I have often said that the journey to entrepreneurship is a marathon, not a sprint. There are times, whether they be at mile 10 or 22 of your 26.2 mile journey (which begins again as soon as you finish it), that you feel overwhelmed, tired, discouraged, uninspired or simply lifeless. Instead of employing the self-flaggelating techniques that many of us grew up with such as “work through the pain,” “feel the burn” or “get it done by any means necessary,” I opt for the mantra that my dear coaching buddy Andrea Lee reminded me of the other day: How can you make it easier?
I remember being startled by the question, as I was in the midst of a “this is hard, I have so much work to do, there is so much I don’t know, besides which, I am an incredibly nauseated hormonal pregnant woman and this sucks” kind of a moment. In our modern society, we can try to outdo each other with the list of overwhelming and herculean tasks we have to complete, such as:
- “You only get 500 emails a day? I get at least 1200, and more on the weekends.”
- “You only work 40 hours a week? I work 100+ hours a week on my business.”
- “I completed a website redesign, launched a new product, tended to my sick mother, served as Chair of our local charity event and baked cupcakes for my son’s class birthday party. And that was just today!”
In reality, one of the best reasons to choose to become an entrepreneur is to throw away those outdated notions that more hours at work = more success and redefine your relationship to work.
So how can you use the mantra of “make it easier” to get unburied or unstuck?
- Spend a day doing the opposite of what you should be doing.
There comes a time when no matter how much you try to force yourself to get things done, your fatigue or resistance will be so great that it is a losing battle. So why stress yourself out? Take a day and do whatever is the irresponsible, fun, adventuresome antidote to the task at hand. Catch a triple feature movie. Go golfing all day. Luxuriate in the spa. Eat junk food.
Yesterday was a perfect example for me. I had a podcast to write and record, articles to finish, a class to design and hundreds of emails to catch up on. But I was so nauseated and tired that all I could do was lay in bed all day and watch a 24-hour marathon of Law & Order. Since that is one of my favorite shows, I considered it a divine seal of approval that they chose to run the 24-hour marathon on the very day I was a slug in bed. Although I missed my podcast deadline for the first time ever, I know that it was the right thing to do.
- Reduce, reuse, recycle.
As a pathologically committed recycler, I love the “reduce, reuse, recycle” mantra that was popular when I was running my college’s recycling program. It basically states reduce the amount of waste you generate, reuse containers as much as possible, and that which you can’t reuse, recycle. Looking at your workload, what can you reduce that will decrease your stress? The “I get 1200 emails a day” is always a favorite for me especially in a corporate environment. My answer is always “Why?” What lists could you get off of? How can you un-cc and bcc yourself from messages that your colleagues or assistants can handle themselves?What can you reuse that will make your job easier? A client once asked me cautiously “Do you think I can re-purpose some of my blog posts into an info product or article? Isn’t that cheating?,” to which I responded a resounding NO. Reusing carefully crafted material in new, useful ways for new audiences is one of the best things you can do for your business. I saw that Guy Kawasaki is re-purposing popular blog posts for a new column in Entrepreneur magazine. More power to him! Maybe you have a great software product that could be tweaked a bit to fit the needs of a new market.
Finally, don’t be afraid to recycle. Customers may welcome back an old promotion that worked well. Your new blog readers will appreciate it if you dust off an old favorite post and republish it. “Melt down” some of your old product and create something new and interesting from it without incurring the time and expense of starting from scratch.
- Relentlessly delegate and outsource.
I realize that you can handle the many tasks of running your business, but should you? What can you offer to a partner, delegate to an assistant or hand off to an outsource company? There are probably hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs who have garages filled with product which they spend hours carefully packing and shipping themselves. Why not hire a company to do that for you? The amount of time you spend in this labor-intensive, no added value task could be spent on valuable marketing, product development and sales activities. Don’t be so concerned about losing pennies on your dollar that you miss the boat entirely on the appropriate balance of your labor.
- Reclaim your place in the natural world.
Us modern-day humans are the only species I know of that can choose to ignore the ebb and flow of the natural world. Through climate control, cell phones, Blackberries and remote internet access, we try to program ourselves to work at full-out speeds every week of the year. This is not how the natural systems work! There is always a planting and a resting season. Animals hibernate after working hard to gather nuts. I am convinced that the reason we have so many aliments and muscle pains and headaches is because we do not respect our need to slow down and replenish energy at certain times of the year. As much as we would like to distance ourselves from nature, our bodies have different cycles of productivity. Instead of fighting them, why not plan your business around them?
- Re-gain your sense of joy and humor.
For goodness sakes, you don’t have to be so serious all the time! We can choose to make work laborious and grueling and thankless by our attitudes alone. If you find yourself grumbling “I have so much to do,” “no one understands how much work this is,” “I am never going to get this done,” guess what, you are probably right! Instead, re-focus on why you are choosing this endeavor in the first place. If you work with people, how will their lives change as a result of them working with you? What problem will your product fix, and how might the world be better as a result? How can you enjoy your relationships more? When you have a big catastrophe, how can you find the hilarity in it and roll on the ground laughing at your stupidity or hubris or stunning lack of foresight?
By employing these techniques, you may find that that which you thought was impossible and overwhelming is actually quite tame and feasible. Trust me, your journey doesn’t have to be hard and painful to be successful!