Pathetic excuse, I know. But I’ve been doing a little “housecleaning” around here. I’ve noticed that my site is a wee bit broken in areas, and I just haven’t had the chance to come along and fix it. My stuff always seems to take the back seat to everyone else! Such is life
In any case, some changes are forthcoming. Please be patient with me
Yesterday, I posted a lengthy intro in my process of organization. I went a little into how I came to the conclusions I did about the subject, and why the articles/books/etc. I found didn’t seem to help me much.
In today’s post, I’m going to tell you what I did with those conclusions.
It’s actually pretty simple: I had a lot of stuff I needed to get organized. I wanted a simple system that would allow me to do what I needed to do. (I’m all about the KISS Principle.) So what I did was take some of the more reasonable suggestions from different resources, and compiled them into one that works for me.
Now, you have to understand that the system I came up with has some really simplistic (and in some cases very mundane and/or silly things) – but that’s because it’s what fits me. I’m notorious for “keeping things in my head” and “wanting to do it all NOW” (which I explained a bit about in the last post). This is how I got it all out in a format that has helped me quite a bit in the last couple of months.
For starters… I took a day off. Now, I didn’t think I could. I know I was on sabbatical, so you’d think I’d've had all the time in the world to do whatever I wanted. But – as mentioned before – I’m the worst sabbatical-taker ever. I actually had a lot of work to keep my busy last year. Taking a day off wasn’t an easy option. But I forced myself to do it.
I sat down at my kitchen table with a nice cup of coffee, some paper, and a pen. It was after I sent my son to school, and my youngest was enjoying the wit and humor of Spongebob Squarepants. What I did was what pretty much any writer does – I let it all spill out of my head onto paper.
Initially, I started out easy. I wrote down he stuff I knew needed to be done. Then I pushed myself, and started to think of the things that didn’t need to be put out like a wildfire – just other stuff that eventually needed done, and would be nice to get done before it HAD to be finished. I pushed a little more and started adding in the stuff around the house that fell into these categories. Then I started writing down the stuff I do (or needed to be doing, anyway) every day. Every week. Every month.
I didn’t go beyond that. No “five year plan” was involved in this.
Then I started writing down all the stuff that annoyed me – stuff that stressed me out because it should be done, but it wasn’t. Stuff that should routinely be completed, but always got pushed off for something else, and left me seriously stressed because it was left alone. Stuff like the dishes that hadn’t been done since yesterday. Or the fact that the toilet (as well as some of the old leftovers in the fridge) looked like some sort of science experiment. Stuff that made me feel really embarrassed when people “popped in” for a visit, because it wasn’t done.
When I was finished, I have to say, my head really felt like I had emptied it of rocks that were weighing me down. The fact that I didn’t have to constantly think of this stuff so I wouldn’t forget it just made me feel so much happier.
Then I organized it. Yeah, I know I said that I didn’t want to have to organize my organizational system – but to be honest, you kind of have to. At least a little. I was willing to do a little. Because now, it was all out of my head and sitting there on sheets of paper like a bad meal that decided to come back up. I separated the items into “work” and “personal.” And as I looked I saw things that were associated with each other. But I didn’t get too far into it. I wasn’t looking to start color-coding tabs and using sticky notes and filing systems. That’s just crazy to me.
Now, for me, it’s very difficult to separate my work life form my home life. I work from a home office, and one of my children is with me all day long – the other is with me half the day. I can’t have a split personality – it doesn’t work well for me. So I decided to quasi-mesh the two together. The two largest inspirations for my little system were GTD and FlyLady.
What I did was buy a packet of “Getting Things Done” sheets at Staples. I already owned a little “organizer” (that hasn’t ever really seen much use) and made use of it. The GTD filler paper was pretty neat – all it contained was tabbed sheets that you could name whatever you liked, some blank paper, some graph paper and these neat sectioned papers. Being a designer, I felt the graph paper and the blank sheets would be really useful in drawing/sketching out ideas. The lined paper was for note-taking, and roughing out ideas – getting things out of my head that were simply ideas, but not full-fledged projects. The other papers – which contained a tall-but-narrow column on the left and sectioned rows on the right – were for my projects.
The actual Day Runner I have is no longer being made, but it held 5 1/2″ x 8 1/2″ papers, had pockets and pen holders on the inside, as well as a big pocket on the outside. I also bought a package of 5 1/2″ x 8 1/2″ sheet protectors, the kind that was top-loading, made of clear plastic and had hole punches in the side.
I’m also notoriously bad at keeping track of cards – i.e. my credit cards, insurance, driver’s license – stuff like that. This organizer had card-sized pockets just for this purpose. (Actually I think they’re supposed to be for business cards, but whatever.) I haven’t “misplaced” my license in months, nor has the magnetic strip on my new ATM card been washed away because I left it in my pocket…again. That’s saying something.
So first, I made myself an hourly calendar. Basically, it just had 24 squares that went around the edge of the paper, each square repsenting an hour of the day. In the middle, it was lined for notes. Then I created a checklist: a daily checklist of “house” things I wanted to be sure I did every day, a monthly list, and a weekly list.
That seems like a lot, right? but it’s not.
There’s very few things, actually, that need to be done around the house at any given time to keep it “presentable” and “livable.” if you can keep on top of a few little things on a daily/weekly/monthly basis, your life will go a lot smoother, and when it omes to the bigger stuff, you can knock it out relatively quickly. I cannot tell you how much stress has been lifted from my days simply because I’ve made this routine for myself, and my household has just been chugging along without an issue.
I use the “hourly calendar” to write down what should be happening at each hour, and in the middle, I write down my projects for the day – work related.
And the GTD stuff? Those sectioned papers are awesome. I actually numbered each right-handed paper (odd or even – your choice) in the bottom right corner. As I start writing projects, I numbered each gray square, and put in the overall project name. In the lined sections next to it, I broke the project down into bits (tasks), and marked each task with a letter.
Now, at the end of the day, I would look at my iCal and see what appointments are coming up tomorrow, and I’d write those down in the hourly squares. In the middle, I would choose the largest 2 or 3 projects I needed to work on tomorrow. I would write those down, and make an association. For example, if I had a project listed on page 3 that I needed to work on, that was the 5th item on that page, and I wanted to knock out tasks d, e and f; then I would write down “Project name, 3:5:d,e,f” on the list.
Oh yeah, and how did I keep this from wasting paper/having to reload paper every single day? That’s where the plastic sheets came in. I got a dry erase marker and kept it in one of the pen-holders. I use it to write the stuff down, check off what I’ve done, etc. and at the end of the day I just wipe it off and start over.
This has been most excellent. It’s simple – perhaps too simple – but for me, it’s been really effective. When I have a new project, I just dump it into the projects section. I’m not a stickler for details. It’s there, and if I need to reference the project to one that already exists, I note it like I do in the middle of my hourly calendar.
Now, I can’t give you a day runner and plastic sheets to download, but I can give you my hourly calendar and daily/weekly/monthly checklists. I’m putting them here to use in Word and PDF format, so you can open it up and edit to fit YOUR needs. The existing checklist is what works for me, and it should give you a good example of the kids of things you should have in there. Edit as you like. They are made to print, then you fold them in half and pop them in the sheet protectors at the front of your day runner, so the calendar falls in the middle. Use and abuse them
One of my big failures is my organizational skills. Back when I started my sabbatical (and all during it) it was something mentioned a lot: how I wanted to improve that aspect of my life. For the entire year, I would read every blog post I could find on how to get organized; how to become zen-like in the organizational system, how good it was if I were, ways to manage and/or accomplish it, even tutorials on how to write things down. I read books and magazine articles, and even little blurbs on daytime TV shows. When I went to Staples for supplies, I’d lovingly fondle the organizational tools in the aisles – the calendars, the whiteboards, the books – and dream of a day when I would dance happily through a field of organizational bliss in the sunshine, like some kind of geek-centered Estée Lauder perfume ad.
All of this information seemed to have one thing in common: it assumed you had a “perfect world” that you lived in, but just couldn’t see it. It was there, all you had to do was open your eyes, assert the Force within you, and do what you needed to do. (For example, one of my favorites is “If you work at home, get an office with a door, and train your family so when the door is shut, you’re left alone.” Obviously, that much-touted tidbit is spewed by people who don’t work at home while caring for very young children at the same time. My bet is that it was originally written by one of those 20-something developers who eat like a college student and invent stuff like WordPress or Facebook. )
So when I read all of this stuff, I couldn’t help but feel like I would never, never get out of this hole. There was soooo much stuff I needed to do just to get organized enough so I could do normal day-to-day stuff. Then there was all the day-to-day stuff that couldn’t get done because the root of the issue was such a mess. So all I was left with was constantly wishing I could somehow take a few minutes – somewhere – and pull off something that would help – maybe chip away at it bit-by-bit while I was putting out fires for the rest of my life.
But the issue with that scenario is that you can’t live in the house while trying to rebuild the foundation. It just doesn’t work.
So here’s what I did about it.
Understand – and accept – that it’s not gonna happen.
Ha! That was a teaser of a header, wasn’t it? You’re all a like “WTF?” That makes me giggle.
What I mean is, you will never attain that zen-like Estée Lauder ad. Life isn’t a commercial. (Even if you weren’t trying to get organized, you should accept the fact that unless you’re Angelina Jolie, you’re not getting Brad Pitt. Or vice versa.) What those commercials and books and tutorials tell you is that some semblance of it is possible. You won’t get exactly what is promised (or even said) – the “perfect world” scenario is a wish. And like all wishes, they won’t even come close to becoming true unless you start doing something to make it happen.
The good thing about the “perfect world” scenario is that it’s the best example of what could happen. But you need to accept that it’ll never be perfect – nothing ever is, no matter how much you want it to be.
But it can get close. Really close. And that, my dear friends, is what makes it worth it to try.
Understanding Simple Truths.
Now, what I mean by this one is that all of this stuff I read, and tried, and sobbed over – at some point a dim light bulb went off over my head. There’s no way I could do all of this stuff – but all of this stuff seemed to be saying relatively the same thing. What I came away with were these fundamental “simple truths” that had been so elaborated on that these “truths” became lost in the jungle of explanation. When I realized these “truths”, I began to get some of the other stuff – and I started picking apart each thing, piece by piece and just using the bits that I knew I could handle.
For example – from “Getting Things Done,” – now if any of you have read the book and tried the system – Oh. My. God. It’s so daunting. And confusing. They say that once you get into it, it’s a breeze – but you know what? I don’t want to organize how I get organized. I want soemthing quick, simple, and functional. And “FlyLady” is way too simple an idea, with a way too complicated (and overwhelming) a process.
However, both of these (and others) had a few “truths” in common (other than the fact that the whole process of getting organized before you can even start getting organized was a nightmare) – and the ones that really hit home with me were these:
- Make lists. I think GTD said it the best way (and I’m paraphrasing) – you can’t keep all that crap in your head. You forget things too easily, and you just can’t properly prioritize. And if you’ve ever noticed, if you keep things in your head, it seems a LOT worse than it does when it’s out of there.
- You cannot do it all NOW. I know when I have a project that must be done, I feel like I have to start it in the morning, work on it all day, and finish it before I go to bed. It’s crazy, right? But if I go to sleep at night with stuff still to do on a project, I feel like I’m failing everyone. But it doesn’t have to be like that. (No, really, it doesn’t.)
- If you weren’t afraid, what would you be doing? fear plays a lot into our decisions. Like hope, it’s very hard to kill. We always have reasons why we “can’t” do something – and if you really look at these reasons, you’ll find the underlying answer is that we’re afraid to. Fear rears its ugly head in many forms – and it settles in with friends like Distraction and Procrastination.
See? Three Simple Truths. That’s the basis for organization. (Heck, it’s the basis for anything in your life, really.)
This post has gotten to be huge – so I’m going to save the rest for another post. (Please, don’t groan. I swear, I’ll post it tomorrow, not three months from now.) And that one will tell you how I took these truths and applied them to myself – and you can apply them to you, too.
I think every “renewal process” goes through this (at least, I hope so…), where the renewer believes they have it all figured out, and before they even get started, they run into some kind of epiphany, and they get set back to square one.
The thing is, there’s a difference between getting sent back to square one because of a setback, and being sent back because you somehow saw that clear line of vision for what it is you need to do. A setback is something like an obstacle in your way – something you weren’t expecting and just blocks everything, and now you have to plot your way around it, or (more often) turn around and start over. You’re angry and upset, disappointed and frustrated and you seriously consider tossing your hands in the air and saying “Forget it! I’ll do something else.”
But the epiphany thing is awesome. It’s like, suddenly, you see. Wow, I can’t explain it. And it’s not that the obstacle you’ve run into (or are about to run into) suddenly becomes something that wants to destroy your efforts – it’s something that’s just there. And you’re so happy that you’ve figured it out that you just turns around and race back to the beginning, because you’re so eager to start on the thing you’ve just figured out.
Guess where I’m at?
Yeah, I’ve had my setback. But it’s more like a setback with an epiphany. I can’t really explain it right now, but I’m so excited about it that I had to stop what I was doing to tell you about it. Right now, it’s a ton of things in a jumble, and I need to sort them out – but I’m feeling right now like when you’re working on a really hard crossword puzzle, and you stumble on the “cheating solutions” that they hid in the middle of the book. However, the “solutions” in my head aren’t organized by number and placed in order yet. But the answers are there – I see them. I just have to get ‘em sorted a little more before I can share.
Wow – 9 months (?!?) into my sabbatical, and I’ve finally made some hard decisions. I have to say, although I felt a little guilty about taking a sabbatical, I feel like it was a really good decision. As hard-headed as I am, though, it took a while to get some basics sorted. But I will put out there the things I’ve learned about myself (some of which I’ve mentioned before), because – as usual – I hope the rough road I’ve taken helps someone else to avoid it.
I’ll start out by saying my one big mistake – and something I’ve known throughout the past 8 years – is that I jumped into this business headfirst, with no real forethought to what I was doing. I’m “like water” in the way that I don’t make mountains out of molehills, and I’m pretty good at flowing around things that get in my way. But I’m also like water in the way that I meander, and obstacles will push me a little further and further from the direction I want to go in until I’m going somewhere else. Being too flexible is not a good thing. You can lose your way.
I got yelled at a lot by my family (yes, even my extended family, if you can believe that. Ever been yelled at on Facebook?), because they didn’t see my sabbatical as “real.” Even a couple of you colleagues have mentioned my lax definition of the word “sabbatical” (I can recall someone on Twitter saying a couple of weeks ago that I was “the worst sabbatical-taker EVER”). Yes, I did work. But my working was reserved for only 2 or 3 clients who I just could not leave hanging. However, it turns out that cutting back to these three single clients really gave me some great perspective.
But the big catalyst in my decision-making process was my younger sister. She exclaimed utter surprise and shock when I disclosed to her that my family could not live off the salary I make at this job. (That might be a shock to some of you, as well.) I made more money when I was 18 years old and worked full time as a door-whore at the Olive Garden for minimum wage (let me age myself for you) which, at the time, was $3.15 an hour. I admire and respect my sister more than she will ever know, because she does pay a mortgage and groceries and has two kids in high school, all by running her own business herself, with no help from anyone. She amazes me every day. (I want to be like her when I grow up.)
Yes, people, I do my job out of love. I know I’ve exclaimed this fact to you all several times, but perhaps knowing that little fact above will let you in on exactly how much I mean by it. I am very lucky in the fact that my job is not what we rely on, and that I’m able to do what I do because I’m supported by my family nine ways to Sunday. (And yes, I know that many people think that this puts me in the group of “privileged housewives who want to feel like they’re doing something” – but placing me in that box, like the many others I’ve been placed in – would make you wrong.)
That all being said, this “time off” has given me insight in my flaws, as well as my good points, and has given me the point to which I can set my path clearly. I now have goals. For the record, take my advice on this: if you want to start your own business – ANY business – be sure you’ve followed what everyone else has told you before you came here: have goals. Take it from me, I know.
My goals are this:
1) because my passion for doing what I do is leaps and bounds above my passion for the almighty dollar, I will continue on the path of love. (OMG, I sound like a hippie. Oh well.) I will continue to expand my horizons, try new things, add to my skillset, and talk about what I’ve done. My first goal is to learn. I’m a sponge. Fill me with code and design.
2) To what end, you ask? What is the purpose of said sponginess? To share. I am…scattered when it comes to posting on my site. It is my second goal to post about something I have learned on this site at least once a week.
3) I will be limiting my project intake. This one is very hard for me to do. I’m a “yes man,” not in the fact that I agree with everything someone says, but in the fact that I find it very difficult to say “no” when someone needs something – even if I am overbooked and completely stressed out about the fact that there are only 24 hours in a day when there should be 40. So when I return to take projects on once more, I will commit to only one major project at a time, and 4 small ones, tops – and these projects WILL include my own. I will no longer push myself aside. A schedule will have to be started to keep track of this. (Oh God. Organization.)
So, truly, my huge goal is my brain, and my readers. I get full enjoyment out of learning new things, and helping people. With these goals in mind, I will be sublimely happy because they will be my ultimate goals. And there’s nothing wrong with making a little bit of cash on the side. But I like the idea that no matter what I put on this site, it will always be in the spirit of furthering the lives of the people around me, and not based on how I can make my next dollar. I’m a firm believer that you get what you need when you need it… and as cheesy as it sounds, all I need is love
I know what I have to work on to make these goals a reality. I also know it will not be easy, and I will have to take step to baby-step my way into making some of these things a habit. Which is one thing that this sabbatical has already started to do for me – because even though I’m still working (and doing things I shouldn’t, and not doing some things I should), I’ve had the opportunity to use it as an excuse to give myself a spine – and I don’t think I can give it up anymore.
As a counter-balance to yesterday’s post, I’m offering up 7 reasons you should keep going at it, and truck ahead. If you were all gung-ho about my post yesterday, I apologize, because I’m laying out the reasons (some of which I’m currently pondering) why you should stay and tough it out!
1. Avoid the knee-jerk reaction.
Sometimes, the idea of quitting is brought on by some recent event – something stressful happened with a client or co-worker, and you just want to explode and tell them to shove it. Or, perhaps it’s the old “times are changing” thing, and you feel you’re out of the loop, or, unable to keep up, or maybe the market isn’t flexible enough to handle your load. Instead of tossing your hands in the air and giving up – try to think of ways you can make it work. perhaps you can schedule some time for yourself to head out to the library or local coffee shop (with your laptop) and get some peace and quiet away from home to read up on sites that have to do with your business, and how they are progressing. Take a breather, and discover ways you can improve yourself and your skillset.
When it comes to a client, what helps me (and this is just me) is to write an email telling them exactly what I think. I lay it all out there, and vent as if I want to let them know xactly how I feel and what i want to say. it’s very liberating, and it feels good to get it all out like that. BUT, I do two things: 1) save it as a draft and 2) never put the client’s email address in the “to:” field (you don’t want to accidentally send it!) I’ll sleep on it for a day or two, and after I’ve calmed down and cleared my head, I’ll open it back up and rewrite it in a more professional manner, leaving out the anger and emotions, and finding a gentle way to put my words.
Now again, this isn’t a solution for the general “should I quit” thing… but if you find you’re wanting to leave simply because someone get under your skin, take a breather. Don’t do something you’ll regret.
2. You love what you do.
This is the one I’m struggling with the most. I adore my job. I love it. I cannot express in words how much I LOVE MY FREAKING JOB. Seriously. If I quit my job, I do not know what I would do with myself. Of course, the reason I’m considering it is because I do have other things I want (and in some cases need) to do, but when I am not working, I am yearning ot be here working, or learning stuff for work, or writing about work. My husband says this is because I’m a workaholic. But I know it’s because I love my job. I love what it gives me. Even if I wasn’t paid a cent for anything I do, I would still do it.
3. Your job satisfies you.
I don’t mean “satisfaction” in the way that it’s okay, or it’ll do for now (which is pretty much how my husband views his job – he’s doesn’t exactly like it, but he doesn’t dislike it either). I mean the type of satisfaction that makes you feel like it’s meeting your needs, it’s fulfilling, and you look forward to doing it. Even on the days where all you have is boring office paperwork to slog through, you still wouldn’t have it any other way. This does, in a way, reflect #2 up there, but loving what you do, and having it satisfy your needs is not the same thing – but when oyu have them together, it’s hard to deny them.
4. You are happy.
Again, this ties in to #2 and #3 above, but it’s doesn’t necessarily go hand-in-hand with them. This is another one I’m currently debating on. I am lucky in the fact that I have #2 and #3 going for me, but I’m waning on this one. But the cause of my “unhappiness” (however slight it may be) is not because of the job itself, it’s the time I put into it, and the major sacrifices I’ve been making. My job does make me very happy. But right now, I’m not quite sure that it’s worth the other happiness-es I’m giving up. (If that makes sense.) But if you are happy where you are – well if you’re happy where you are, you wouldn’t need this list! LOL – then perhaps something else is lacking that you could work on to boost the joy.
5. The money.
Now, some people do believe that money makes the world go ’round, but I don’t. There’s a gazillion ways to make money, but finding real happiness is hard. BUT, money does have an effect on your happiness. It’s hard to gauge the relationship there – many people feel if they have a lot of money, they are happy because they don’t have to worry – but on the other end, if you have too much money, it becomes worrisome on what to do with it, or how to handle it properly. If you’re on that nice balance, then you don’t have to worry about it.
I wanted to write 7 points, just to be fair, but I couldn’t think of two more! All I know is, if you’re like me and you’re actually considering quitting, the above points do need to be taken into consideration as well. Leaving something you love, and satisfies you, can be a really regrettable move for the future. You’d better have a damn good reason for doing it. If you want to quit just because it’s too hard, or more work than you though, then you need to decide if that’s truly the case. Can you end that with “right now”? If it’s too hard “right now,” and you quit now, how will that affect the “later”? Is it worth it?
This is where I’m at, actually. But after writing this post, I’m just thinking I just need a vacation!
I will admit, for a couple of months now, this sabbatical has made me think that the best thing for me right now is to give it up. It’s something I haven’t wanted to mention for fear of upsetting a few people, but I think it’s time I do. (And I tell ya, it’s such a relief to let that out in the open, as well.)
I hate the very thought of “quitting.” I’m not the “quitting type.” I’m struggling with a few things in making this decision, and part of it is the irrational line of thought that once you commit to something, you don’t quit until it’s over. But when you run your own business, you have to sometimes wonder, is it over? Or is this just a rut? A bump in the road?
Do I just need a vacation?
I have not decided, however, if this is the path I wish to take. But upon investigating my options, in hopes of making my decision, I’ve found some invaluable truths. Maybe they will help you.
If you are becoming so stressed out that you are becoming emotional, that’s a warning sign. This job has given me some emotional ups-and-downs, but I think every job has that effect on you. But, I do recall once, I had a job that I had to go to every day, and I would wake up in the morning and break down in tears because I had to go there. Not many people out there in cyberspace know me as well as my family, and any one of my family members will tell you I view tears in much the same manner as I view (to put it nicely) “upchucking.” It’s not something I do – not unless I have no other choice. If it ever comes to a point where you are an emotional wreck, then yeah, it’s time to seek something else out.
2. Time isn’t on your side.
When the time in your life has become completely unmanageable, it’s probably time to stop. Sure, you can reorganize and restructure, but even then it’s hard to stick with a schedule (especially in a job where you run the whole shebang) – you end up putting things on hold for “emergencies” and next thing you know, it’s cutting into your home life – even your sleep time. And if you find yourself giving clients your hotel room phone number while on vacation “for emergencies only,” it might be time to reassess things. granted – any time you run your own business, you have to be willing to give up free time, or sacrifice some of your personal life to make it succeed – but when it overwhelms you and eats every single moment of your life, something ain’t right.
3. Time doesn’t fly.
You know the saying, “time flies when you’re having fun,” but it also flies when you are kept busy, and your skills are applied. You feel useful. But if you’re twiddling your thumbs, and trying to figure out ways to make it a short day at 9am, then it’s time to find another place that utilizes your skillset and makes you feel useful. Making you like what you do is a big plus, in my book. Boredom = just another job.
If you’ve become an “expert” or “the go-to guy” at a select group of tasks… well it’s not always a good thing. Think of actors who suddenly are always in action films, or the lead sappy-heart romance film, and never do anything else. I’m not saying you need to know everything about everything, but when you get pigeonholed into only doing certain things, then you aren’t given the chance to spread your wings, or to branch out and learn something new. learning new things keeps people busy, keeps them interested, keeps them alert and inspired. It helps to get fresh perspectives, and aids in keeping you “up on things.” if you can’t do that for one reason or another, then you need to be doing something where you can.
5. You feel invisible.
This is actually one I’m dealing with right now, on a certain level – but my experience with this one doesn’t necessarily reflect everyone’s experience. I do a lot more subcontracting than I do on my own. Quite frankly, I love it. (I’ve said that before, and I’ll probably keep saying it!) But a subcontractor is an “invisible man,” because they can’t claim what they do, more often than not. I try to share the things I do in the form of tutorials that solve some of my issues, but it would be really awesome if I could put some of the work I’ve done in my portfolio (my current portfolio is in desperate need of an update – but I have nothing I can show, even though I’ve done TONS of work over the last couple of years.) Because I have nothing to show for what I’ve done, I’m often considered a “wannabe,” and a lot of people aren’t aware of the things I can pull off. I’ve been called by several people I sub for their “best kept secret.” It’s flattering (and does make me feel appreciated, indeed!), but sometimes, I don’t wanna be a secret!
Now, this doesn’t necessarily have to fit your scenario – it could just be that you do tons of work, while your office partner files her nails or something, and she’s just a better “face for the media” or something and gets all the glory. Either way, appreciation, respect and being able to tout your skills are actually very nice to have. If you’re not appreciated, you start to wonder why you’re there at all, and why you’re even trying.
6. Lack of communication.
And yes, even too much communication can fall under this. If too may people are “communicating”, things get really messed up. A lot of hot air blowing around, and nothing gets done. Communication issues – either with clients or co-workers – can really contribute to stress levels, misunderstandings, and eventually end up reflecting badly on how you work – especially if you run your own business. Granted, you can restructure your efforts (if you run the business) and set rules for how communication is handled, but like #2 up there, all the scheduling and rule-setting you put in place won’t work if you don’t stick to it – and sometimes you just can’t.
7. Your gut.
Chances are, if you think you should quit, you should quit. One thing I’ve noticed during my years in this business is the “red flag” thing. If something happens with a client, and you see a little red flag waving in your head, you should never, ever, ever try and talk yourself into thinking it means nothing – because you always discover later you were right in the first place. This “red flag” is nothing more than instinct. Humans are pretty much the only species who will talk themselves into thinking their instincts are wrong. When a deer feels sure a hunter is getting ready to take a shot at her, she doesn’t tell herself she’s nuts – she runs, and 9 times out of 10, she’s right. So listen to your gut.
Now, again, I want to make it clear that I have not decided my choice of action yet. But these points – even though I don’t fall 100% into them – are good indicators that it’s time. Many of these I’ve been thinking heavily on, and I do have some counter-points (for myself, anyway) to them. But hopefully this list can help solidify some things you’ve been thinking on, and gives you some perspective.
Here it is, June 6th, and I’m roughly halfway through my sabbatical – and quite disappointed in my progress thus far. I have managed to fall back into the old habits that I’ve been trying to change, and I have not yet successfully managed to complete any of the goals I set for myself.
Wow, I didn’t realize how hard it would be to admit that.
I have allowed things to get in my way. One of the things that’s bad about me is my level of focus. It’s not that I have a bad focus when it comes to my work and clients – not that at all. (I have a sincerely disgusting work ethic.) It’s that I always let my needs (and those of my business) to fall by the wayside. I focus too intently on what I’m doing for others, and I don’t focus on myself.
It’s sort of like that thing that they say, about taking care of yourself first? Because if you don’t, you won’t be around to take care of anyone else? Like that. This is the major point about me, and the big one I really wanted to change this year. I love helping other people. I love to solve problems. I will lose sleep for someone else’s issue – and the big downside is that I do take failure personally. I tend to make other people’s problem mine to solve.
Six months into this sabbatical, I haven’t changed this behavior. I’m supposed to be taking time off and focusing on me, and my business – not for selfish reasons, but instead to make me stronger so I can continue helping others – and instead I’m still putting out fires. Like I did last year, and the year before, and the year before. My focus has shifted – yet again- to the needs of others, and placing them before mine.
And I feel so disappointed in myself for it.
I cannot figure out why I see other colleagues of mine, others who are less talented and passionate than I (yes, I do know I’m not a complete loser, and I am self-aware of my own abilities and that I do have some good points to my work aside form my ethic) soar higher than I do. No, I should not focus on how well they are doing – save to congratulate them and wish them well, which I do – and compare myself to them. But their successes are bittersweet, because I know if I’d put half as much focus on myself as they did, then I would shoot right by them and they’d be eating my dust. I’m so happy for them, but I really wish I could do half as well for myself.
As my husband says, wish in one hand…
This is a lot harder than I thought it would be. I know my obstacles, yet I feel like all I can do is stand there and look at them, and help push other people over them, because I feel guilty if I don’t. And what is really upsetting is that more than half the people I help don’t even bother to help me back, or even thank me for the assistance I give. I feel like that lonely girl in the high school halls who will do anything to make the popular kids like her, and even when they abuse her, all she wants is their respect and admiration – so she keeps getting pissed on in hopes one day they will realize her value. It’s kind of pathetic. And sad. (And amazingly, a lot like my high school daughter – wow, what a perspective!)
So that’s where I’m at – six months in. Just as lost as ever. So what do I do about it? Let’s try and turn this into a positive thing. I know what my problem is – and knowing the enemy is halfway to winning the battle against it. What I need is a strategy. I overthink. I look at all the possible actions I can take, and get frozen by which is the right one to choose. So I need to choose. I need to stop wavering, make a choice, and follow that choice unwaveringly. I need to stop deviating from my path, stop worrying about things that are not on this path.
Sounds good, doesn’t it? Yeah, it does. Now I
need to see if I can must do it!
Will Smith is one of my favorite actors.
When I was in high school, he was the “funny guy” in Fresh Prince and had some rap songs out. (I’ve never much been a fan of rap music, but at least his were amusing.) Back then, he was just another young guy who was funny, dabbled in music, etc. And then he just disappeared like so many of them do.
But when he “came back”, he did so with a vengeance. When I’d heard he’d lost everything, and didn’t give up – instead he saw it as an opportunity to start with a clean slate and apply those hard lessons – a little seed of respect began to grow for him. One of my favorite movies of his is “The Pursuit of Happyness” – and even though the movie isn’t about him, I am aware that a lot of who he portrayed is how he thinks and acts.
I’m not the kind of girl who generally fawns over actors and celebrities. Personally, I don’t really much care about what they do, and I never quite understood what the big deal is with needing to know what they do every day. To me, they’re just people doing their job. Like anyone who has a job, some do it better than others, some are lazy, some are lucky (probably due to some brown-nosing or something), and some make mistakes.
But Will Smith continues to fill that seemingly unattainable… thing that many people would like to have, and his celebrity status isn’t what makes him the way he is – I think he’d be this way even if he weren’t famous. Which I really like.
No, this isn’t just some diatribe on my fan-love of the guy. There is a point.
This morning, I was directed to this video. It’s long, but worth every minute. I have to say that
nearly everything he says in the video is just a very powerful and real message that I agree with, and in some cases (okay, ALL cases), would like to live by.
When I grow up, I want to be Will Smith.
This video brings about some terrific points about success – not only in your business, but in your life. I saw a lot of my own beliefs, ethics and attitudes in his words (which you might see some of in a post I wrote back in March, as well as in a lot of the comments left on that post), and it gives me a little bit of hope that maybe I am moving in the right direction… that maybe these “walls” I keep running into are just an illusion.
This video was the boost I needed, since recently I’ve found myself slipping back into the old groove I’ve been trying to get out of. Maybe I’m not the only one – and some of you might get something out of this as well. But for me, I think I’ll be playing this for myself every time I start to feel like “I can’t” so I will change it to “I can.”
My husband has a master’s in Business, and he’s the marketing manager at work. And yet, he’s never really helped me with my business. Ouch, that sounds harsh! What I mean is, he’s very supportive of me and my business. But when I fire marketing or business-running related questions at him, he sort of shrugs it off, saying he’s not sure how to answer it. (I think it’s because he’s in electrical components, not web design – whereas to me, a business is a business until you get to the details.)
Last night, we had another evening where I asked him a business-related question again, and the conversation – again – rolled off the edge of a cliff abruptly and just stopped. But five minutes later, he piped up and said “Where do you see your business at in five years?”
I hate this question.
I understand the point of asking it, but I hate it anyway. Which I did say to him by replaying, “I hate that question. Because where I actually see myself in five years is not where I’d like my business to be in five years.”
It was like a light bulb popped off over my head. (Yeah, sometimes, it’s just not there. I’m one of those people who gets the joke 10 minutes after it’s told and everyone walks away.) Sometimes, I guess, it’s just all about how you word something to make it “click.”
So when we changed the arrangement of this run-of-the-mill question (that gets asked eleventy gabazillon times to business owners all over the world) not only did I understand the point of the question, but I could finally do something with it too.
Now, for those of you who have lived in a cave for the last bajillion years, let me ‘splain. The purpose of this question – be it for an interview or whatever – is to see what your goals are. In an interview situation, it’s to tell the person who’s hiring that you are either a “go-getter” with vision and goals that helps move the company forward with innovation, or if you’re just a worker bee. (Or not worth hiring. Which is a third alternative, I guess.) In the scenario of running your own business, it’s basically a step so you can start making things happen for yourself. If you can answer the question, then you have goals to attain, and you have a fairly clear path on how to attain them.
Which is why I always hated the original wording. My issue is that I’m not exactly sure what my goals are. (Oh, snap! That’s bad, yes, I know!) The original wording always made me feel… deflated. Because where I saw myself in 5 years is exactly where I am now – which is not where I want to be.
The “Wish List” is a list of 100 Things that I want to have happen in my life – and it’s extremely detailed. It really is a wish list, because it’s things that are even absolutely crazy and will most likely never happen, but would be rockin’ if they did. The idea is that you write everything down and put it in an envelope. It sort of “commits” these wishes to the back of your mind. Then in 5 years, you pull out the envelope and see how many of them you actually made come true. It’s a silly, but very fun, experiment.
So after rewording to where I do want to be, suddenly things started falling into place. I started looking at it like I did the “wish list” I have for my life – except in this case, it wouldn’t be tucked away somewhere to see if it happens or not. Instead, it would become the basis of my mission statement for my business.
I cannot think of 100 things I’d like to have had happen in five years’ time. But what I did come up with was this (and yes, I know some of them sound incredibly insane – but that’s the fun of it. It’s like “What would you do if you won the lottery?” The fun is in the imagining.)
- To be incredibly organized, which will lend to my efficiency.
- To obtain an actual degree in graphic design.
- To become proficient in jQuery, CSS3 and HTML 5
- To become better at PHP
- To appear – somewhere – in Web Designer magazine – and preferably not in an article that’s along the lines of “Worst Designers Ever”
- To be seen (and acknowledged) as an expert in WordPress – but not by others so much as myself
- This one is really specific: I want 3 or 4 “partners” (most likely people who have their own business) that know things that I don’t, and can work with me for the benefit of all of us, and the client. I don’t necessarily want a business partner – but more a small group of select pros that can work with me when I need them, and when they need me.
- To actually have office space that’s big enough to hold several people.
- To actually make enough money at this so if we had to live for a year off my income (rather than my husband’s) we’d be fine.
- To teach people who are just coming out of high school or college and want some real experience in this – either by instructing a class or having an intern – or just by having better content on my site!
- To be a better writer.
- To have more clients in the food industry.
Some of these are far-reaching. I can see quite a few up there that I would have no idea in how to accomplish them, but this is a wish list, and just by posing the question in a different way, it gave me a clear direction of where I would like to be. Now I don’t feel so much like I’m trying to find my way to the end of the road without actually knowing where it’s going.
It’s amazing what rewording a simple question can do. (makes me feel a little dumb for not having thought of it before, but better late than never I guess!) Have you had any “light bulb” moments like this? Where a simple change made all the difference in what you’ve done (or are doing)? How did it work out for you?