“I’ve no boss and just the normal domestic roles (plus a few voluntary bits) but I still seem to lose way too many days to other people’s drama.”
The short answer is I have no idea. If we were speaking in one of my coaching calls I’d be able to ask you a few more clarifying questions. Given we don’t have that luxury today, I’m going to hazard a few guesses and hope that one at least is on the money.
Firstly, when you say you have “just the normal domestic roles (plus a few voluntary bits)” that already denotes a busy woman to me. And perhaps the way in which you operate in both those areas of your life are hangovers from the days before you started to employ yourself for money?
I don’t have any normal domestic roles. I am gloriously unrepentantly single and that gives me total and 100% freedom to direct my energies and spend my time on working with my clients, marketing my business and writing this book. There are no distractions except those I allow or seek out. I run My Biz My Way and you can too.
I think you probably tend to underestimate how challenging and time-consuming “normal domestic roles” can be. I always wonder on holiday how on earth I have time to work too when I am at home. By the time I’ve got myself up and showered, we’ve had breakfast, done the shopping, washed the clothes, had some fun and a trip out and made the meals, when would one work in that? That’s only “normal domestic” stuff and you’ve added “a few voluntary bits on top”. I don’t have those either. Those are your choice, I’ve made mine. Priority first, then focus next. Only you can decide what you will chop/streamline, and what you will keep. But you are going to need to make some room for that new biz or creative pursuit of yours.
One thing that might be useful is to think that if you had a day job, you’d need to fit in all the activities in those roles around your 35-40 hours a week away from home at your workplace and after commuting too. Most people in jobs do the stuff you are talking about on evenings and weekends. Do you? Do you have that discipline? The idea is to ring-fence the time you choose to spend working on your own business so that you are off limits to everyone and everything else during those vital hours. This constitutes nothing more than taking yourself seriously as a businesswoman and creator, denoting self-respect and self-esteem.
One of the best things about being self-employed, in Judith world at least, is that you DON’T have to do those things rammed into evenings and weekends when everyone else is doing it. You can see daylight and do these things during the off-peak weekdays. But know that if you do that, you either have to work at your self-employed stuff in evenings/weekends instead, as I do, or you have simply stolen from yourself the time and energy it takes to run Your Biz Your Way, unless this is your way of course but it doesn’t seem like it is because your question has a slightly resentful tone to it, as though you don’t yet understand your own behaviour and why you allow other people (OP) to play fast and loose with you and your days.
I suspect also that you are simply a Nice Girl. You are just a girl who can’t say no to other people’s requests of you and that may be your kids, your partner, your ageing parents, your next-door neighbour, your dog, or whomsoever asks. You must keep your kids alive (and a bit more TBH), you have to do your bit in a relationship to keep that alive too and, with parents, this is also important. You may be at that stage of life where you are juggling all three. What can you do in Your Biz around those commitments? What will you prioritise and what will you shelve, for now, in order to get back control of your day? What do you need to be able to learn to do and say?
Everything is a choice, even the stuff that doesn’t feel like it very much. I worked with my own coach, the very wonderful Michael Neill, for a year way back in 2006 and a major focus of our work together FOR A YEAR (did I say that??) was to stop me being so darned dutiful, specifically to get me out of a 2-day a week commitment to one of my former accounting clients. I resigned on 5th September 2006 in the end and left (ha ha) on 28th February 2007. It is so easy to feel that you have got “stuck” doing stuff for other people simply because you always have and cannot see an easy way out, especially stuff you love for people you love, as I did in this example.
What would you say no to, if you could, in order to get that control back? And, I don’t really like the word control TBH. I wonder if there’s another word we could choose that would be more helpful, I’m thinking about choices and allowing, rather than feeling you have to control things or be controlled. Very restrictive, control; it feels heavy and onerous.
You give me a big clue with the “other people’s drama” piece. Well, in a nutshell, that’s it, isn’t it? You are allowing those dramas to be more important than your business and your day, and you end up feeling frustrated by the losses to you. How much longer are you going to go on doing that? What do you think would help?
Sorry to use a coachy jargony word (by now you’ll appreciate how much I dislike those) which trips so easily off the tongue, especially when I know you know this already, but this is a boundaries thing, isn’t it? It’s about learning to say no, or no, not now. We often don’t know how to do that, or to do it in a way that is fair. It may be simply a matter of not picking up the requests, or not over-responding, or very quickly assessing the situation and saying I can’t help you with that, but X might. Or I’m at work now, I can’t do this for you today, but I could take an hour out over the weekend, or your own variations of those as appropriate to the request.
I would even go so far as to go overboard with this initially, repel all boarders. Be strict. Blame me. Say I’m not getting enough done in my business/my creative endeavours and my coach says (fill in the blanks). Increasingly show others how they can help themselves, empower them as opposed to allowing them to steal your most precious resources whether or not they know that’s what they are doing.
Just say no.
You might find it useful, while you have your training wheels on, to rehearse a few of these reasons why you cannot be interrupted/help now, and type them up and have them right next to you and work your way through a rotating list of them, until you feel able to respond in the moment. Another useful tip is to say “I’m not sure. I need to look at my diary. Can I get back to you by close of business Friday?” or some such. Give yourself a breathing space in which to respond, not over-respond or react. Give yourself that time to work out if you want to do it at all these days, or whether you just do it because you always have; no need to be a martyr all your life! Give yourself that time to work out how you are going to fit it in around your business, or if your lovely little biz and your day will be the losers again.
I have often found it is useful to set up things in a way which suits a Nice Girl e.g. by letting everyone know that you will be focusing on your biz between the hours of X and Y (your choice) and that during that time you will not be answering either personal emails or phone calls or interruptions of any description unless they come from loved ones who are mortally wounded or unless the house is on fire. Make it funny!
Simply not being available 24/7 to other people changes everything. You start to put yourself first and take your biz seriously. You start to put yourself first for a change. If you want this to change, you must learn to put yourself first.
The best way to achieve this, after your initial announcement, is by your actions not by your words. People won’t believe your words. You’ve always been available to them on demand and until you stop being that over-responsive nice girl/mum/dutiful daughter/artist/accountant, they will always continue to expect it and to feel it is more than OK to put upon you. Again.
Historically you’ve been complicit in this, but no more!
My experience is that non-family people who put upon you in this way simply move off once you stop meeting their needs emotional and practical. Remember my saying they are what I call successful people? They are successful at getting their own needs met first and foremost, often at the expense of others and, at the moment, that’s at your expense in every way. Those people have been my nemesis too, more than once. They will respond to your new non-availability by simply shuffling off and finding someone else to meet their needs. It’s like this drinking hole has run dry, so they move on in search of another one they can bleed dry too. Can you bleed dry a drinking hole? No, probably not, just a human being, just a Nice Girl.
You get control of your day by setting your intentions, creating new habits of discipline and self-discipline, allowing fewer and fewer interruptions except when it is a matter of life or death, and acting like a woman who has some boundaries until you wake up one day and discover that you have become that woman. And when that day comes, this will cease to be a problem for you. Life becomes much calmer. You realise and appreciate precisely how much choice you really do have over everything and everyone in your life, including and especially yourself.
Decide what’s important to you and only let distractions get in the way of your business which you consider to be equally or more important than your business, and prioritise accordingly. Make a list of those things now. I would start with your health (emotional and otherwise) and the health and well-being of those you love. After those two, everything’s up for grabs. Everything’s negotiable. Everything’s a choice.
You don’t have to – unless you want to – do this in a Wham Bam Thankyou Mam BIG ANNOUNCEMENT way. Or even today. You can do it slow and steady in a way that builds. So you don’t need to turn into the Wicked Witch of the West right this red-hot second so that they think you’re having a breakdown. But slowly and surely you increasingly stand firm to your principles and everything changes, inch by inch.
You might start training yourself by saying such things as “come hell or high water, I am going to get X done today.” And if you find that you get to bedtime and you haven’t done it, either you stay up until you have, punishing yourself in a way that will soon become tiresome, or you accept that tomorrow is another day and that you were a wuss who let the world get the better of her AGAIN. Forgive yourself if that’s it, and have another go tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. You’ll crack this in the end.
Now, some balance… some days we eat the bear, some days the bear eats us. But we want more of the former. A lot more of the former.
Over to you! Let me know how it goes and if I can help some more.
- Who is your main bugbear when it comes to this?
- How could you start to change that dynamic today?
- What will you do differently so they get the message loud and clear? Don’t overdo it! One day at a time. Don’t burn your boats unless that’s the only option and you are overdue for a bonfire.