Be kind to yourself and reclaim your identity
Okay, the title sounds a bit wishy-washy for a business post, but 6 weeks after lockdown some fascinating ideas have emerged from discussions between a group of micro companies who employ 1-5 people. This key insights here are very much influenced by the reassuring presence of Carolyn Freeman who, as a psychologist, brought different perspectives to the challenges of pushing ahead with business.
The good news is that some calm and consistency seems to be descending on agency founders. But all things are relative. Micro business founders are invariably used to battling on multiple fronts every day – as they take responsibility not only for delivering services and products, but providing staff-management, business development, company strategy – even the bookkeeping, and so on.
But there has been a shift. Up to now, anyone has been able to understand the rules of engagement, no matter what sector you work in. Suddenly, to borrow the Government’s metaphor, there are new battle lines being drawn, it feels like, every day. To be honest, it’s not as if it was easy before – but now, it’s even tougher trying to navigate your way through a world of shifting landscapes – with clients unreliably popping up and down like a game of whack-a-mole.
A big relief for every founder is to know they’re not the only ones having a hard time – Everyone is in the same boat! Somehow, it’s reassuring to know that, even if your confronting the worst business prospects since I don’t know when, you’re all in this together. It’s not you – it’s them.
Even so, most of us are working with a low level of anxiety – whether we realise it or not. Even when we think we’re coping, the external concerns over which we have no control force us to think more deeply about how we tackle things right now. Curiously, this is ramping up the amount of bizarre dreams many of us are having at the moment – because our brains are being made to work harder. Using the brain also uses up a load more energy than we tend to realise. So, if you feel more tired at the end of the day, don’t beat yourself up – it’s okay – It’s only to be expected.
What can we do to help ourselves?
Nobody knows what the future looks like. Everything is guesswork, so it seems best to accept that. Now is not the time to be striving for perfection, because it’s impossible to tell what perfect looks like. It will just make you go round in circles and possibly end up a little bit crazy.
Time management is probably going to be a frustrating enemy. There’s so much distraction, it’s hard to stay focused. More than ever, it’s important to be methodical with what you are doing. Write down lists and stick to them. The likelihood is that the next 6 months will be tougher than you want – but not as bad as you fear. One life-hack is to think about how things might look in 6 months-time, and then look back on today from that viewpoint, as if the time had passed already, and how you might have got there. It gives you a bit more perspective about how the future could pan out.
It’s also a good time to reflect on yourself and your personal ambition. All this time to ourselves is striping away some of the artifice of life. ‘Self’ is sometimes described in 3 ways: 1) The ‘Ought self’ – the person you think you should be; 2) The ‘Ideal self’ – who you aim to become; 3) The ‘Actual self’ – who you really are.
Lockdown is helping people to rediscover their ‘Actual’ selves. This is positive because working within the limits of our inherent abilities makes us more naturally productive. If we’re not trying to force our work through the prism of a person were pretending to be, we will be in much more control of our actions, and feel surer of them too.
As a last word, a great way to deal with low level anxiety is spending time around nature. If you’re luck enough to have a garden, spend some time in it. Get weeding! Being tactile in nature helps to (literally) earth us. If you don’t have access to a garden, amazingly enough, simply looking at pictures of nature has been shown to have beneficial effects – nearly as good as the real thing.