22 January 2020

COPING WITH THE STRUGGLES OF RUNNING A BUSINESS



These last few months have been the hardest months ever for Leaf Lane Studio, more because of my own, personal struggles getting in the way of the business than the actual business itself, but a struggle is a struggle nonetheless! I thought I would write a post with a few of my thoughts and reflections, and how I am overcoming (or trying to overcome) some of the more tricky patches within this little creative adventure of mine.

The problem: OVERWHELM
We all get overwhelm at some point in our lives and it can show up in various strengths too; but for the last few months I have been hit hard with it. Having a mental health issue sitting in the background all the time means that something seemingly insignificant can push my mind into those suffocating emotions that come with overwhelm much faster; that said though, I know I am just a personality type that worries a lot, so either way I tend to find myself easily snowed under! Hands up if you are with me!

For me, overwhelm shows up when I look at all the things I should be doing as one big list of 'stuff I must get done to be a success' (not a great start!). Let's face it, in todays world of fast paced social media and people yelling from the roof tops about the best, most proactive way to conduct yourself in business, it is easy to feel like you are constantly playing catch up. I mean, there are the emails, the DM's on social, then the social platforms themselves... Instagram, Facebook pages, Pinterest, Twitter, Blogs, YouTube channels... I must be missing something (Tick Tock for example, whatever that is!). Making sure content is prepared and consistent across those platforms is a full time job in itself, let alone the website work, preparing orders, wrapping and posting orders, finding time to create new products or design new things. Wait, what about marketing and networking with other people to build the business? Getting all the paperwork tidy and filed away so you know whats what! The list goes on. Is it any wonder it is overwhelming working alone?



The solution: SET YOURSELF UP RIGHT EACH DAY
I think what I have learned recently is that my brain goes through seasons; some weeks I am looking at all the things it takes to run a business with heaps of excitement and so much hope that I am overflowing at the brim, and other weeks I am over-tired, and the thought of even writing one Instagram caption can throw me into despair. The big thing to remember is that everyday is different and, whilst it is super easy to think 'this is it, I am going to feel like this for the rest of my week life!', tomorrow is a new day and it is vital to set yourself up right for the day, rather than wake up negative and expecting the same mood to hit. If it does come along again, then there isn't much you can do about it, but I am learning to just accept my mood and to push through my list of tasks despite the overwhelm, rather than sitting staring into oblivion. Nothing gets done if you just turn your back on things that you should be working on which makes the overwhelm even worse the next day for sure.

I recommend a decent morning routine, where you take time for you, even if you feel overwhelmed and like you need to just jump on in immediately. You will work better for it and you will feel so much more 'together'. My mornings involve an early start to get to the gym; as hard as it is in the winter months to get up at 5.30am, I feel a million times better for training, showering and knowing it is done. I then make myself breakfast and a cup of tea and read an inspiring book for ten minutes. After I have eaten, I put on my headphones and listen to a guided meditation all about manifesting the life you want and then I journal and pull out an oracle card for my day.

That little routine feels so good. It is proper me time and it means I value myself enough to prioritise my body and mind. There are one or two days I can't do it, and mostly they are days where I really need to not get up early and I just need to sleep, but even that is showing myself extra care. Sleep is so healing and I try not to ignore my body when it tells me I need to switch off my alarm.



The problem: NOT STICKING TO A PLAN
I did a post about my planning routine quite recently, and for the most part I stick to that, changing a couple of things here and there to suit projects or workloads. When I started to feel at my worst over the last few months, when my inspiration, creativity and motivation levels dropped, I stopped using my planner and didn't really write lists of what needed doing, apart from client work. Obviously when I look at what I have just written, it is easy to tell myself off and think 'well, that wouldn't have made you feel very good!' because it is never going to help a confused, tired mind to not have a plan or list of tasks to work through is it?! But we all do funny things when we are stressed or not well!

The solution: HAVE A STRUCTURED & REWARDING PLANNING ROUTINE
I work so much better with lists I can tick off; I have a mind that needs to see progression and I work so much harder when I can see that I am reaching goals. The planner I mention in this blog post is so good for me, it suits my style of work so well. Along side that I also use a to-do list to almost sub-catagorise my master list, plus I have a planner sheet on my notice board too. The sheet acts as an overview and is more of a scrappy place for me to mind-dump, move tasks about and see what can be left to next week. I designed a sheet especially for my own working schedule, and you can see the ones I created here if you are interested. I am quite precious about keeping my physical planner neat, so printable sheets work well for me. I have used them for years but am chuffed to have my own now. I have started just giving myself between two and four top priorities on my to-do list each day; these are the must-dos and anything under those things can wait or be moved to tomorrow. This works so well for me.

Before I started doing that, I just had one huge 'master list' which was so overwhelming (there's that 'O' word again!) that I just didn't get a thing done from it. I am also breaking down my goals in a different way. I have written long, medium and short term goals in my planner, and I am pulling one or two out per month or two months, depending on the goal, and not even giving the others any thought whatsoever. That is the best way for me to work, and I think that is the key: finding the best way for YOU to work. Taking tips and tricks from people is fine, but the routine must feel like it is fundamentally you or else you won't stick to it.



The problem: FEELING LIKE YOU WANT TO QUIT
This has been a huge thing for me on the bad days. I have suffered so much this winter with SAD, low moods, lack of energy and motivation and feel battered and bruised from little knocks from things that have happened within the business too. From having no money to spend on new products to having some serious supplier issues, I have felt like I have been dragged through a hedge backwards this last six months.

But in the back of my mind, through all the bad times, when I have been sobbing to Joe about feeling useless and thinking I should just quit, I have the words of so many business coaches echoing about my head '.. the first few years are such hard work, it can be so difficult and you will want to give up time and time again, but do not give up'. At my core I know this business with thrive, but I chose a route of no bank loans, no big investments, just slow progression, and I try to remind myself of that when I am having a bad day, but it doesn't make it any easier sometimes.

The solution: REACH OUT
I know this is so obvious, but reaching out for help is not a sign of weakness. I think it is so important to remind yourself that you aren't, by any means, the only person in your position; which is tricky to remember when you are crying on your bed in the dark because you have been let down by another supplier (you can tell that was a real scenario can't you!). Recently I bit the bullet on a desperately rubbish day and emailed/DM'd a couple of business owners I admire and asked them some advice. I think as long as they can see you aren't being lazy and just wanting free help, people will be friendly, and the ladies I spoke to were so lovely. They helped me realise that all the thoughts I was having about the way things should be, are literally just my thoughts playing tricks on me, and that there isn't a set way of doing anything in this world. When you first start out, it is easy to think constantly about how the rest of the industry is doing things and assume so many things that aren't fact. This is so counter-productive as you don't think you can explore out-the-box options. I think it can take a while to get into the 'I own this business and can do whatever I bloody want' mindset!



MY FINAL THOUGHTS...
The cliche of 'you have to go through darkness to find light' is true friends. In all the tough moments I have had (some are still happening) I have learned so much more than I would have if things were going swimmingly every day. I feel bruised, tired and sometimes beyond deflated, but I am getting faster at picking myself up and getting back to it.

Being in business is not an easy path, but it is a great one. I have so many things I want to do with Leaf Lane Studio, including getting products into shops (I have big dreams for The Eden Project and The National Trust too) and I know that all the bumps in the road will lead me to the top of a bright hill where I will be able to look out over everything and see the journey with clear vision. I am excited for the adventures to come and hope to be able to share every part of it with you all along the way.

My advice to you, if you are just starting out, is to connect with other business owners (*waving at you now!) and have Facetimes or, if you can, in person coffee dates to chat about business and inspire one another. That is a big goal for me this year, so if you want to arrange a little chat then send me a message over on IG! Don't allow yourself to become isolated and feel alone. Most of all, remember that YOU CAN DO THIS! Let's have each others backs through this, because it is tough, but oh so worth it!

Before you go...

Can I ask you a BIG favour?
If you are interested in seeing some behind-the-scenes bits and bobs, including time-lapse clips of me doodling, Cornwall scenery and general rambling, then you may like my Studio Vlogs on my YouTube channel! I am aiming to get my subscribers up to 1,000 by the end of this year as it will really help my business grow and also means I can start to monetise my videos again (a privilege that YouTube whipped away from us low subscriber channels a couple of years back, not that I had earned a penny yet, but it is nice to have a goal!). If you feel like subscribing I would really appreciate it, you will be the first to hear of any new content and can turn on notifications to know when each video goes live if you wish.

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