No time to business plan? It may be that your brain is overloaded.

No time to business plan? It may be that your brain is overloaded.

Are you an over-thinker? Does your brain only know how to solve short term tactical problems?

One of the biggest barriers to growing my own business over the years hasn’t been because I didn’t have enough clients, or good enough products, or even enough time; it’s because I lacked the mental clarity and the space to think strategically.

Over the past 18 years of running my own coaching and training businesses, I have been working around my family. My children are now 20 and 22, but I won’t forget those crazy school day schedules in a hurry. My head was always full of to-do-lists.

What to cook for dinner, and did I have enough in the fridge or did I have to stop off at the supermarket on the way back from pick-up? What are they going to wear for World Book Day next week? Did they have the right trainers for hockey season? (and why do they need different sports shoes for every different sport FFS?!) … the lists never stopped.

This mental ticking off carried over into my business.

I had trained my brain to think in short term decision making and although this meant I was a very good problem solver, this wasn’t helpful for thinking about my business growth.

I was often knee-jerking from one product launch to the next and I would get bored of a programme or a workshop and want to do something new, even when what I was promoting was working really well, and I spent my week making tactical decisions and reacting to what was coming into my inbox.

And I know I am not alone.

Whether you are a parent or not, this kind of mental overloading happens regularly with service professionals such as trainers, coaches and consultants. Because you are often working directly with clients and you are good at solving their problems, you are giving a lot of your time to each new piece of work or proposal that comes in.

And even if you think you can solve this by trading your time with online products and digital programmes, if you are a natural over-thinker, as well as good at what you do and clients keep buying from you, you will still do a lot of tactical thinking and reacting to everyday problems that keeps your mind focused on the here-and-now.

So how did I shift and create the mental space for strategic thinking so that I could make the time for business planning and spotting the right opportunities for growth.

Firstly, I had to recognise that getting better at time management wasn’t the solution.

If your brain is trained to be solving short term problems and you get a buzz out of a busy delivery week, there’s every chance you will make yourself more efficient at getting stuff done, rather than creating the space needed for strategic thinking.

Secondly, I began to address my working week rhythm’s and flow. To begin with, I couldn’t simply plug in a whole day to take off for business planning; my diary was booked out for weeks and it seemed that I didn’t have the time. The trick I discovered was to block out days out for thinking ‘on’ the business 6 weeks or more in advance, and this has become my go-to advice for everyone since.

Go to the point in your diary when you have spaces in your delivery calendar – and yes this may be two months or more – and block out two or three days. Don’t worry about what you are going to actually do during this time at this point; the important thing is that you carve out the time in advance now so that you have a firebreak in your schedule.

I also addressed how I started my working week. Monday mornings became time for me and the business and this now looks like weekly review of campaigns and implementation plans, team meetings and finances. Again, this acts like a firebreak and I can reset myself, no matter how busy the week before was.

Finally, I needed a process to follow. I knew that if I left strategic thinking time to its own devices and simply went with the flow, I would fill my head with more thoughts and ideas that never had the chance to be executed. I have found techniques such as journaling to be helpful to a point, but I needed a way to structure my ambitions and vision into a way that could be implemented.

And buying beautifully designed planning diaries (and yes, I have most of them on my bookshelf!) rarely helped me because they often over-complicated the process or distracted me by giving me lots of irrelevant boxes to complete.

So over the years, I crafted my own planning process that simplified what was needed to scale my business, and it worked so well that we now teach it in our Momentum business growth programme. The Grow Strong planning process is based on the 90 day planning principles, but rather than have a back-to-back quarterly cycle, I run it three times a year on a trimester basis.

What this does is allow space between the implementation time to review and reflect (as well as catch your breath which, as I got older, I needed so much more of!) and slows the pace down.

And it’s this slowing down that actually speeds up the business growth.

I know it may sound rather counterintuitive, but for a classic over-thinker like myself and for many of our clients in the Momentum community, it’s been instrumental to creating the space for strategic thinking, respecting your health needs as well as being able to behave more like a CEO, rather than someone who runs a busy business.

So where are you at? Are you an over-thinker? Has reading this made you realise that your brain may be trained to solve short term tactical problems, rather than the long term strategy needed to grow your business?

And if you’ve already identified this, what have you done to slow down your tactical thinking and create the time and space for business planning?

Until next time,

Do we over-egg the life shit stuff?

Do we over-egg the life shit stuff?

We have the habit of overestimating the life shit that comes our way.

And underestimating the power and influence we believe we already have.

This was the hard truth that I was told yesterday by one of the world’s leading experts on mindset and women’s leadership.

As Ambassador for The Hunger Project and leader of the Unleashed Women movement here in the UK, I had the honour of interviewing Cathy Burke, who has a 20+ year history with the charity, previously Country Director of Australia and then Global VP, and now Global Ambassador.

Along with asking her about her work with The Hunger Project, I also wanted to know her thoughts on why so many midlife women drop out of leadership and professional careers. With everything I do, my overriding mission is for the empowerment of women to ensure more women in their 50’s, 60’s and beyond are in positions of power to influence our economic, political and social infrastructures and outcomes.

So I asked for her thoughts on the matter.

There was much she shared on this, which I will share more about in the future, but what hit me hardest was this truth (and yes, this her truth … not THE truth) that many women have a habit of overestimating the shit and problems that we have to deal with, whilst at the same time underestimating how much power and influence we already have.

Wow! Is it really possible that we make too much of the things that drag us out of positions of power, leadership and influence?

I get the second part about not believing in the power that we already have within us to step up and make the difference. How many times have we felt lonely, forgotten, ignored, belittled by what someone has said to us or pulled back because we felt others were so much better than us? I know I have.

But to be told that I may be over-egging my life shit stuff?

Now I know this will be triggering to so many of us – me included! I have had to deal with a growing family, a chronic health crisis in my 40’s and in more recent years, eldercare responsibilities.

Have I really made too much of this over the years?

But as I reflected, I saw that this is not about the actual shit we have to deal with that’s important here, because yes there are so pretty BIG shitty things that happen in life. It’s the how, when and where we choose to focus our time, energy and attention moving through them. Or as Jo Blackwell, Founder of The Midlife Movement, commented on my piece on this on LinkedIn yesterday … it’s the “times when you overestimated the emotional energy needed to deal with it.”

Because yes, I am a white, privileged female who is well aware of all the amazing support and access to resources she has in her life. And when put into context of what so many others have to contend with, and our huge global problems, I can see that yes, I have absolutely overestimated the amount of emotion and energy I needed to deal with life shit at times.

This plays out as having way too many hours of worry, and sometimes sleepless nights on things that aren’t so bad when put in the context of what’s happening in the world. These times have not only taken my attention away from projects that needed with my time, attention and leadership, but also sucked me dry, often leading me to further health complications and my burn out symptoms returning, and left me with little for anything else, let alone my desire to make a difference in this world.

I don’t write this as a preach, or even pretend that a lot of life shit is not really shit, but I do wonder if you recognise times when you overestimated the emotional energy needed to deal with life shit.

And yes, there is the caveat that there are times that we absolutely need to take time out, to rest and recover and be with the people – or even ourselves – at certain times in our lives. But … and this is a BIG BUT … if there is a burning desire in you to step up, to up level your business and your leadership, or to contribute to something far bigger than you, then this overestimating habit can no doubt pull us back from our potential to make a bigger difference.

I’d love to know what you think. Leave a comment below with your perspective on this and what this throws up for you.

Until next time, do less, be more, play bigger.

 

 

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