Being a business owner is always hard, but especially in a pandemic.
Quietly, one-on-one, we entrepreneurs and solopreneurs admit to one another that we are burned out. There are the endless days of working from home, doing meetings by Zoom, and not seeing anyone in person whom we're not related to. For those of us with kids, there's school happening at work and home, too.
We're exhausted. We're less productive. And we didn't get the normal "new year" reset this year. It might be a new year, but it sure doesn't feel like one.
That said, there are things that I'm doing lately that make me feel better, more in control, and more productive. As we approach the one-year anniversary of living and working during Covid-19, I want to share how I'm pushing through the fog, finding inspiration, and making working during a global pandemic work for me.
1. Get back into a "normal" sleeping routine.
I'm a morning person. Before the pandemic, I'd rise at 5 a.m., go to the gym, come home and see my kids off to school, and pack in what felt like a full day of work by lunch. Well, that went out the window when the pandemic hit and we started isolating at home. My morning workout pushed to 7, 8, or -- eek -- 9 a.m., because there was no gym to go to or gym friends to see. It's really hard to get up early when it's just you and your Peloton. It's also really dark outside at this time of year.
I told myself that I was being nice to myself, which is something we all need to do when experiencing a major, historic event like the pandemic. But it started to bring me down. I really missed getting up early and not feeling behind as soon as I rolled out of bed.
To get back to it, I threw out my old alarm clock and bought a wake-up light that simulates natural sunlight and eases me awake. I set it across the room so that I have to get out of bed to turn it off. Generally, by the time I get there I've decided to stay up -- and this includes not sleeping in on the weekends, so that I don't fall back into bad habits. I'm happier waking up to nature sounds and sunlight. I'm happier and more productive throughout the day.
2. Upgrade your list making.
I'm a list maker. For years, I've kept a running list on a yellow legal pad next to my laptop. I typically put 10 to 50 more things on there than I or any human could possibly accomplish in one day. But it grounds me.
I recently improved my list-making game. I found daily tear-off sheets and decided to try them out. My daily planner sheets are pink and adorned with flowers, so visually it looks a lot better than the legal pad. But what's especially cool are the daily prompts -- a spot not just for my list, but for gratitude, doodles, water intake, and meal prep. One of my favorite features is a spot for "today's achievements." I recently finished two big client projects, and it felt really good to celebrate those in that space -- and not just cross them off my ever-expanding list.
3. Network more intentionally.
I'm a networker. I love getting together with other business owners in my networking groups and individually. While I have kept up with one of my women business owner groups and even taken a leadership role this year, it has been harder to remember to make those individual connections. Networking via Zoom feels like ... work.
But I'm pressing on and now adding to my list people to reach out to every week via email or to book virtual coffee dates with. I have found that it only feels like work leading up to these interactions, because as soon as I "see" a familiar face, I feel energized and connected -- and that is the whole point, isn't it?
4. Make time for you every day.
I'm someone who needs life beyond work, too. I like my hobbies, and reading is a big one. But the pandemic made that harder. Work has remained busy, but my days are more compressed and my focus is not always where it needs to be. However, I'm now adding "read" to my daily list and I filled my tiny office with piles of books. The visual cues are working. I'm feeling more like myself because I'm reading and crossing more books off my "to read" list.
I also took up a new hobby with photography. I started taking classes in-person in January 2020. Of course, the classes moved online, but I stuck with it. It's been great to have a new creative outlet during this unusual time. I fiercely guard that 75- or 90-minutes each week for my photography class as if it were a paid client meeting. It makes me happier at work and is a skill I have already applied to my public relations and communications business.
Plus, that time is for me, and I am worth that. We all need to find inspiration -- and grace -- where we can these days.