Every week at Tin Shingle, we host a digital meet up, a live #TuneUp as we call 'em, during which we speak live (and on camera!!) with members digitally tuning in everywhere from San Francisco to Brooklyn! Though the #TuneUp is chock-full of education and conversation all based on helping small biz owners and entrepreneurs build buzz for their brands, we always like to start with a little bit of inspiration. Some weekly seeds of motivation and at times, entrepreneurial self-reflection to plant in the heads of our "digital studio audience". This part of each weekly #TuneUp is near and dear to my heart because I think that taking care of yourself, your head and your heart as a business owner is just as important as mastering business strategies.
In this past week's #TuneUp, I was reflecting on a recent coffee date I had with a fellow entrepreneur who asked for advice about a situation I'm sure several of you are familiar with: she felt stuck and blocked in terms of the success of a specific business project. She thought it would be much easier to accomplish but it just wasn’t happening. The frustration was getting to her, especially because she felt as if she'd checked everything off of her project To Do List but it still wasn't giving her the results she expected.
I was more than happy to talk about this with her and was glad she decided to turn to me because believe me, I have been there, and I have done that. More than once. Because I’ve dealt with this "blockage situation" in the past I saw myself as a kid who has already been vaccinated from chicken pox (i.e., the blockage), or more accurately, like a doctor who had the vaccine for it in the first place - and this vaccine doesn't come in shot format (PHEW). Instead, I'm going to share what I shared with my small biz buddy. It's a set of three questions I ask myself when I feel like I'm working a lot but not achieving the results I want, my "Cures for Blockage Questionnaire".
I encourage you to think about a situation at work (or in life) that you're dissatisfied with and have it in mind when you ask these questions. Usually by the time I get to the end of the list, my head and heart know what the next steps to freeing myself from the blockage are...
CURES FOR BLOCKAGE QUESTIONNAIRE
#1 Have I set the stage for success?
This means: Creating a productive and positive work space that gives you the opportunity to make some focused and dedicated business happen. A space that gets you in your zone and enables you to work calmly, in the way that you work best. This is different for everyone but I cannot stress how important it is to create a space that "works" for you to make your projects, tasks and business happen. I personally need a quiet space (I'm not the kind of gal who can work with music on), a candle and heck, I even add flowers into the mix. They make a difference to me, and that's all that matters. I make my work space a happy space.
This means: Setting aside enough focused time, dedicated time, to get your work groove on. Cramming a ten item to do list into a 15 minute time span just makes you the equivalent of a stressed out, overstuffed, small biz sausage.
This means: Setting the stage for your brain as well. Have you slept well, worked out, taken care of yourself and done the things you need to do to get your mind into that zone? To get yourself motivated and focused? I know I personally can only focus and calm down if I’m regularly exercising and meditating, and if I don’t I get stressed and crazy. A stressed and crazy person has a harder time being successful. Truth. You can quote me on that.
The point of this first question is to really call you to reflect on the fact that your business is secondary to yourself. If you can't create both an internal and external environment of calm and awesomeness you cannot expect to produce at your highest potential!
#2 – Am I avoiding things that make me feel uncomfortable that by NOT doing them is holding me back from my goals and success?
Often it's not what we are doing that is causing a blockage but it is in what we're not doing where the problem lies. What could you be avoiding that could be holding you back from success... Here, I've made a list of options for you: phone calls, pitches, talks with employees, updating your business plan, organizing your work finances, "proclaiming" your purpose, passion or project with the world, asking for help on something you're stuck on...BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF. Maybe it's sharing your business dream with your "day job" collagues. Maybe it's avoiding a phone call to a member of the media who has not been answering your emails for months. Maybe it's letting go a freelancer or intern who has been taking up more time or money than they are producing work wise...These little and big things we avoid are the little and big things that hold us back from our truest and biggest business potential.
And here's the kicker...
These things you're avoiding? They are far worse in your head than in reality. The stress may not even be coming from them, but from your subconscious fretting over you not doing them in the first place. Think about that for a moment...
#3 - Can I honestly look myself in the mirror and say to myself “YES! I’m doing and giving 100% and really putting my whole self into it, in fact at times I'm working smarter or harder than others in my field?"
Before you tell me, Sabina, I cannot work any harder, and no I cannot work as many hours as my competitors because I have a day job/daughter/disorder that only lets me work 5 hours a day. I didn't say work longer, I say work smarter or harder. Often when we look internally we can admit that we're not as disciplined as we could be.
Can you really reflect internally and answer affirmatively if you asked yourself, "I’m working as hard as I know I can, and as focused as I can and it’s still not working”.
This question reminds me of a conversation I have had more than once with my dad, a physician. He has seen some patients for years who have been trying to lose weight, insisting that they want to get in shape and drop some major "LB's" but every time they come in for an appointment with him their is barely a change on the scale. They say they want to lose weight but in truth, they aren’t really eating healthy more than a few days a week, they aren't working out as regularly and aggresively as they can, and are making minimal changes to their lifestyles. Sure, others are making bigger changes than they have in the past, but they still aren't doing enough. Because of that, they aren't losing the weight they want.
Now SURE you can tell me, "But Sabina, losing weight is hard, super hard." I don't disagree with you, but so is running a successful business, or accomplishing any goal you really want to reach. If the goals you wanted to reach were easy you wouldn't be reading this right now because you would have finished them ages ago.
So let this third question be one you examine in and reflect on over the weekend...Are you REALLY giving it your honest effort, disciplined effort and giving everything it takes to make it happen? Are you cheating, or trying to take short cuts? Are you taking the classes you need to take, learning the skills you need? Are you really working productively or are you watching cat videos on YouTube more than you should be? Are you avoiding taking action steps on a project because you’re afraid it may not turn out the way you want? (That's a biggie for many too...)
Whatever the reasons, to unclog yourself you must be able to look yourself in the eye in the mirror and say YES I’m REALLY throwing myself into it and not holding back.