Do you often find yourself feeling stuck in your business? Overwhelmed by a never ending “to do” list? Paralysed by the damning voices in your head? Hung up on things that don’t really matter? You’re in good company. Almost every entrepreneur and scrappy start-up under the sun has spent far more hours than they’d care to admit banging their head against a desk in frustration. It hurts. I’ve been there.
I bet you got into this gig having been advised to focus on the sensible stuff in order to succeed: visioning, delegation, systems, leadership, planning, KPIs, and more. All of these things are, of course, worthy of your attention and investment (even the more snooze-worthy items on the list!), but there inevitably comes a time when every entrepreneur realises that there’s something else in the way. Something you can’t quite put your finger on. Something preventing you from achieving the balanced, beautiful business and life that you’ve been yearning after for so long.
Here is the unfortunate truth: your greatest stumbling blocks and limitations aren’t physical, tangible things – they’re inside you. Sure, some of that sensible stuff, like more money, would be handy in helping your business grow, but there are much more potent needle movers that you can access right now by facing up to some ugly inner demons. In fact, my three surprisingly simple secrets to success are all things that you have complete control over, meaning you can start working on them TODAY. So, let’s have at it.
1. Time is your most valuable asset
You’re not alone if you’ve been ploughing ahead thinking that your staff, customers, intellectual property, stock or equipment are the most valuable assets you have. You’ve worked hard to obtain all of these things. And great job, by the way. It’s not easy.
However, time is the only asset that is truly limited. You can never get more time – no matter how much you try to beg, borrow, hire, buy or steal. You can never lose time and get it back again – unlike your health, money, a disgruntled customer or even an ex-girlfriend!
Your time – spent fully focused on the stuff that really matters – is an asset almost as rare as rocking horse droppings. It is also a brilliant equaliser. Think of it this way: you have as many hours in a day as Richard Branson or Beyoncé.
In order to succeed in building a beautiful business and life, you must learn to become greedy with your time, guard yourself from those who try to steal it, and ask yourself straight-talking questions:
Make these questions a daily habit and you’ll find endless satisfaction in finishing each day having (almost) always completed the tasks that matter most. Remember, you will always have a “to do” list longer than your arm. You will always have more demands on your time than you can physically fit into the day. Just use your time wisely and I promise you won’t need superhuman powers to find your own version of success.
P.S. Done is better than perfect, so don’t let those inner demons stop you in your tracks. More on that later.
2. It’s Okay to Say No
Starting today, “no” is officially the most important word in your vocabulary. In fact, I believe there is no more important skill for a business owner to learn than the art of saying “no”. Of course, as entrepreneurs trying to make a good living, we are hardwired to chase opportunities and say “yes” until we’re blue in the face. However, if you want to maximise your most valuable asset (time), keep your eyes on the prize and maintain your sanity while standing out from the increasingly competitive crowd – you’re going to need to practice shaking your head. Unless you’re being offered a coffee, in which case, ALWAYS say “yes – a double shot, please”.
Every marketing guru worth their salt teaches about businesses needing a solid unique selling point (USP). That’s why it pays to know your strengths and play to them by turning other opportunities down. After all, “a jack of all trades is the master of none”. Focus on your fortes and you’ll not only reap the rewards of presenting a highly differentiated brand, but also find satisfaction in building a business that you truly love rather than short-changing your priorities at the requests of others.
Fancy some homework to make this whole thing less painful? Practice saying “no” in front of the mirror and then make a pact with yourself to say it for real at least once this week – or better yet, today! Remember, “no” does not have to be negative. See it as something that protects you and those that matter to you most. See it as something that allows you to say “yes” to the things that feel good and finally live life on your terms – a key reason you started your business, right?
3. Be Kind to Yourself
I’m going to go ahead and say something that might be hard to swallow: You are participating in sabotaging your own success.
Well, not you exactly, but that critical little voice in your head.
Don’t worry, it’s not a personal weakness. That negative voice inhabits the minds of every single one of us. Unless you’re a psychopath, in which case, you’re likely only reading this to laugh at most people’s unfathomable humanness.
It’s natural to occasionally let our worries, anxieties and irrational feelings of guilt get the best of us. However, as business owners, we are notoriously hard on ourselves. We seem to have the loudest inner critics of them all. In fact, I often jokingly say that small business owners are the most guilt-ridden people on the planet because I constantly hear these kinds of statements in my coaching practice:
“I keep getting lost down rabbit holes and procrastinating instead of working! I’m so lazy!”
“My time management SUCKS! I’ll never be good enough to succeed.”
“I’m so disorganised and forgetful! Why can’t I stay on top of things?”
This is where our inner demons come out to play – and they can be savage. They’ll knock you off course and have you too scared to get back up again if you let them. That’s why this is the most significant point that I’m sharing with you today:
Be kind to yourself.
Yes, it might sound soft and squishy in comparison to the usual hard-ass business advice you might read about #PlayingToWin, but I know from experience that being kind to yourself is not just the most powerful antidote to self-sabotage, but your fastest path back to JOY. And what else are you really doing this for?
I believe that being kind to yourself is not only the most effective way out of feeling stuck or overwhelmed in your business and your life – it’s the only way. No matter how cute and cuddly it sounds, treating yourself with kindness is truly the most crucial and hard-hitting work of all.
When we repeatedly berate ourselves for messing up (AKA being human), we deplete the fuel in our tank and our productivity goes the same way – it tanks. Our inner nit-picker, designed to keep us safe and help us recognise where we’ve gone wrong, leads us away from resolution and down the path of self-destruction.
So, how do you break out of the “blame game” and start showing yourself more compassion?
The good news is that you are completely capable of dialling down the negative voice and freeing yourself of imposter syndrome (feeling inadequate despite your success). Our brains are surprisingly malleable, and it IS possible to break the habit of a lifetime.
Start by developing an awareness of your thoughts (because it turns out all that “mindfulness” stuff really works!) and stop ruminating over the rubbish that’s playing on repeat. Be inquisitive about where the self-doubt could be coming from and then examine the evidence rather than your critic’s outlandish judgements and anxiety-fuelled, catastrophic predictions. Learn to accept your flaws as they are right now while knowing that you can always look to improve them. After all, you and I are both a work in progress, and wouldn’t life be dull if that wasn’t true?
It’s time to get out of your own way in the most enjoyable way possible: stop, give yourself a break and smell the roses. Look at what you’ve already achieved and buy yourself a celebratory beer, or five. Tell that little voice in your head to take a well-earned vacay because you’ve got this, and you CAN make it happen.
So, if you’re fed up of feeling overwhelmed, frustrated or stuck and you want to build the beautiful business and life you deserve, it’s time to learn to:
Make success an inside job. Trust me, it works.
Roland Hanekroot is the founder & director of New Perspectives Business Coaching, www.newperspectives.com.au.