A client wants my help with brain retraining. Her desire is for greater clarity which, in turn, she imagines will make space for insight and energy to stay on task and help her create the business she envisions.
I ask my usual questions. I find I need to know this sort of thing from a complete stranger to give me some context:
- Age? Late twenties
- Where? London
- What? Design business
- Married/single? Engaged
- Doing it all yourself? Yes + help from interns
- What else? Working part-time in own business AND full-time in a day job, both juggled throughout a very long day
What are the problems really?
- My client is annoyed by constant interruptions which disrupt her concentration and reduce what little time she does have for her own business. She finds incoming messages on all formats from friends and acquaintances and her fiance at all times of the day and night discombobulating and draining. Her family and close friends are really respectful. Why doesn’t everyone else get that?
- My client has difficulty in saying no to requests which she doesn’t have time for anymore given she’s doing a full-time job in a part-time space before and after running her new biz 9-6 every weekend plus some time at weekends. Those to whom she has said yes before have come to expect her to solve all their problems and now she finds it onerous and burdensome. She’s just a girl who can’t say no.
- Her interns work both full-time and part-time but she’s not managing them well. She gives them all interesting jobs to do as she thinks this is what’ll keep their interest but she needs them to do all the stuff she can’t, won’t or shouldn’t be. She can’t see the point in training interns because they’ll leave. She wishes they’d enable he to be free just to design, make trade contacts and sell her designs.
What solutions can I able to offer?
There’s nothing wrong with her brain, we are all far too quick to assume there’s something wrong with us, but there are some useful things she can learn immediately and implement in short order which will make a lot of difference – and fast.
- Turn off all distractions during office hours. Let those that are about the business wait for timed windows around what you regard as your “real” work. Let them wait. Train them to wait. Educate all the other people that they may interrupt you only if it is a matter of life or death or if the house is on fire or both. Actions speak louder than words, so ask for this and then act accordingly. Do not answer. Do not respond. You are training them, remember? Do not be at the beck and call of others unless that IS your business. Stephen Covey’s distinction between urgent and important will help. Sort out the important and the number of urgent requests reduces. Ask for your needs to be met, but accept too that people will let you know their preferred method of contact by using it themselves in the first instance – email, phone, social media. I have found that resistance is futile. Check all those places but no more often than you need. Train yourself to open up HUGE chunks of time for focus, say three hours in the morning and another three in the afternoon, without those distractions. Forward movement will be astonishing if you can find uninterrupted focus for six hours a day.
- Say NO more. Start today. Blame me if you like. “My business coach says I cannot…” but better still to be honest and say “I cannot do this for you. My current business and work commitments make this impossible.” You could invite them to phone you again later if it is something you really want to do or something you will do, but I wouldn’t do that while we are in retraining mode. The more you say no the more the needy will find someone else, that’s their successful MO. Good on them, but not around here any longer Matey! Tolerations begone. Oh, the relief.
- Interns can be trained to create your own in-house procedures manual for their role which explains “How We Do It Here”. For more information on how to do this read The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber, an incredibly simple easy-to-follow fable as one rather snooty client once described it to me. [Good, all the better for the majority of us to get it then!] They create their own procedures manual for their own internship and they train their replacement when they leave to follow the procedures manual. Once you have this in place, the whole issue of training anxiety goes away. Not only is the intern more useful and more efficient but you need have no fear of their leaving. Remember to allow the intern to suggest improvements to the way we do it here. You don’t have to agree unless their ideas are better. And if they are not, you must explain why; this is part of their training which is also part of your deal with them. Help them to help you better and they will enjoy their internship more and it will be more useful for them too, especially if you teach them how to do the littlest of jobs. We all had to start somewhere. New lowly tasks are not boring unless we get stuck there forever, that is. And when they feel stuck, they will move on. An intern isn’t for life, anyway. Get them to do what needs doing or find someone who will.
After our call, I wrote recommending she buy a copy of my book Your Biz Your Way as all these questions are covered in there too, but sometimes we need to hear these answers and read them over and over before they sink in, or until the pain becomes sufficient to make up our minds to do something about it. That’s how normal these issues are, and that’s how easily solved. Yes, it takes a bit of time and effort, but not very much. That time and effort will solve these problems and life will instantly become more happy and peaceful and you can focus on what’s important and discover your brain didn’t need training after all. Your business will thank you.
There’s nothing wrong with you, the problem’s everyone else – ha! But you must be the one to help them help you.