Have you ever felt the pressure that success can bring?
I’ve been extremely fortunate in experiencing some significant growth spurts in my business over the time I have been operating Vegan Mainstream. But it’s funny how a little bit (or a lot!) of pressure can encourage the revival of bad habits and decisions. I have noticed with interest how good things can sometimes cause bad things to happen. But only if you let them, right?
Well, I confess, I have let them. I’m thinking of one recent example in particular.
I had a great schedule. I was working out daily. I had created plans for my business for the coming 60 days. My team was working well together and things were flowing. Then it happened: the surge. The phone started ringing non-stop, the emails began pouring in, and a rush of new clients were requesting our services. It was just what I wanted! And don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for all of it…but right in the middle I started to slip.
My office became my cave, I found myself waking up and immediately heading to my office where I would field non-stop meetings, eat meals at my desk and sit in my sweaty workout clothes all day (if I even had time to work out). On a really bad day, I would travel from my bed to my office and back to my bed…this is when working in your pajamas is a warning sign, not a perk.
I was drowning in a never-ending list of to-dos. My husband asked what was wrong. I couldn’t respond because I wasn’t sure. I was delighted with the influx of work and the new clients, but I knew things weren’t right. So I spent some time trying to get to the root of the problem and I thought I would share a couple of my “ah-ha!” moments with you today.
When Something You Are Good At Hurts You
I’m normally pretty good at setting boundaries; however, when this unusually large surge of inquiries hit, things started to unravel and I found myself being crushed under the weight of my abilities. If you’ve ever heard me speak about getting things done, I always emphasize one step at a time. The reason I preach this is because I’m really good at multitasking. Huh? What I mean is, I was trained to work on and get a lot of things done simultaneously, and it’s something I’m very proficient at. However, I also recognize how destructive it is…it’s one of the worst skills I’m really good at.
From years of experience at multitasking, I have learned that working through one thing at a time allows me to actually get more done, and without tearing my hair out in the process. When I shift into the more mechanical mode of my multitasking days, trying to process as much as possible as quickly as possible, all my structure, schedule, boundaries and balance melt away. I work until I can’t work anymore. That’s the problem: when you don’t have boundaries you work without the constraints that should be in place to protect you. For example, taking a lunch break should be about more than eating — it should be a chance for your brain to rest and recharge. Similarly, working out in the middle of the day helps me to break things up so I don’t get stuck in work mode. I have trained my body to want to do more in a day then sit at a desk. These rules I have created for myself are meant to help me stick to the boundaries that I have set, being more mindful about how I go about my day.
Now, I’ve been running my own business for almost a decade, and I have experienced lots of ups and downs over that time. The crazy times are what have helped me to understand the value of boundaries and being diligent about putting them in place. What I realized once again during this particularly busy time is that this works! Though I found myself slipping and reverting back to my old habits when that surge hit, this lasted for a couple of weeks, not months on end. And that’s the lesson here: having boundaries in place is absolutely crucial because those crazy times will hit, and if you have the perspective to know things are going sideways you can recover more quickly, making you and your business more resilient for the long term.
This is a good time to ask yourself a question: do you have your boundaries in place? Do you know how to draw yourself back when you find yourself slipping into pajama land (or your equivalent)?
When It’s Better To Say No
Most of the requests I receive ask me if I can meet “tomorrow”, or if I can chat “for just a few minutes”, or if I can provide “quick feedback” on a project plan. And for a long time my answer to these types of requests was almost always, “yes”. I have the skillset to fulfill 90% of the requests I receive, and to do them well. However, what my surge reminded me of is that I needed to start asking myself a different question — not “can I?” but “should I?”
And so I revisited the biggest issue I had when I first started Vegan Mainstream. I wanted to do everything I could to help fellow vegan entrepreneurs, and that meant I was creating websites, building and implementing marketing plans, writing emails, designing flyers, etc. Slowly I started to realize that I was mostly doing things that I can do, but not the things I really wanted to do. Even worse, I was constantly trying to meet unrealistic expectations. So I changed the way I was doing things, getting really clear about what I wanted to offer to the vegan business world — once again, setting boundaries.
One thing I know about myself is that I am naturally reluctant to tell people “no”. In my heart I feel that if I can help someone, why would I not do it? However, taking that approach in my business wears me down, and in the end it doesn’t serve me, or my clients. Saying “yes” to every request makes it impossible for me to focus on my best skills to impact the vegan business world in the way I really want and need to. This is a recurring theme in my business – it comes up again and again, no matter how many times I learn it. And that’s the whole point of this article. We need to know ourselves, our tendencies and our weaknesses, keep them top of mind, and have boundaries in place to stop ourselves from going there, especially when things take off and we are super-busy because that is when we are most vulnerable. And no matter how long you are in business, these things keep coming up. What should change is your ability to turn things around because of those systems you have put in place.
What about you? Is “yes I can” hurting you?
Do you have a plan in place to help you get back on track when things go off the rails? Take some time to think about that today. Write down what some of your warning signs might be, and the steps you’re going to take when you see those signs arise.