Over the last few months, I’ve had a slow time in my business. Rather than think of this as a shortage of income, I’ve seen this as a rare opportunity–a surplus of time. I’ve been investing this precious time in projects that normally never make the jump from my “good idea” list to the “to-do” list. It’s been an amazing time, a productive time, and one that has changed the way I look at, well, everything.
It’s been so nice to be able to block out an afternoon to just think about things. To set aside a portion of a day without interruptions where I can focus on one thing and see it through to the end. Normally, I’m in the midst of producing deliverables for one set of client deadlines while I’m preparing for the next wave of deadlines about to hit. The goals for my business have been related to the work at hand: to produce quality products while reducing costs when possible, and to work as efficiently as possible.
With a little time, I’ve been able to take a step back from the daily business activities to ask myself bigger questions. Like what do I want to do now, which services do I want to promote going forward, and how do I want to leverage my current business to create the business I really want to run. It’s been a huge exercise is breaking out of the box of current thinking, to dream big dreams, and to set new expectations for the future.
I don’t want to make this sound like it was a simple process, that I simply blocked out an afternoon and suddenly had a new vision and goals for my business. Oh no. It’s been a process of looking back at history, sorting through the parts I have loved, identifying the parts that have taught me the most, and piecing together the lessons learned. It’s been a real process of discovery that continues today. But through this process, I’m considering new things: new services, new directions, new types of clients, new products to produce. Each baby step in a new direction gives me a new vision of the future, and I’m loving the process of seeing a new future for my business.
I have been self-employed for 15 years. During that time, I’ve been a pretty good employer to myself. I’ve constantly improved my own working conditions, and found myself more and more interesting work to engage me and develop my skills. But with some time to reflect, to look back on my history, I can see some glaring gaps.
For me, the perpetual challenge has been to find the work/life balance. Like most self-employed people, I seem to always be working. I’m not sure if working from home makes it better (no time spent in commutes) or worse (no barriers to working all hours). I mean, I’m writing this blog post at 3 am because I woke up in the middle of the night! Work is the first thing on my mind almost every hour I’m awake.
As I’m thinking about my priorities, I realize that I’m grateful that I love my work and I know it needs a high priority in my life. However, I’m ready to make a radical change in how to manage my daily living. I’m ready to set new priorities for my personal life so work isn’t taking up so much of my time and energy. I’m eager to embrace new priorities that give me more time to explore the world around me, to enjoy my friends, and to bring more people into my life.
In the last 18 months, I’ve been volunteering on various community projects including Ignite Phoenix. I’ve been speaking at conferences and to community groups. I’ve spent time developing personal projects, things that are for me and my business instead of just doing client projects. It’s been invigorating to try new things, to learn new skills, and be a beginner in new disciplines. It has brought a spark back to my life that I hadn’t realized was missing.
Now, I want to make these non-client projects a permanent part of my weekly life. I have created a new way to keep track of things I want to try, and I want to have a block of time each week where I can work on them without any pressure from other projects on my plate.
I’ve also decided to drop a few projects from my life. There have been things I’ve taken on because I felt obligated, or because no one else had the skills to take them on, or because I had failed to say “no” when I was asked.
This has been a rich year for me to explore issues related to work and personal relationships. Some of you reading this, people who know me well, probably snorted at that last sentence because it was understated. I’ve had the grand opportunity to meet and engage with people who have pushed buttons that I didn’t know I had, people who have challenged me to the core to really put into practice the things I believe, and to take some big steps in how I manage myself and how I set boundaries with others.
It’s funny, because the outcome of this education process, this trial and error learning, has been unexpected. In some ways, I’ve learned to really be more open and more accepting of the differences in people. I’ve really grown in my ability to embrace diversity in the people around me. At the same time, I’m more clear than ever about the qualities I look for in the people who I choose to have in my life in my inner circles. So while my outer circles are expanding, my inner circles are tougher to join.
The greatest thing I’ve learned from this is how to keep my heart open even wider and keep it open with people who I had trouble embracing in the past. This has been the most gratifying part of my recent journey, because that is exactly the kind of person I want to be. And I see real growth towards that goal. It makes me feel grateful every single day for being a person who wants to have an open heart, and for choosing to experience my life in a way that teaches me how to open it even further. Everyone in my life helps me learn this lesson, which also makes me grateful for each one of you.
Rethinking My Business
As I process each of these things I’m learning, it is sending me off in a new direction. I’m definitely in the midst of a course correction. I am facing a different direction than I was a year ago, I’m thinking new thoughts, and I’m pondering new dreams. I have some ideas for how this is changing my business, but I won’t know the real impact until I have more time to travel down these new roads for a while.
In the meantime, I look at my website and I realize it doesn’t reflect where I am and where I’m headed, but I’m not sure how to bring it into focus. I look through my blog posts, and I don’t know yet how to articulate the changes I am making and what they mean for my business. But I’m patient. I know that with some time, with some new thoughts, with a handful of new projects, the vision for my business will unfold. Everything happens in its own time. I’ve been so amazed by the journey so far. I trust that when the future starts to become clear, I’ll be so happy that I’ve invested my time this way.
So, what are you doing to rethink your own life?