As a business consultant for solopreneurs and small biz owners for about three years now, many common themes tend to pop up. But a big one is this: we all tend to feel like we have an endless list of to-do’s and never enough time to complete them. If that’s not annoying and stressful enough, what’s worse is that when we do take time off to enjoy holidays or vacation, that darn to-do list sits in the back of our minds the whole time, impatiently waiting to be done.
It doesn’t take long for the “freedom” that we used to associate with entrepreneurship to seem like a joke, because we feel like slaves to our own businesses. If you are reading this, nodding along, and getting even more stressed about your to-do list, take a deep breath, look away from that to-do list, and keep reading.
I’ve compiled a list of lies that I’ve heard many entrepreneurs tell themselves that actually lead to more stress. The good news is, because these are lies we make up, we have the ability to shift and change our mindset, and impact those stress levels -- for the better.
Lie #1 - “I need to do x,y,z now or else…”
There was a time when my business was slow. While I wasn’t happy with my income, I did seem to be very “on top of” my emails and all client requests. I didn’t have too many tasks to juggle, so I didn’t have to create systems to help me manage priorities. But when business picked up, I very quickly began to have a difficult time staying “on top” of everything.
The truth that will set you free: Not everything is urgent.
My system for getting stuff done had simply been to do as much as I could, as quick as I could. While this might seem okay, the reality was that once business picked up, there was no way to do everything, right away.
I had made the false assumption (and pretty much all my clients start out making this too), that I needed to “do all the things” and I needed to “do them now” or else my clients would be angry or my business would fall apart.
In reality, I needed to establish priorities, then create systems to manage these priorities.
Most often, clients simply need to know that they have been heard and understood, and that you are working on whatever it is they have paid you for…it isn’t that they expect you to do it NOW.
Once I realized that, I could more accurately prioritize tasks, and set up a process to manage them. Today, I personally use Todoist to help me manage this flow of communication and tasks. When I get emails with stuff I need to follow up on, I can read the email, send a one-sentence response letting the recipient know that I’m working on it and giving them a timeframe for completion and then use Todoist to set up the email as a reminder. Voila -- I am automatically reminded on the date of my choosing to complete a task and follow up by email about my completion.
I also use my email signature to help condition my email recipients (my clients) about my typical turnaround time and days for responses. This way, even if it takes me a few days to get to the email, they can see via an autoresponder or my signature that I might not be able to respond immediately.
Lie #2: “I have to be on social media a lot to grow my business.”
Before you throw rotten tomatoes at me and insist that social media is the only way to grow a biz, hear me out. Social media can be a huge distraction (and rabbit hole) that does very little to move you towards your greater goals, ultimately adding unnecessary stress.
That being said, if you have an online business (and even on offline business), you likely do need social media to some extent to grow your business. However, you need to be more strategic about how you use it.
The truth that will set you free: you’re avoiding the work that will really make a difference in your biz.
If you are newer to business and still trying to gain traction, I’m going to recommend that you pick one social media channel and stick to it. Make sure that the channel that you pick is where your audience is! (If you sell retirement plans to 65+ adults, please don’t make Twitter your channel.)
Once you pick that channel, set limits on the time that you spend in there (30-60 minutes a day is my recommendation to most clients). Believe it or not, you can get a ton done in 30 minutes if you are super targeted.
Then, take that time that you were spending on social media and do things that will make a bigger difference in your business. These will look different for everyone -- things like contacting that old client to see if they have referrals, pitching that guest post, answering that application from a potential client. Consult your biz goals and revenue streams, and identify the tasks that will get you closer -- then do them. Eventually you’ll realize that the two hours you used to spend on Facebook or Instagram were fun (and a great distraction), but that they were getting in between you and your big goals.
Lie #3: I don't have time to work on my own business.
If I had a penny for every time I heard this…
The truth that will set you free: your business is a priority.
It’s easier to avoid our own “stuff” and focus on client work or the things that pay the bills at this very moment. But if you don’t set the time aside to think about the bigger picture for yourself and your biz, then don’t be surprised if the flow of clients or revenue suddenly diminishes.
Carve out time each and every week to spend working on your business -- then stick to it. Having a coach, mastermind group, or some other form of accountability is a great way to make sure that you continue to grow your business rather than let it stagnate.
Stop the lies -- and the stress
As we move into the holidays and new year and life gets ever-more chaotic, I recommend that you pick one item from the list above and see if you can apply it immediately to help lower your stress levels (and increase your income!). Let me know how it goes in the comments below.
Want more tips + tactics for maintaining your solopreneur sanity? We've got you covered. Just released: The Solopreneur Sanity Handbook, inspiration and action for finding the intersection of productive and sane to maximize your time working so you can maximize your time living. Ready, set, sanity!
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