I am a business coach, not a life coach.
When I take on a new client, one of the first things I explain is that my job is to work on the business not the person. That said, sometimes these two worlds collide. This blog post is about a subject that’s very important to me – the one thing that I see time and again, and probably the closest my job ever gets to skirting the line between business and life coaching.
At my recent Pro.Languages conference, questions like this kept coming up in the Q&A sessions:
> “I feel overwhelmed, how do I cope with being constantly busy?”
> “I’m so busy all the time – I’m exhausted. When will it start betting better?”
> “Sometimes managing my time feels like an impossible task, do you have any tips for when you’re really busy?
Do you see that word being repeated? Busy. Busy, busy, busy.
Back when I was running my French Tutoring Agency 12 years ago, I had 2 children under the age of 4, was working crazy hours (teaching 35 hours a week!) and driving 500 miles a week.
It may have looked like a successful business, but my life was overcrowded, and I was frazzled. I didn’t think there was an alternative, until I attended a talk by Brad Sugars of ActionCoach.
He said something that changed my life:
“A business is a commercial, profitable enterprise that runs without you.”
I suddenly realised I had built a business where I was central to every aspect of how it ran. As a consequence, my to-do list was mammoth, because I’d convinced myself that nothing could happen without me.
And this became a vicious cycle: I needed to be in control of everything, which meant I was overwhelmingly busy – but I was overwhelming busy because I needed to be in control of everything! This somewhat egocentric belief was actually a manifestation of my own insecurities: I felt I had to burn the candle at both ends and be busy all the time – it was my way of proving myself to the world. I had become addicted to my work, to being busy – even to being tired! And I had got so used to working this way, I had conditioned myself into believing that I had no choice.
The word “busy” has somehow become synonymous with working hard, with being effective, with being important. I’m here to tell you: they are not the same thing.
Sometimes we might feel that we have to project an image of being super busy, super stretched and super stressed to convey how serious we are about our work.
But that’s our own anxiety speaking; we do not look any less serious when we have spare time and can prioritise our personal lives – quite the opposite!
In fact, often, when we say “busy” what we really mean is “stressed”.
One of the speakers I arranged to be at Pro.Languages 2019 was coach and self-development expert Esther Limberg-Birks who spoke with great eloquence about how to manage stress as part of a full and committed professional life.
It really got me thinking about how important it is to kick this stress-inducing ‘busyness addiction’ to the curb!
“But wait”, I hear you say “I am a sole trader, I run a team of language teachers… Of course, I’m busy – overwhelmed, even! Without me, there is no business!”
Well, yes and no.
I advocate fostering a scaled and automated business with established systems and processes, which you could hand over to someone else to run if you had to, irrespective of whether there is 1 employee or 100.
Right now, if your business depends on you making ad hoc decisions, working out how to do things on the fly and manhandling problems to the point of resolution on a case by case basis, you do not have this!
It’s not just about how you run your business though – it’s also about how you run yourself.
I’m currently reading “Work it Out’ by Mel Robbins.
She brilliantly tackles the subject of time management, citing Parkinson’s Law, which hypothesizes that your work will always expand to fill the time available. She recommends imposing a “quitting time” every day on the premise that you will duly condense your day into the time allocated. It sounds simple but is astonishingly effective.
It’s also important to ringfence time for your personal life.
Be uncompromising about your needs – when you have to work from home, switch off your device, or leave the office at 3pm that’s just how it has to be. You should make no apologies for that.
You need to think about the life that you want, and then grow a business that supports this – or to put it another way, your personal life should control your business and not the other way around.
And you do not have to throw yourself on the altar of your business in order to make it a success!
When I realised this, I formed a much healthier relationship with my business. It didn’t happen overnight: it took a lot of work on myself and a lot of business restructuring. But now I’m happy to say that I run several businesses –
- VICI Language Academy
- VICI Languages France
- VICI Language Dynamics
- Nathalie Danon Coaching and
– and I don’t feel overwhelmed.
I’m always there for my children. I make time for myself. I work hard but I never feel like I’m in over my head. I’m happy in the space I’m in.
And you can be too. Just… stop being busy!
5 TIPS FOR BEING LESS BUSY:
Aim to structure a business that could “run itself”
When describing yourself, try replacing the word “busy” with “working hard”
Set a stopping point every day and stick to it
Accept that sometimes you have to say no – to staff and / or clients.
Don’t try to do this journey on your own – get help from the experts.
P.S. You will see I have included a few links in this blog – please do use these resources and whatever else is available to you!
Reaching out to the experts is essential.
If you feel like you “being busy” is spilling over into being overwhelmed by unbearable levels of stress, get help.
Your mental health is important, and you have to prioritise that above everything else.