Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Send Self-Doubt Packing

I’m willing to bet when you experience periods of self-doubt it interferes with your ability to operate your business. You’re not alone. In fact, I think every business owner, entrepreneur, or self-employed person experiences self-doubt at some point or another. It becomes a serious problem when it continually affects your productivity and even worse it can force you to abandon your dreams, goals, and potentially even your business.

Occasionally, self-doubt can begin to grow inside you regarding the success of your business as the result of unfavorable customer feedback and ratings, or publicized trend reports that predict the need for what you have to offer is declining. The key is that this type of self-doubt is sparked by valid warning signs.

The type of self-doubt that concerns me and should concern you is the self-doubt that is unsubstantiated and originates due to your fear of failure, an unsupportive environment around you or a lack of personal self-confidence and self-esteem. In his book, The Ultimate Book of Mind Maps, Tony Buzan talks about the power of repetition as a catalyst for learning. It works the other way too. If you keep telling yourself you can’t succeed at something, it doesn’t go in one ear and out the other. Instead, it builds up until it becomes a part of your everyday thinking. It’s a perfect example of the “law of attraction” and becoming what you think you are but from a negative perspective.

So the question remains; what can you do to manage these moments of self-doubt and send them packing? I have been self-employed in whole or in part over the last 20 years and have coached both athletes and people who were starting their own businesses. I decided to ask some of them what they do to overcome self-doubt and combined their suggestions with my own tactics. Below are 5 suggestions I’d like to share with you practical and easy strategies for conquering self-doubt. I don’t guarantee that your self-doubt will vanish for good, but with persistent application I’m certain you can keep self-doubt at a comfortable and manageable distance.

1. Identify what is the source of your self-doubt. Is it your inner critic voicing its concerns? If so, what are these concerns based on? Sometimes self-doubt is triggered by a completely different event that has no real bearing on your immediate concern. In other words, try not to shift blame.

2. Instead of focusing on all the things you can’t do, shift your focus to all that you can and have done. Regularly remind yourself of your accomplishments through visualization. Go a step further by maintaining a visual representation of them. Positive customer feedback, testimonials, favorable press coverage, photographs, awards, framed certificates, and mementos that remind you of previous success can serve as great reminders and encourage positive thinking.

"Follow your bliss and the
universe will open doors
where there were only walls"
~ Joseph Campbell
3. Create a personal motto for yourself or find one that inspires you and post it somewhere where you can see it on a regular basis. Read it whenever you pass by and think deeply about its meaning.

4. Regularly set SMART (Specific, Measureable, Accountable, Realistic-Relevant, and Timely) goals for yourself. This keeps you action focused on working towards something that has meaning to you. I break my SMART goals down into smaller objectives and the objectives into tasks. By regularly setting 1 to 3 daily tasks for myself, I’m able to remain focused on achieving and don’t allow time for self-doubt to stick around for a conversation.

5. Give yourself a break. Realize you’re not perfect and never will be, and neither will your business. Allow yourself the opportunity to make mistakes and to learn from them.

“Reward worthy failure – Experimentation.” ~ Bill Gates 

I’m sure you have your own strategies for managing self-doubt. What are they? I hope you will share them with the rest of us in the true entrepreneurial sense and help us all send self-doubt packing on a one-way, no-return trip.

Cliff Thorbes has been self-employed for the better part of the last 20 years. He creates and markets his unique and functional mosaic art work in addition to providing career and business coaching services. To learn more about him, his perspective on life and to view his art, please check out www.piecebypiece.ca.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

How I Crocheted My Way To Work-Life Balance

My First Project
Are you feeling overwhelmed? Well I have a bit of a confession: I have a small consulting business, working from my home office. I’m a little bit of a workaholic, cramming work into every spare moment of the day. When I’m working I often feel I should be spending time with the kids; when I’m with the kids I feel like I should be working. In those moments when I feel bombarded by work and life, I want to hide from everything and everyone, hoping it will all go away. Unfortunately this strategy isn’t effective. I end up even farther behind in my work and have to work really hard to catch up. Consequently, I feel more overwhelmed, triggering the cycle all over again.

A couple of months ago I tried an experiment. I was burnt out from working all the time and it was Christmas holidays so I decided to avoid work for a bit. I realized if I was going to procrastinate, I should at least do something more productive than play video games. So, I started a new hobby: crocheting hats for my kids. Surprisingly, I enjoyed it and that was all I did for a week straight. I posted lots of pictures of my creations on Facebook and my friends and family had a good laugh, but regrettably, I didn’t get much consulting work done.

So I made a deal with myself: if I could get a reasonable amount of work done by a certain time of day, then I could take a break for an hour. The results were shocking! I became more productive than I had ever been in the past, and I was taking the time off I needed to recharge, avoiding the whole burnt out cycle in the first place. If I wanted to take a break, it had to be scheduled and intentional. I used to feel guilty that I wasn’t working every spare moment; now I know what finding work–life balance feels like.  Now I have time to read the books I've wanted to, learn things I've been desiring to, and catch up on sleep.

Recently, I read an article on Entreprenuer.com about this topic that made me think of my own experiment. They suggest that “Predictable Time Off” (PTO) forces people to prioritize and increase the coordination of their time, and I couldn’t agree more. With a good planning system (i.e., I use a Franklin Covey priority planner), I was able to finally make the time I needed to take a break and address the priorities in my life. I’m happier, my family is happier, and my work is better as well.

What about you? How do you achieve work–life balance?

Miranda Vande Kuyt is a self-employed project and communications consultant. She is also the facilitator of the "Look Before You Leap: Self-Employment Survival Strategies" online course through www.LifeStrategies.ca.