“Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.” — John Lennon
Life happens and sometimes it can throw up unwanted and unexpected challenges. Regardless of how organized you are or how well you plan your business, there will be times when life gets in the way.
One of my customers emailed me this week apologizing for her lateness in getting some information I needed to process her university’s order to me. She said, “My life has been quite involved of late. My biggest gala event was a week ago Friday and my father-in-law passed away the day before. Today is my first day back in the office. I really appreciate your reminders since my mind has definitely been somewhere else. This weekend is our Homecoming on campus so life is still hectic.”
We’ve all been there at one time or another. I’ve experienced this myself in the past few weeks and have found myself having to deal with some very stressful situations. And it has happened before and I’m sure will happen again. I know that I’m not alone — this happens to everyone from time to time. It has probably happened to you.
Dealing with life while trying to run a business can be difficult and stressful. Here are a few things that I have learned that I hope will help you during those times when life isn’t exactly what you expected:
The right motivation will sustain you when life gets difficult.
When I first started my business, the object was to make money. Since “I” was my business, if anything happened to me there was no business. And, of course, it happened. I ended up in the hospital with pneumonia for eight days and several weeks at home recuperating. It was that closeness to meeting my maker that made me realize what is really important in life and it sure isn’t money. When I responded to orders with an explanation, I was amazed at how understanding people can be.
Sure, I still want to make money with my various businesses but I now do more and more writing to simply encourage and help people. That was when I started what was then called Gift Basket Retailers and has evolved into Gift Retailers Connection. When I decided to make it about others, instead of just myself, I was liberated.
Some Ways to Cope
Take a Deep Breath – Start by taking a deep breath and giving yourself a little space to relax. Yes, it’s important to keep the wheels turning – but it’s also important to give yourself a little space. Don’t beat yourself up over having to give your life priority. Take the pressure off and don’t force yourself to do more than absolutely necessary. Try to eat well, do some exercise, get a massage if that is something you find soothing. If you’re feeling anxious, find something that will act as a distraction, be it listening to music, going to a movie, doing a hobby or taking a walk — whatever works for you.
Cut Down All But the Essential – Look through your task list for the upcoming days and weeks. What can you cut out? What projects aren’t essential? You’re not Super Woman or Super Man no matter what you or anyone else thinks. Neither am I. Some things need to be let go, others re-prioritized. Decide what is most important. Focus on that and don’t beat yourself up. If your energy is going into caring for a new baby, that’s much more important than sending out a newsletter. Cut down your workload to just the bare bones. Cut out any business expanding efforts. Do just enough to maintain your customer base and keep your business running – no more. If you have someone you can trust to take over various parts of your business, even if temporarily, do it. Find someone who understands your business model and all the tools your business needs to keep running, and ask them to run your company for you for the days or weeks you need to take off. The investment can be worth it.
An emergency will almost never take up your entire waking hours unless you are ill or incapacitated yourself as I was in the hospital with pneumonia. Use the time you have left over to take care of the most important aspects of your business.
Working your business can be an escape from the stress of life
Don’t just drop your company entirely. Instead, do as much work as you can when you can fit it in. You may have noticed that I have not been as active on our forum as usual for the past few weeks as life has once again got in the way and life is more important to me right now than business. But I’ve also found that taking the time to keep my business operating instead of just focusing on what got in the way helps keep me sane and keeps me from focusing just on me and mine. Even writing this post is a way to focus on something other than life.
Reach out for support. It’s important not to try to shoulder everything on your own. Seek out family and friends who you can talk to — share your concerns — spend time with people who care for, and will support, you. If you don’t have anyone to confide in, and your concerns are going round and round in your head, it can really help to get them out of your head and down on paper.
These tips will help you put your business on a bare-bones life support system. Your business certainly won’t grow, but it also won’t shrink. Dealing with emergencies is toughest when you don’t have a contingency plan. Once you know who you can turn to and how to respond to emergencies, these situations become a lot less stressful.
Remember that profound statement made by Forrest Gump, ““Mama always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” It is oh so very true. We can’t change life. We just have to make sure that it doesn’t destroy either us or our busineses.
I welcome your comments and stories of how life has gotten in the way of your business and what you have done to keep your business going.