Business Growth

What self-care looks like for me

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This past weekend I ran away from home.

After months of pushing really hard in my business and personal life, I was hitting a massive wall.

It was hard to admit at first, after all - I just home from a week in Punta Cana with my family, and the weekend before that trip I was at an art retreat.

But as most parents know, a vacation with three children is not "relaxing."

I put a lot of pressure on that trip to help me unwind and relax. I should have known better, I've been on trips like that before. While the kids are now old enough to not require me to be ON the entire time, we still had to coordinate a lot of people to do a lot of things, and they're still kids with a lot of energy and a lot of feelings.

I was so tired on that trip that between activities I didn't even have the energy to read a book, and I came home even more tired than when I left.

Meeting these pirates was a super fun highlight of our trip to the Dominican Republic!

Meeting these pirates was a super fun highlight of our trip to the Dominican Republic!

As an introvert, transitioning to homeschooling my son has meant that I don't have much alone time - and I had been alone for most of the week for the previous six years so this has been a big shift and change for me.

I felt tired ALL the time. I didn't feel like I was thinking clearly any more. I was not working well as a mom or as a business owner.

I was nearing burnout - but it was really hard to admit that when I felt like so many things were going so right. Can you burnout doing things you love? Have you heard people say, “do what you love and it never feels like work.” It’s not true. You can love what you do and still get really tired and burn out from it if you’re not careful.

So, I left Friday afternoon and headed up to the family cottage (which I'm grateful to have access to when needed, but happily would have rented one or an Airbnb for the weekend) and just stopped.

What self-care looks like for me

I took a three-hour nap that went right through dinner time.

I read a book.

I watched Netflix.

I slept whenever I felt tired.

I had meals whenever I felt like it - 11 am, 3 pm, 9 pm.

I ate what I felt like eating whenever I felt like it.

I painted.

I stared out the window at the trees and the water.

I didn't intend to work but I didn't intend to NOT work.

The more I sank into nothing, the more my brain woke up. New ideas popped into my head. I felt excited about things I haven't felt excited about in a while. I had the bandwidth to contemplate next steps instead of feeling required to do it.

What does self-care look like for you?

We don't all need the same things to take care of ourselves, but we all need to make sure that we stop and think about what works and what doesn't, and we need to make sure we’re not getting too caught up in how we think we SHOULD be feeling and operating.

I work better and smarter when I have more time by myself doing nothing. It's not being lazy or self-indulgent, it's being productive and poised to take on the world.

Moving forward I will guard time for myself even more. I blocked off time in my calendar years ago for quiet and down time but over the last couple of years I filled ALL of that time with parenting stuff and/or appointments for myself to work on my health. Important, but not actually the down and quiet rest time I need. So I'm re-jigging my schedule again, this time to accommodate for parenting time, health time, and ME time.

If I want to be productive and effective in my work, this is mandatory; even though it feels counterintuitive to work less to make more money. We've been taught that the only way to make more money and achieve more success is to work HARDER. As someone who has never worked effectively on a traditional timeline, I need to keep reminding myself that doesn’t work for me.

When's the last time you did something to help yourself this way?

The power of believing in YOUR way

Your unique balance

What makes one person feel safe, secure, comfortable and confident can be vastly different from what makes another person feel that way. Recently, I was thinking about one way I do things differently than most people I know: when I go on road trips, I hate to pre-book my hotels.

This makes many of my friends and family SO uncomfortable!

“Doesn’t it stress you out to not know where you’re going and what the plan is to get there?”

Nope! I get stressed out feeling locked into things! How am I going to know when I want to stop? My friends get personally stressed out for me when I tell them I don’t book a hotel, unable to separate how they would feel in my situation.

“What if you can’t find a hotel?”

I always find a hotel, maybe not at the first place I stop, but it always works out (and I always feel confident it will while we’re figuring it out). And my measure for “works out” is probably quite different than it is for other people because the thing I’m LOOKING for is not “safety” or “security” or “comfort in knowing” it’s “freedom to change my mind and be spontaneous.”

You may not like to road trip my way, but that doesn’t mean my way isn’t great because I’m getting what I’m looking to get out of the experience! I always believe it is going to work out and it always does. 🙂

This same idea applies to the different ways people run their businesses.

Some people like everything very structured and planned out and some like to fly by the seat of their pants (I fall into the second category).

There is great merit in having a well-structured and predictable business model (and the need for this gets more and more important the bigger you grow) but there is also great merit in having a business that is built to suit the things that are important to you (I need to have room in my business to create new things regularly. If I booked up all my time on the same things in a repeated manner for a year in advance, I would feel claustrophobic in my business).

Now, I’m not saying it’s a good idea to never have a plan, but it’s okay if you’re someone who likes to keep things feeling fresh and different on a regular basis.

You can run your business that way too, you just need to to know where and how to keep the freedom, spontaneity and creativity alive for yourself, while keeping the infrastructure of your business sound (you don’t need to book the hotel but you DO need to know you have money to pay for a hotel and a well-maintained vehicle to get you there).

We all get to prioritize what works for us and what we value and want to create. You can find the perfect balance for you by acknowledging what’s important to you, what motivates you, and what will keep you primed for success in your business. It’s the power of believing what you love and desire WILL work for you and lead you to success.

If you want to figure out how to find that balance for YOU and how you can use that to create success in your business, let’s chat. I’d love to learn more about what is important and motivates you as a business owner and how I could support you in achieving that!

2018 Word of the year: STRONG

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I want to share a little story about my 2018 word.

Last fall, while I was at a retreat they announced we were going to play capture the flag.

Capture the flag, like most team/group sports or anything that puts my physical skills on display really brings out my deepest darkest fears – shame, embarrassment and guilt about being so terrible and not being a team player.

I've done a lot of work on myself over the last number of years so there are a few things I now know about myself that came up when the game was announced.

1. My reaction wasn't rational. I knew I was being irrational, but I also knew thinking myself out of it and just enjoying the game wasn't going to happen.

2. I was learning to work on my boundaries. Turns out capture the flag makes me miserable, I could have opted out and just not played. I had that choice!

I decided that I would go and watch the game but not play. Boundaries. Go me!

When I arrived at the field they asked me to play. I said, "No thanks, I just want to watch" and then the universe said to me, "Let's test these boundaries, Lara" and collectively the group then said,

“Awww... C'mon. We're an uneven number of players - we need you!”

And the people pleaser in me, the person who doesn't like to let people down, the person who was terrified of being blamed for the whole team losing screamed, "Oh my God! You have to do it now! It's going to be terrible and you're going to suck, but they're all looking at you, so you HAVE NO CHOICE!!"

So, full of dread (always an excellent way to ensure fun during a game) I walked on to the field.

People ran by me and I didn't know what I was doing…it was going badly! This was worse than any other time I had played because now I knew the solution to those feelings was to NOT play and on top of suddenly being in the game I knew it was my own damn fault for not sticking to my boundaries.

Tears started streaming down my face and a kind person (I honestly can't even remember who it was) told me it was okay if I just wanted to leave.

So, I walked off the field and into the woods on a that crisp fall day, and, surrounded by the beauty and calm of trees, I sobbed. I sobbed for almost half an hour as I walked through the woods trying to calm down.

Walking off the field was far from the end of my shame and emotional breakdown. I was angry at myself for having played at all. I was angry at myself for not sticking to my boundaries and for so easily being swayed into doing something I didn't want to do.  

I was angry at the ladies on the field for getting me to play (trust me, my rational brain knows that's ridiculous, "c’mon, we want you and need you" is hardly some kind of evil pressure tactic of villains).

Over the last few years I have picked a word for the year. In 2017 the word was "open." I wanted to be open to learning, open to being guided, open to letting go of control. I was in the midst of trying to figure out what my 2018 word should be while at this retreat and as I stood in the woods beating myself up and going through a million emotions all about an insignificant game of capture the flag I had known all along that I couldn't handle, I figured out my 2018 word: STRONG.

Strong wasn't about muscles. It wasn't about the strength to stand up to people. It was about being strong enough to look even further within to see what was going on. It was finding the strength within to hold my boundaries and to learn to not feel guilty about or responsible for everyone else before myself. It was about feeling like the Lara I was WAS strong and it was time to own that, it was time to get out of my own damn way.

And I did. The incredible year that was 2018 is the subject of another story entirely, but here is what I hope everyone can take from this:

  • Your mindset and your subconscious can impact everything in massive ways. Don’t beat yourself up for the struggles you have because we all have them and there ARE ways to work through them.

  • You are strong and you are capable, even if it doesn't feel like it some days.

  • You might need to get out of your own way too, and you might need help doing it. I've needed a team of people and 10s of 1000s of dollars to just start that process, but it's been worth every penny!

What was your word in 2018? Will you choose a word for 2019? 

Reflection and setting intentions can be the kind of work we know we should do but avoid. Join me for a special call on New Year's Day at 1 pm. I'll be guiding participants through a series of prompts helping and supporting everyone to step into 2019 feeling empowered and on the right path for their unique selves, dreams and strengths. Sign up here - and don’t worry, if you can’t make it live, a replay will be sent following the live broadcast.

How to find time as an entrepreneur

How to find time as an entrepreneur

If you feel like there is ALWAYS too much to do, trust me when I say – you are not alone.

Almost every business owner I talk to feels like they never slow down. There is ALWAYS so much to do. It’s discouraging to constantly look at a to-do list longer than a city block (those people who only have to-do lists as long as their arms… pfft!). 

It even seems like the all “gurus” are telling you that working harder and more is the only way to reach success. “If you want to sleep and watch TV, I guess you don’t want it badly enough!

This JP Sears spoof video was just what I needed when it comes to this mentality because it points out how silly some of it is. Working long hours, not getting enough sleep, trying to do ten million things at once, trying to be everywhere all of the time…not only is it going to exhaust you, but it’s also not effective.

So, here are a few things for you to think about when you feel like there is ALWAYS too much to do:

  • We’re entrepreneurs – We’re always going to come up with MORE to do. Once you understand that you can’t possibly do all the things that you’ve set out for yourself, and you know that there is always going to be more (if you find space in your schedule, you’ll fill it!) then you will understand that your to-do list isn’t meant to ever be finished. You’re not failing if it’s always long. Cut yourself some slack when it comes to how much “more” there is to do.

  • What is working really well right now? Even more specifically, what is working really well right now that is helping you to achieve your goals?

    Are there certain tactics that help you make more sales? Get more prospects?

    If increased sales is one of your goals, make sure that you’re doing THOSE activities first and don’t worry as much about all the other things you think you “SHOULD” be doing. I often tell my clients to stop focusing so much on social media and to just go out and make personal connections with people – because sometimes it’s about connecting and making relationships with new clients, not just “having a presence.”

    There are always things that you can stop doing or do more effectively. Most of us get so busy just DOING that we don’t stop to make sure we’re doing the right things.

  • What is taking up a lot of your time but not getting results? Make a list. Can you skip it for a day or a week? Can you just stop doing it? What takes you a long time because you hate doing it or you’re not very good at it?

  • Is it time to outsource? If your to-do list is beyond manageable with client work here is another thing to think about: is it time to hire someone to help you with that work?

Having a really long to-do list isn’t failing and nor is feeling like there’s always TOO much to do. On a regular basis take a breath and assess what you’re trying to get done and why. Then prioritize and decide what can wait, what can be deleted off the list and what can be outsourced.

You’ve got this! 

If you want more support in figuring out what the right priorities are for you and your business, one of my coaching programs might be a good fit. Book a consultation so we can figure out which one.

Creating clear marketing goals for action, success and more money!

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Business owners often know what they want in their businesses, but they don’t have clear goals on how to get what they want. They just know they want to be successful. They know they want to make more money. They know they want to do the thing that their business does.

Here’s the thing though: having clear and specific goals makes it easier to do everything else. Having clear goals even creates more time in your business because you’re not spending time on things that won’t move you forward. Clear business goals also help you define clear marketing goals which will ensure your attention and messaging is focused on what will have an impact on your business. And good marketing turns into more leads, which turns into more sales!

WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS?

Spend time thinking about your business goals, specifically about what you're hoping to achieve through your marketing. It's probably (though not necessarily) a given that one of your goals is to make more money, but we want to get more specific than that today. Your goals may include things, such as:

  • Being known as an expert at something

  • Being seen as a resource on a certain topic

  • Expanding your audience geographically or demographically

  • Getting more engagement online and building community

  • Increasing sales in a certain part of your business

  • Getting other people to talk about you to their communities

  • Filling a certain program

  • Increasing sales online instead of in person

Because it always helps to see specific examples, I'll share some of mine and create some fictional examples:

  • Be seen as an expert in explaining social media for small business

  • Be seen as an expert in nutrition and wellness

  • Expand audience beyond the Ottawa-area

  • Expand audience to new moms 

  • Increase sales in one-on-one coaching and speaking (or sign two new clients per month)

  • Create content that is linked to by other bloggers and media outlets

  • Be more findable in search

You can be even more precise and create goals that are channel-specific:

  • Increase Facebook likes by 300 people

  • Establish a presence on YouTube and get 1000 video views

  • Get retweeted and tagged by industry experts on Twitter

  • Get three media hits per month


REALLY UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU'RE TRYING TO ACHIEVE

The more you work to figure out these goals and why you're setting them, the more likely you will work them into your plan efficiently. Take a few minutes and write down an explanation of what you mean by each one and why they're important to you. For example:

  • I really enjoy helping small business owners figure out how to use social media for their business in a one-on-one setting. I get energized and excited when having personalized calls with business owners and hearing them figure out what they could be doing. Their lightbulb moments make my day, and their wins and increased revenue are my wins too. I want to do more of that so I need to make it clear that this is something that I do, like to do and I am good at.

  • I feel that it's time to expand beyond my local market. I like to spend time in Toronto and Boston and want to start by growing my audience in those specific cities. To do that, I need to start to grow an audience in those cities, so there is already a start of a customer base in those cities when I arrive to hold an event or launch a product. I need to figure out where my audience is spending their time (online and off) in those cities so I can create a custom plan.

  • I want to grow my online sales. I know that if I focus more of my attention on driving people to my online store and the products I sell there, I can increase that revenue stream. That may mean decreasing what I make in person while I focus on online or working extra hours to carry me through the gap.

TIME TO DO THE WORK

I challenge you to spend 10 minutes right now coming up with three or four marketing goals for the next six months. Really think about what you like to do, what you want to be doing and why you want to be doing it and give yourself some real explanations on why those are important and meaningful goals for you and your business and your marketing right now. Then leave a comment and share some of those ideas here!


NEED MORE SUPPORT?

I’m running a 6-week program to help you TAKE ACTION.

Join me and a group of entrepreneurs in exactly the same position to create a solid foundation and action plan and then START IMPLEMENTING!

Join by October 1st and you will get a bonus group coaching call before the program starts, as one free month in the Biz Advantage (value $197).

Let’s do this together! :)