After nearly two years of working exclusively sequestered in my home office, I have learned several lessons and discovered some valuable insights about the way I work and the direction I’d like to lean into in the coming years.
Lesson One: Introverts Get More Done without Distractions
I have found that in the last 20 months, I have taken on an increased workload and accomplished more in less time, with less stress and less distractions. Without the constant checking of the calendar for the next in-person meeting or networking event or class or presentation, I had more time to focus on what was important – getting clients’ projects and requests completed. If there were meetings, trainings or webinars scheduled, it was an easy transition from work to online meeting software and then back to work, with no travel time or preparation time (from the waist down) required.
The luxury of not having to worry about what to wear, what shoes to match with the outfit, finding directions to the event, getting stuck in traffic or stopping for food, drink, gas or bathroom breaks was a huge time-saving that resulted in increased revenue streams for my business. Being home-based for many of us meant convenience, less travel, mileage and fuel costs, less wear and tear on our vehicles, a decrease in our carbon footprint for our planet and less hassle. Which all means less stress for the business owner.
While we cannot sustain a world where Zoom is our only meeting option, nor would we want to, it did teach us that we can stretch our customer demographic far and wider when there are no geographical limitations to setting up a meeting or training with a client. And when the COVID-19 case numbers begin to show real signs of improvement with less daily cases and lower positivity rates locally, we know one day soon, in person meetings can resume with full confidence that we can meet safely. And when that happens, I would assume, we will see a hybrid model of a combination of in-person and online meetings, webinars, networking events, especially when the attendees are located a greater distance or when inclement weather conditions arise or when convenience outweighs the need to speak face-to-face.
In the future, I will continue to use Zoom and other meeting protocols for the absolute convenience, time-saving and reduced distraction it presents for my workday. Before the pandemic, a day of meetings meant a day of very little or no project-based work getting accomplished. A day of travel, face-to-face meetings, driving in the crazy midday traffic meant a greater need to unwind and decompress when I arrived back in the office or back home. A day of Zoom meetings can be exhausting and somewhat draining but the transition back to project work is much easier to make.
Lesson Two: The Ability to Prioritize means Survival for the Entrepreneur
As the famous book by Richard Carlson, says “don’t sweat the small stuff”, I think the pandemic taught us to prioritize what is really important in our lives, whether in our professional or personal lives. Seeing the tragic consequences of the pandemic with an unimaginable number of lost lives, so many dealing with symptoms of long-Covid, the economic impact and the upside-down job market, we have learned to put our health and the health of our family first, as well as spending precious time with our loved ones. Our businesses are important, our clients are important, and growth is essential to financial survival, but business is business and our personal lives and families come first.
When in the office, running my business, I have also learned what is truly imperative to survive an unstable and unpredictable market. Instead of focusing on non-essential tasks or ‘busy work’, every minute of my day is spent on efforts that satisfies my client’s expectations and expand communication with clients and leads. I’ve learned to streamline and/or delegate my marketing efforts, my financial processes, my accounts receivable and accounts payable recording and administrative tasks so more of my time is spent on project-based work, which is work that pays the bills and keeps the lights on.
With a focus on what is important and diminishing the mind space given to the non-essential tasks, my focus has improved and my production and project completion has increased.
Lesson Three: We Do Need People, but Positive People only Need Apply
With less social interaction, we are more in tuned to our relationships with people in our daily lives, friends, family, business partners, clients and employees. We have a greater appreciation for those who support us, care about us, encourage us and teach us. And we have less patience for those who criticize, take advantage, try to manipulate or compete with us.
In the past year, I’ve done a thorough cleaning and simplifying of my home and home office … clearing the clutter, reorganizing my office, the garage, our attic, so we can find what we need when we need it and make the space clean and serene for an improved mindset. I did the same when it came to my many networking memberships, volunteer board assignments, and sponsorships. I asked myself:
- Am I receiving value from the association with this group or organization?
- Is my brand being affected or am I taking on legal or financial risks by their decisions?
- Is it a positive experience that builds my portfolio and my character growth?
- Am I able to provide a positive impact to the organization or do I have voice within to make needed change?
With all that in mind, I took the hard but necessary steps to step away from several long-time associations where my goals no longer aligned with the direction they were heading. I also realized that clients that do not respect you, that take advantage of your time and do not understand the concept of subcontractor versus employee, had to be slowly but surely redirected and retrained. In some instances, even let go. But I never leave a client high and dry; I spend a great deal of time on preparing for the transition, even in helping them find a replacement or an alternative method or person to accomplish their heavy list of ongoing tasks, resulting in cost-saving for them.
With that free time, I have been able to spend time with new, exciting and beneficial groups that not only support me but where I have a voice to provide support to them and where my efforts are appreciated. I like the quote:
“Instead of wiping your tears, wipe away the people that made you cry.”
If you surround yourself with negative people who are overly critical, never pleased with your best efforts and put you down when you express yourself, you will diminish not only your self-worth but your peace of mind. Remove or step away from anyone who makes you feel less than. And that goes for digital relationships too, as it’s been recently proven that social media can increase feelings of worthlessness, depression and anxiety, even suicidal thoughts in our young ones. Social media can be a valuable tool for brand awareness but can also be destructive to your mindset. So limit your time on any platform, follow only those who encourage, inspire and teach and block those who do not. If you are stressed or in fragile state, pick up a book, talk to a friend or take a walk, rather than scroll through images of social media users’ highlight reels.
“Don’t compare your behind-the-scenes reel with someone else’s highlight reel.”
Lesson Four: The Rat Race is for the Birds
In the last two years, we have all slowed down, spent more time at home with our families, discovered new hobbies and new talents, relaxed and unwound from the non-stop running around we had become accustomed to. I’m not ready to let that go and return to the rate race, nor should we. Why not?
“77 percent of people experience stress that affects their physical health.”according to the American Institute of Stress.
Then why do we continue to push ourselves when we know we shouldn’t or feel we need a break? Many blame it on what some call FOMO.
“What Is FOMO? The fear of missing out refers to the feeling or perception that others are having more fun, living better lives, or experiencing better things than you are. It involves a deep sense of envy and affects self-esteem. It is often exacerbated by social media sites like Instagram and Facebook.”– VeryWellMind.com
Social media makes bragging or showing up their best life as acceptable, if not encouraged. This creates an unrealistic competition of possessions, trips, events, business success, even happiness. This can create a feeling that you are lacking in personal accomplishment or wonder if you are good enough. How can you combat these feelings?
- Turn off social media, and when you turn it back on, clear out the clutter and only follow those who look to show a realistic view on life & business, who encourage, who teach and who strive to inspire others;
- Make real life (not digital) connections with people, for example colleagues, friends, family, your spouse or partner. Spend time with people who support and encourage and are happy for you when you succeed and cry with you when you fail.
- Take time each morning, each evening and any time in-between to recount the blessings in your life. Begin a gratitude journal, spend time in prayer, or meditate on all that you have achieved, that you have been blessed with and that you value. When you have those positive, unsolicited feelings of success, happiness or accomplishment during your day, hold on to that feeling, write it down and find a way to remember it so you can recall it when you need it.
While the pandemic may soon be behind us, may we never forget the painful lessons it taught us and may it help us do better in the future … for ourselves and for others.
Lesson Five: Tragic Events Inspire the Need for Pivotal Change
According to CNBC, “There are still 5 million fewer jobs than before the pandemic but job openings are near record highs. And hourly pay has risen, in some sectors by more than 10% in a year.”
Even though the jobless benefits have expired, the situation has not yet changed.
“If you had ever told me we’d have millions of workers still on the sidelines and have wages going up because people couldn’t find workers, you could knock me over with a feather,”said Diane Swonk, chief economist at accounting and advisory firm Grant Thornton.
With the time away from their jobs, many have realized the cost-benefit factors of low wages, unsatisfying work, high costs of childcare; which are not adding up to a need to return to their positions, even when conditions have improved for them to return. Some of it may be fear of COVID-19 infection, but many have reconsidered what they want to do and where they want to be. The pandemic gave everyone time to explore their options, consider their goals, and decide how to live their best life. Working at a fast-food chain might not be it (or a supermarket or an office or a factory or so on), so people may be returning to school for more training, starting their own business* or in the case of many, choosing early retirement.
“Sometimes in the wind of change, we find our true direction.”
Often when we go through tragic or very difficult obstacles in our life, it is painful and agonizing while going through but when we get to the other side, we may find our perspective on things have changed. What we once felt was vital to our happiness has paled in comparison to what really matters. For each person that experience is different but the most ingrained lessons we learn come from failures or mishaps in our life. The pandemic has done the same, it is a tragic event that took so many lives and continues to impact many others, but we hope we can get to the other side of this with an added dose of wisdom and the courage to pivot when we see the need.
*If you are looking to start a new business and not sure where to start, please contact for a free ½ meeting from a fellow entrepreneur/dreamer/small business owner.
A Big Thank You for Another Successful Year
Because of my community, my clients and the many referrals I received over the year, Startup Production had another successful year, completing over 20 websites, writing dozens of blog posts, create a dozen ecommerce sites (up from previous years as businesses move their revenue streams online during the pandemic), managed nearly 20 social media platforms for clients, as well as thousands of dollars spent on clients’ ads, provided ongoing internet marketing consulting and training for close to 50 clients, managed email marketing for several clients and created several logos and various graphic design projects.
As a small business owner in the midst of a global pandemic, I cannot be anything but thankful to my customers and the reputation I’ve built over the years. My mission is to provide fellow small business owners with affordable marketing solutions:
- that they can contribute to, manage, have a voice in the process,
- where they can understand what we are doing, why we are doing it and determine ROI of our efforts
- be able to cancel at any time (no contracts or monthly fees);
- that is uniquely tailored to their needs and budget (no packages);
- and tells their brand story accurately and in an engaging way.
Want to learn more? Call me today!