do lists for herself to ensure the new team member can do the old To-Do tasks she’s trying to offload. The result is she’s spent the same wasted amount of hours on the same old tasks, it’s just dressed up as “delegating.” (Little disclaimer: Delegating is great! Just make sure you’re inventing the offboarding wheel once rather than setting up a new system that requires the same amount of effort from you each time a task is due.)

  • An entrepreneur sees she’s unorganized and looks for productivity software to help. She chooses the most detailed and intensive one, assuming it will give her the most support. Instead, she finds herself frustrated, confused, and scheduling hour-long meetings with tech support and lost in a customer-support email wasteland. In the meantime, business tasks are being dropped and important items are lost in the cracks thanks to her new confusing software.

  • An online entrepreneur decides it’s time she “gets organized once and for all” and emphatically heads out to buy a planner, pens, sticky notepads, a new water bottle that says “boss” on it, stays up all night reorganizing her work desk, decides to update her email signature, gets a new professional headshot, buys business cards, creates a Twitter account, tries a new website building platform, and creates a mood board and — wait a minute — has she done any work?

A fast way to identify if you’re creating more work for yourself is by answering this single question: “Is the task I’m about to take on going to move the needle on the specific task that needs completing? Or is it simply a new task that runs adjacent or parallel to the task I really need to deal with?” If the answer to the first question is NO and the second question is YES, stop. Refocus. Go back to what you’re truly trying to accomplish.

2. YOU’RE NOT CONSIDERING YOUR NATURAL ENERGY FLOW:

This is so, SO key, you guys! The 9-5pm schedule is not for everyone, especially for creative entrepreneurs!

If you’re dumping your most important items on your plate in the morning and find you’re totally mentally exhausted by lunch, you’re really setting yourself up for a day half-wasted. Instead, try tackling your priorities during the pockets of time you feel your most alert, most creative, most focused, even if that doesn’t mean they’re done “first.”

Perhaps it’s in the early morning hours before your family wakes up or late at night when the rest of the world is quiet. I’ve seen people rock a “2 hours on-1 hour off” format that begins at 8am and ends at 7pm. Sure, they start a little earlier and end a little later, but they have an organic 3 hours of “off-time” built in to tackle life’s other daily needs.

The beauty of rocking your own business is having the freedom (and permission!) to structure your hours in a way that works best for you.

3. YOU’RE WASTING TIME TRYING TO CUT CORNERS INSTEAD OF JUST DOING THE THING.

Tale as old as time. When we feel overwhelmed or emotionally drained, we can sometimes panic looking for ways to avoid the grind rather than *master* the grind. Instead of dropping your shoulders and plowing through the work, you spend your day procrastinating and completing a lil’ bit of this here, a lil’ bit of that there, so on and so forth. Then, at the end of the day, you ultimately didn’t save any time and you have nothing finished to show for it.

4. YOU’RE FEEDING YOUR “MUST-HUSTLE” BEAST AND TEETERING ON THE BRINK OF BURNOUT.

Listen, I know how good it feels to be “in the zone.” However, there is an important distinction between good business management and setting unrealistic expectations on an impossible timeline. While it feels great to get work done, it’s important to remain practical about what you’re asking from yourself. Maximizing your work when your energy is high is great, but don’t plan your projects around that level or productivity forever and always. You’re going to burn out eventually, and all of that momentum and progress you made will be sacrificed and lost in the long run when suddenly you feel like you can’t do ANY work.

5. YOU’VE FOUND YOURSELF IN A CONSTANT STATE OF REACTING.

One fast way to tell if you’re in a cycle of bad online business management is to determine if you are always in a constant state of reacting. What I mean is: You’re playing defense. Your days are spent putting out fires, addressing issues that popped up the day prior, and tackling items as they happen, making it impossible to get started on your own goals and objectives. It’s like trying to fill in cracks in a wall while water leaks through.

Good business support will do two things: 1. Allow you to play offense — i.e. put you in a place where you can be strategic, thoughtful, and innovative about the business moves you want to make and ultimately have space and time to put them into action. And 2.) build you a sturdy foundation so water doesn’t begin to leak through the cracks in the first place. I have a lot more to say about this, but that’s for another blog.

Remember: without the right support as an online entrepreneur, you’re inviting burnout and mental exhaustion.

 

Fortunately, I can help you take the reins on your workflow and implement systems that counteract the pitfalls described here. If this sounds like exactly what you need right now, then I’d love to introduce you to my Set Up to Scale Up Strategy Session package. In just 3 hours together, we can build that solid foundation for the most painful part of your biz.

I promise it’s possible to stop spinning your wheels, capitalize on your energy, maximize your time, avoid burning out, and play stellar offense for your business, and I’d love to help.

5 Ways to Boost Your Mood and Reclaim Your Day

5 Ways to Boost Your Mood and Reclaim Your Day

A few weeks ago, I was having one of those days.

My kids woke up feeling argumentative, so they were talking back at every available opportunity. I realized I forgot to pick up my prescription the day before and I ran out of my meds. My schedule was packed to the gills with meetings and I was feeling behind in my client work (which didn’t stop a couple of tech fires from erupting and taking away even more of my time.) 

PLUS someone forgot to refill the water filter AGAIN. It really burns my britches. 

So it wasn’t anything big, it was just one of those days where there are a dozen little things that went wrong and they all added up to me being in a pissy mood. By mid-morning, I was done with the day and thinking, “All I want to do is nothing.”

Which obviously affected my productivity.

I decided to poll my group about what they like to do when they have days like this and it got a lot of responses. So, for your consideration, here are 5 quick ideas to help you get over your bad mood so you can reclaim what’s left of your day. Try them the next time your day sucks and let me know what helped the most!

1. SPEND 5 MINUTES WITH YOUR PET

I have a rescue Greyhound and if you’re not familiar with the breed, you might think they’re hyperactive and run all the time, but the truth is they’re SUPER lazy and they sleep, like, 20 hours a day. Plus they have the saddest eyes known to humankind. So if I’m feeling sorry for myself, I can just look into Bodie’s face and those sad, brown, blind eyes say, “I get it, hooman. But you know what’ll make you feel better? Scratching behind my ears. And giving me some bacon. I hear giving dogs bacon will increase happiness by 214%. You can’t argue with science.”

If you know me IRL, I hope you read that in “Bodie’s voice.” #yeswehaveavoiceforourdog #noshame #totallynormal

Maybe your pet says something different, but taking a few minutes to love on them will make a difference in your mood. If you don’t have a pet, do a search for “baby laughing” on Youtube and spend 5 minutes with some of those videos. Heck, even if you do have a pet, it’s a great idea. I mean, how can you not laugh along with this?

2. PUT ON A HIGH-ENERGY PLAYLIST

This isn’t a new idea, obvs, but it makes the rounds because it works. What’s the music that does it for you? For me, it kind of depends on my mood, but generally anything with a great horn line perks me up a bit. Motown classics are a great option, especially if you like to sing along (and you grew up listening to Oldies radio like I did.) Here are a couple of Spotify playlists I made with some of my favorites:

Horn Line playlist

“Get Pumped” playlist (this is a short playlist with fast, harder pop/rock. Plus some Queen. Perfect for those times you wanna dance it out).

Speaking of fast music, try doing a search for a high beats-per-minute playlist. You can find huge collections of songs with BPMs of 155 or more to make your own perfect “Get Pumped” playlists. Got a favorite high-energy song? I love hearing new music recommendations, so lay it on me!

3. GO OUTSIDE AND/OR EXERCISE

Yup, I know: like the music suggestion, this is nothing new. But also like the music suggestion, it sticks around because it WORKS. Look, I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes exercise is the LEAST appealing thing when I feel crappy. And sometimes I suck it up, buttercup, and grab my yoga mat anyway. Buuuuuut sometimes I don’t! And in those times when formal exercise just ain’t happening, I can at least take 5 minutes to step away from my computer, go outside my door, and take some deep breaths.

Having a dog makes a convenient excuse for going for a walk, so that can make it easier to get some outdoor movement going. But even if all you can do is go out on your stoop, do it. Stay off your phone while you do. Look up at the sky. Breathe deeply. Stretch a little. Listen to the sounds around you for 3 minutes and list off all of the specific sounds you can pick out.

4. MAKE A LIST OF YOUR ONLY PRIORITIES FOR THE DAY

For me, sometimes just the feeling of being overwhelmed with to-dos is enough to send my brain into a bit of a tailspin. When I feel like I’ve lost control of my time, it really does a number on my mood. If you feel that, too, sometimes just narrowing the scope of what your day’s priorities are can go a long way to giving you back that feeling of control. And when you feel more in control, it’s easier to take steps forward.

Finish this sentence: “Even if I accomplish NOTHING else today, I’ll feel so much better if I _______________.” Aim for 2-3 items maximum on this list. And keep them realistic.

5. GET THOSE ITEMS DONE, THEN REWARD YOURSELF

Decide what you’re going to reward yourself with when you finish your 2-3 main priorities for the day. Maybe you’ll decide to take the rest of the day off for self-care. Or maybe you’ll just allow yourself to scroll Insta for 30 minutes without guilt.

Then set a timer. Turn off your notifications. Shut down your social media for a few hours. And just concentrate on that day’s priorities. Chances are that you’ll feel so much better after you get those priorities done, you’ll feel like a brand new (super-productive) business woman. And if that’s the case, harness that energy and keep the productivity going!

Do you have a favorite tip to handle your bad moods? Let me hear about it in the comments below!

1 Quick Hack Creative Entrepreneurs Can Use to Plan an Easier Launch

1 Quick Hack Creative Entrepreneurs Can Use to Plan an Easier Launch

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Buffer Time. White Space. Unscheduled Time. Whatever you want to call it, it’s something I’m a little bit obsessed with right now (because I’m kind of hoarding it, but that’s just where I am ATM.)

pretend the ring is free time, m’kay?


See, last week was crazy. There was snow. The kids had time off school. My husband got a cold, then he graciously shared it with the rest of the family (and I still haven’t totally recovered). Plans changed. Stuff still got done, but, you know… less than usual. Life showed up.

Life’s fun that way. You cannot stop it from showing up. And it usually doesn’t RSVP.

Since you can’t prevent the unexpected, you have to account for it. So anytime you’re making a plan (one with some kind of timeline attached to it), you gotta add Buffer Time.

Back when I was a corporate Project Manager (‘lo these many months ago), I learned some really valuable advice around this idea. 

Now, I know you’re not a corporate project manager, but stick with me here, I promise this will end up applying to you. 

The advice was NEVER to tell management the Best Case Scenario timeline. N.E.V.E.R. So, sure IF the clients gets us all of the specifications in on time and IF they include all the stakeholders’ ideas and IF the testing phase runs as normal and IF… you get the idea. There are a lot of variables that can impact a timeline and a lot of chances for Life to show up at any one of them.

If a project manager were to tell the boss, “Well, we expect the project to take 8 weeks, but if everything goes well, we can get it done in 5,” which part of that do you think the boss really hears? It ain’t the longer time frame, I promise. And how often do you think the project ACTUALLY gets done in 5 weeks instead of 8? There’s probably some data out there on that type of question, but I’m not going to look it up. Both you and I know that it’s probably not very often. Thanks, Life.

And how does the boss feel when the project takes 8 weeks instead of 5? Well, sure, you may have SAID that you expected the project to take 8 weeks, but that’s not what they heard, so when 5 weeks pass, then 6, then 7, the boss gets more and more frustrated and YOU feel more and more stressed because the pressure increases with every extra week that goes by.

So what does this mean for you and your creative business? Here’s what I want you to do: go back to that corporate boss scenario I just laid out for you and read it again. But THIS time, imagine your brain as the boss.

Does that change how this scenario feels?

Those extra 3 weeks between “Best Case Scenario” and “Actual Projection”? That’s your buffer time. It’s the time you add in because you know that Life’s gonna show up.


Giving the Best Case Scenario timeframe is one thing when your job may be on the line, right? That is, it’s easy to err on the safe side if you think your boss is going to be mad at you for missing a deadline. But when you’re both the planner AND the boss, it is SO easy to give your brain that Best Case timeline. And then when things don’t pan out in the best way possible, you’re stressed. Maybe you feel like you’ve failed. Maybe you start avoiding the work entirely. And the longer you put it off, the more daunting it feels.

So consider this your friendly reminder that no matter your plans, Life’s gonna be there. Add in some cushion time to your plans. Just a little unscheduled time around each task (small tasks need a little less, big tasks a little more). No need to be super technical with the amounts (that gets deep into project management territory and we don’t need to go there today). There may be some trial and error and find what works. And if you’re someone who tends to procrastinate when you have the opportunity, keep that in mind. That is, don’t go nutso with your Buffer Time—try to balance momentum with white space.

Allowing yourself a little leeway in your plans will make a HUGE difference in how you feel about them. You’re still gonna get there. But it’s going to feel SO much better on the way.

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© 2021 The Efficient/Creative   |   DESIGNED BY BROOKE LAWSON

© 2021 The Efficient/Creative
DESIGNED BY BROOKE LAWSON