Apparently, you have to be careful what you wish for and after 3 years of asking the universe for the opportunity to go all in with my coaching business, I got my wish granted and took redundancy from my 16+ years working in a strategic leadership role and all of my precious time & energy became my own.
Here's what I've learned in my first month flying solo as a fully self employed life coach and small business owner.
1. You have to wear all the hats - but not all at once.
Running a small business is hard, like really hard. You have to wear the hat not only of thing you love doing, but also all the other hats too. Like, all of them. You are the finance team, the art department, the comms person, research intern and fetcher of tea. You're IT, HR, receptionist and editor in chief. So many hats, all with their own priorities and responsibilities, it can feel exhausting.
I have learned that it's really important for me to wear just one hat at a time and then move onto something else.
It can be really easy to get drawn into overwhelm trying to do and be everything and I'm still working out my ideal day, but I know structure is an essential part as is being intentional with my time - hence lesson 2.
2. If you don't boundary your time, it leaks.
Instagram scroll holes, extended walks in the woods; hunting down a mystery discrepancy in my accounting - all of these things and more have conspired to rob me of time over the past few weeks. In my old day job, my time was governed by other people's agendas and priorities. Meetings and deadlines formed static points in time that I knew I had to work to (hello people pleaser tendencies) but now my time is much more my own.... it's leaking all over the place!
Lesson number 2 has been not only do I need structure to keep me focused on single task and not get overwhelmed with everything at once, I also need time structure to keep me from getting lost down rabbit holes (literal and physical ones if I'm in the woods).
Having an almost school like timetable of what I am doing and for how long through the day may sound like structure overkill, but for me it creates certainty which supports my nervous system to know what to expect next. And the schedule is not just for business activities...
3. Intentional time for rest and play is ESSENTIAL.
Again, much like school I have scheduled in time for breaks AND what I will do in those breaks too. After breakfast, I go out for a walk round the block and through the trees in my local nature reserve. Sometimes this "commute" is with a podcast, sometimes it's an opportunity to talk to the trees, watch the birds and daydream - both serve me well in different ways.
With lunch, I read and then if I don't have any client calls, I take some time to lay down and just breathe for 10 mins or so. A simple pause in the day that tops up my energy, whilst making time for play tops up my creativity - both of which are essential for small biz folks to keep going when they have all those hats to wear.
4. Shake off what's not yours to carry
Whilst being an empath and a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) serves me really well as a coach and space holder, it can also mean that being in spaces with other folk through the day - even if it's on line and not in person - can make my energy and feelings feel muddy. It's so important to your wellbeing to mind your energetic as well as your time and task boundaries.
As part of my WFH evening commute I take the time to cleanse my energy and close out the day. As I wash my face, I imagine all the feelings I have expressed and massage them away; as I change my clothes I imagine I am stripping away anything that feels heavy or not mine to hold onto any more; and as I shut down my laptop I take the time to also clear away any rubbish and cups etc from my work space to keep it feeling open and uncluttered.
I also take a moment to cleanse off the energy of the day with a selenite wand **cue witchy/mystical music* Imagining all the residual energy from anyone I have interacted with being swept away and then all the pieces of my own energy being called back to me.
Finally, I flip the house to "evening mode". This looks like opening or closing windows; lighting a candle or two; closing the curtains and spending 30-40 minutes on tidying one room each evening and then confirming dinner plans and who's cooking with my husband. Then, I can settle into my evening
Boundaries between work and home are so important, even more so if you are working in the same space you live and play in. Setting boundaries around the time, space, energy and emotion of my coaching supports me to be really intentional about my downtime.
5. You do not have to walk this path alone
Some days I have felt very lonely being a self employed business owner wearing all the hats and trying to find out what new ways of working I need to adopt now I'm 100% responsible for 100% of my time.
Yes, this is the dream I wanted for so long (thank you, more please) to be able to work for myself and support other small business folks find ways to work, rest and play - AND it's really hard and often not much fun doing it all alone. Both things can be true at the same time.
Finding like minded folk to hang out with, learn from, share with and be inspired by has been SO GOOD not only for my wellbeing in these early days of finding my feet, but also to work out how exactly the hell you do this long term and stay sane from folk who have been there and done it.
Two spaces in particular have been priceless for me in this way - Pippa Parfait's Disobedient Business Mastermind has been my go to for business strategy advice, support and coaching, whilst the Small Business Huddle has been a weekly slice of comfort.
Hanging out with other business folk to connect, share and learn has ben so reassuring and validating.
Yes, my dreams have come true AND there is so much I still do not know and need to figure out (and will get wrong along the way no doubt).
This is going to be an ongoing journey and I feel so honoured to be able to call this my job - because I truly do love it and being able to do something I feel passionate about is worth all the effort.
TL;DR - The 30 Second Summary
Owning and running a small business means you are going to need boundaries around your time, space and energy.
If you do not make intentional time for rest and play, you are inviting burnout to come visit.
Going all in with your dreams can look like asking for the right support and help to have around you whilst you figure things out. That could be one on one coaching, it could be finding some business besties to hang out with. Anyway you look at it, its so much easier to walk these paths with some pals who get why it matters.
All the work and headaches, lessons and heartache is worth it if you can call work something you truly love doing and being.