I’m reading numerous blog posts at the moment about the new year – or rather the new academic year. There have been some brilliant pieces about how this time of year is a time to make plans, reassess your business, start afresh with renewed energy and structure the next few months in an exciting and energetic way.
I love September. I love this time of year, when the light changes and the colours alter and everything becomes a little ‘crisper’ – the smells as I walk through the woods are ones of anticipation and I can almost see the season shifting in front of my eyes. I know some see the end of summer with sadness, but I feel the opposite. I think more than any other month, September has that power to really make me feel that everything has potential, and it helps me focus.
However, I’m feeling jittery right now. I was excited about the kids going back to school – the holidays have been one long juggle as I wrote about in my last post, and I’ve struggled with it this year, more than I have done before. I was envisaging the start back to school as an opportunity for me to become organised once more. I was excited about all the planning and scheduling and writing but it doesn’t quite feel like that yet.
My son has started a new school; secondary school. His first day yesterday went well and for both of us, we woke feeling excited and full of energy. Today however was different. He was in tears getting on the bus and I’ve not been able to settle since he left. I’ve got myself in a state and I can’t concentrate. I know he’ll be fine, and he’s just overwhelmed and it’s a new environment and all of that – but I feel displaced and I’m not being productive. I’ve been staring at my screen for hours and nothing is happening.
I know this isn’t unusual. There are many times when work doesn’t go well for us, and today, for me is one of those times. So I’m going to look at what I do when the blankness occurs and help myself shift it – and hopefully throw some tips your way too.
1. shut down the computer
I have an awful tendency to see how well everyone else is doing when I’m not. I compare myself to others. They seem to gravitate towards my insecurities. I feel like a failure. I want to give up. All those other businesses on Instagram or Twitter who are so successful and have everything so sorted are just adding to my frustrations (spoiler: no-one has everything sorted) and aren’t helping me. And staring at a blank screen isn’t either. Turn off your laptop, tablet, phone or whatever you are working on and go do something else instead. Have a shower, go for a walk, make a coffee, read a book. Do something that will stop you thinking about what you should be doing, or what others are doing and focus on something completely different. Take as much time as you need. Sooner or later you will feel better and be able to look at things with fresh eyes.
2. listen to podcasts
Listening to one of your favourite coaches/comedians/news reporters will not only give you a distraction but also educate you. You can learn something new, which you can share with others or just take on board for yourself. Podcasts can entertain and inspire, and all while you are lying on the sofa (or doing the hoovering – you choose!) You also kind of feel like you’ve got some company, which, when working on your own at home, is a real boost. Otherwise, if you aren’t a fan of a podcast, just turn your favourite tune on LOUD and dance round your kitchen!
3. put thoughts on paper
Even if you’ve got nothing to say, or feel like you aren’t good at writing, putting pen to paper is a really therapeutic exercise. Writing a list is a good start, if you want to pour out everything you need to do but don’t want to. But really, you can write anything you want – it doesn’t have to be shared with anybody. Write what is going on in your head, or write a story, or write utter nonsense. Or draw. Doodle. Colour in. Just scribble. Whatever you need to do, getting your thoughts out in a solid way can really help. I’ve just started doing ‘Morning Pages’ from The Artists Way. I’m only on day 4 but I am finding that it is such a positive way to start my day. Have a look into it and join me. It’s a new routine, which I’m really enjoying, and I am hoping will help me find clarity and creativity.
4. book a coaching/mentoring session
Having someone to talk to is so beneficial and can help you refocus. Whether it is to share a latest business idea or to discuss what direction you want to head in, or even just to have a cry, having someone to go over it all with helps you feel less crazy and also gives you some accountability. I have regular monthly sessions via skype with a coaching friend and I always come away feeling energised and excited with possibility. It doesn’t even have to be a coach you hire – if you have a trusted friend who can help you then give them a call. But make sure it keeps you focused – you don’t want to be bitching over a coffee about a certain business who is doing your head in, or someone who’s being copied, or other destructive gossip. Focus the conversation on moving forward and getting you out of your funk.
If you are a fan of meditation then this will come easy for you, but when I say meditate, I don’t necessarily mean sitting legs crossed humming ‘ohmmm’. The headspace app is an amazing resource, which literally just helps you become present for a few minutes. Once you realise that you don’t have to give over loads of time to meditating you can do it anywhere and for as long or as little as you like. For me, it is just breathing and sitting. A lot of the time I watch the trees outside my window and just sit and breathe. Just close your eyes and just concentrate on your breathing. Allowing yourself just a few minutes now and then to get back to yourself will help you settle and focus. You may prefer other ways of exercising and that’s fine too. Going for a run, a cycle ride, or as is my preference - a swim out in the wild, will bring you back to your happy place and those endorphins will keep you motivated.
Ultimately – like this and all of the other posts I’ve read, it’s about allowing yourself to step back, concentrate on something else for a while and allow yourself to refocus on what is needed. These are just what work for me. It’s good to take some time out now and again, but if you feel like it is becoming a habit and you really, really can’t get going, or have trouble getting the work done or rediscovering your joy in what you do, then maybe there is an underlying issue that you need to explore. In which case, give me a call.
So. I’ve just taken everything I’ve just written about on board to produce this post – I closed down the computer and went and listened to a favourite podcast while I was having a lie down. I then sat on my back step and watched the wind through the trees and breathed it in. Then I came and wrote it all down. And guess what? I feel so much better than I did an hour ago. I still feel upset while thinking about my boy, but I actually feel positive and now ready to make some plans!
We can do this.
If you’ve got any tips you think I’d like to hear, please do let me know in the comments or drop me an email. I’d love to hear from you.
A couple of articles which I’ve enjoyed over the last few days:
Jenny Hyde has spoken about being present in her latest newsletter.
The Telegraph has spoken about ways to start the new academic year afresh.
Photo credits: Greg Bottrill
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