How to take the pressure off

In July I opened up my calendar for free check-in calls for clients and readers at the midway point of the year. It’s been fun to hear where you are and what you’re working on. If you took advantage of that opportunity, please keep in touch, and if we haven’t spoken yet, please reach out!

One of the biggest stressors I kept hearing was the amount of pressure being put on new businesses and career leaps to make money right away. And not just some money, but the same amount made at the established roles you were in at other companies.

If you’re under five years in business, and definitely if you’re under three, that is too much to ask. In fact, you’re setting yourself up for failure and burnout.

Why? Because putting pressure on your new leap to ensure your financial security means every step you take MUST WORK at a time when you’re still figuring out what this new venture will be.

When you’re building a business, even a couple years in, you very much need to be in Research Mode.

Among the things you’re learning are:

  • Who your customers are

  • What they want

  • What they’re willing to pay

  • Where to find them, as well as

  • How to run a business from quarterly taxes and choosing a legal structure to if/when to hire help, setting hours and more

It’s like worrying your baby isn’t speaking in full sentences yet while you’re still getting a hang of their feeding, changing and sleeping schedule.

As you collect more information in these vital areas, your confidence as a business owner (or parent) increases, as does your ability to effectively attract and retain happy paying customers (or happy babies).

You need research time!

What you don’t need? The pressure to know all of these answers before you’ve done the research. You can’t figure these out without trial and error, and you can’t do that with “you have to make enough money right now” playing on repeat in your head.

The same is true for more established business owners going after new markets, professionals looking to make a major mid-career leap, and writers, artists and performers putting themselves out there.

We have to take the pressure off in the short-term in order to have more long-term success.

How to take the pressure off

1) Create the long-term plan.

If you have a business plan, that is your long-term plan. If you don’t have one yet, then take a few minutes to imagine and list out your ideal work life, including the specific amount of money you want to make, the number of hours you want to work, the kind of physical environment you want to work in, and the kind of people you want around you / how much focused alone time you’d like.

When I do this with clients, it’s a full coaching session or two of us brainstorming all aspects of your work life, but a smaller, targeted list will work in the interim so you have something to refer to.

Once you have that, lay out what you’ll do today, this week, this month in order to build toward that goal. The smaller the steps the better so you can check them off and feel your own progress.

(By the way, long-term can mean six months, two years, whatever you want. You define it.)

2) Create the short-term one.

Given what you’re building toward, and that it will take some time to get there, what do you need in the meantime to feel calm, secure, like you can keep going?

Make another list answering that question, which can include a certain amount of income to cover expenses and have a nest egg, the kind of health insurance you and your family require, the number of hours set aside per week to devote to your new business, etc.

Similar to above, this list allows you to determine what you do today, this week, this month in order to achieve these short-term stabilizing goals which in turn serves the long-term vision.

3) Make empowered choices for yourself.

What does it mean to have these two lists?

You may get a part-time job.
You may move in with your family.
You may stay working with your less-than-ideal employer for an extra six months.

Things you may have been considering before, but the difference now is that with these lists you can make an empowered choice in service of the life and work you’re building for yourself.

So instead of, “I either make enough money now by following my passion or risk failing and having to return to work that doesn’t feel inspiring,” you can say with confidence: “I’m proactively choosing this short-term option because it gives me the security and time to build what I really want.”

You’re still working on that long-term plan, so please make sure you have a to-do list from it that you’re checking off daily. The only thing that’s changed is that you’ve removed the pressure of everything having to work immediately and allowed yourself a chance to find your bearings. To do the necessary research.

You haven’t failed, or stopped, or given up. You’ve built a plan that can really work and in a way where you can feel healthier and happier at every stage.

Like a boss.

How to give yourself a pep talk

On a panel of women business owners last week, I was asked to share my favorite lifehack.

Meaning, a simple trick or tip that makes your life and/or work easier.

I shared two oldies-but-goodies in case you haven’t tried them yet:

  • The first helps you overhaul your to-do list. It’s the TODAY List.

  • The second is the Smile File. Seriously, if you don’t have one of these, stop what you’re doing right now and make one. Three clicks of the mouse and you’re done.

Speaking of mouse clicks, I come to you today with my latest hack — and dare I say the best so far.

A simple and surprisingly-delightful way to brighten your own day.

Whether you need a pep talk, a dose of sunshine, or to know you’re not alone, this can do it.

It’s the gift receipt.

How many times while ordering something online, are you asked if you’re sending a gift?

If you’re on Amazon, the answer is every time. Most other websites ask too. We normally skip the gift receipt checkbox because it’s “just” laundry detergent or a phone charger. As if this tiny slip of paper is reserved for only other people.

Well, my friends, prepare to be astounded because if you choose the gift receipt from now on, your life and work will change for the better.

Chances are likely you’ll forget you’ve even done this, open the box flippantly a couple days later and find it at the bottom. You’ll be about to throw it and then…

Wait, it has my name on it!
Oh right!
Is that what I wrote?
Oh, that’s perfect.

:) :) :)

I’ve done this for years, and it’s still just as fun. I write something different each time. Sometimes it has to do with the item itself and sometimes it’s something I know I need to hear.

Here’s an assortment:

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The one about biking came with my helmet. The bottom right arrived with my new iPad keyboard.

It’s often the simplest gestures that mean the most. That’s how we feel when others delight us by buying our coffee or putting a sweet note on the fridge. When we think about these in retrospect, we say things like, It was just what I needed to hear, or, it made my whole day.

So can these notes hiding in an ordinary box waiting in your hallway.

Just when you need it. xoxo


PS: All of us on that women business owner panel were interviewed on a terrific podcast, “I want what she has.” While you’re there, check out a few episodes because the smart, genuine hosts highlight individuals making a difference in the arts, business, the environment and womxn’s health.

PPS: If you’re up for more listening, I’m part of the Share Triumph online conference for cancer fighters, survivors and supporters. Sign up to watch individual interviews or the whole series for free.