The other day I was looking over my Google Analytics and checking out which of my blog posts have been read the most in the past 6 months. This one about my 21 day blogging challenge ranked #1, but this one about my husband’s recent deployment was a close #2.
In that post I talked about some hard lessons I learned during that deployment, our second since getting married (and my husband’s fourth), and some of the ways that it actually paralleled my experience as a business owner and taught me how to be a better entrepreneur.
You may not be a military spouse like me. Maybe your a vet with your own deployment experiences, or maybe you’re firmly in the civilian world with no experience with military life at all.
No matter who you are, I think that post really resonated with people for one big reason: we can all relate to deployment-like difficult experiences and the challenges we face when trying to survive as entrepreneurs in the midst of suffering.
Because the truth is that as hard as it is to be a new mom with a deployed husband, there are other seasons of life that are really hard too.
Maybe it’s the death or illness of a loved one, or a long term relationship turning into heartbreak, or a personal illness or injury that makes it hard to function every day.
These rough seasons happen when you’re single and they happen when you’re married; they happen to millennials and they happen to baby boomers. No matter what season of life you are in, hard stuff happens to you, and you have to find a way to survive it without losing the business you’ve worked so hard to get off the ground.
Of course there are some hard seasons that are TOO hard, and you need to step back from business completely. That might be the right decision for you; in that case, ignore this post and take care of yourself – no judgment here. But if you do think you can continue to run your business at this time, I have a few tips.
I wanted to write this post and share some of the things I’ve learned about surviving hard seasons as an entrepreneur; not to say that I’m an expert my any means, but I have gone through some crazy times the past few years and I’ve learned a few things the hard way.
So here you go – for the new moms and the deployed spouses and the grieving and the hurting entrepreneurs – and for those who are still waiting for their hard season to come – this post is for you.
10 Ways To Survive A Hard Life Season When You’re Running A Business
Say no to everything that is not essential to the survival of your business. Networking event? No. Volunteer role? No. New client who wants a project that goes outside your focus? No. New investment that won’t generate a return for a while? No. New social media network that “everyone” has to be on? Nope, nope, nope.
Be ruthless. Take care of your paying clients and customers, and then say no to everything else you possibly can. Now is not the time to be taking on distracting and exhausting new projects.
I used to apologize pretty much any time I sent an email. If it had been more than a few hours between when I received it and when I replied, I would apologize. But then I thought about it: when I apologize, what exactly am I apologizing for?
Am I sorry that my baby got sick and I had to take her to the hospital? Am I sorry that I woke up to soothe her 8 times last night and didn’t have the energy to tackle emails first thing in the morning? Am I sorry that my paying clients are my top priority and everyone else’s emails come second? No, I’m not really sorry about any of those things, so why was I apologizing?
During a hard season as an entrepreneur, you have to do what it takes to survive. Be firm and don’t apologize that you’re in survival mode. You don’t need anyone’s approval or affirmation. Just do what you have to do.
Do small, concrete tasks
When you’re overwhelmed with all the things you need to do, it’s easy to just give up or get stuck. Don’t give into the temptation to tackle your biggest, hairiest project just because you “should”. Focus on taking care of the smaller tasks that can be done quickly and end cleanly, such as writing a short blog post instead of a long tutorial or batch processing some images instead of designing a complex infographic. That way you can build your momentum and see real progress without getting discouraged and overwhelmed.
Plan the night before
This is probably the last thing you feel like doing at the end of an exhausting day, but it will really help. End your day right before bed by making a list of all your tasks for tomorrow and planning out your schedule as best as you can. This will help you sleep better at night because your brain won’t be racing to remember all the things you need to be doing, and it will make your day more productive and strategic – you will begin your morning by doing the most important things, instead of by reacting to the latest “urgent” email or aimlessly reading through new blog posts.
Decrease your frequency
It’s easy to go into hermit mode when you’re hurting or overwhelmed with other things, but this will definitely not help your marketing. People need to know you’re alive and kicking, even if you’re busy. So decreasing your frequency is a good way to find that balance. If you normally post on social media a few times a day, decrease that to once a day or even 2-3 times a week. If you usually post in your Facebook groups daily, decrease that to once weekly. If you usually blog once a week, switch to every other week. You get the idea. Many entrepreneurs have an all-or-nothing mentality – “If I can’t do it all, it’s just not worth trying.” Let’s all acknowledge this is pretty foolish! We just need to keep trying, and if in this season you need to spend a little less time, that’s fine. Still better than nothing.
Outsource if you can
Entrepreneurs love to be lone rangers. We love to say we “did it ourselves” when it comes to pretty much anything; we love saving money and gaming the system and finding “hacks” to do things cheaper and better than everyone else.
But if you’re going through a hard season, now is not the time to push yourself to pinch pennies and do everything on your own. If you spent hours this week trying to solve WordPress problems or stuck with writers block, you know what I mean. Outsource where you can and give yourself a break. You can always find ways to save money later on.
Get some sleep
Easier said than done, I know. But lack of sleep really affects your emotional state, your ability to problem-solve, and your ability to handle stress. So if you’re going through a tough life season, make sleep a top priority and do whatever it takes. Be warned, for some of you that might mean laying off alcohol and caffeine, which both affect sleep quality, as well as keeping your phone out of your bedroom and going to bed at an embarrassingly early hour.
Eat real food
Along those lines, taking care of your diet is one of the best ways I know to make sure I have the energy to survive a rough day. This is hard when you’re busy, so you might have to get creative – one of my tricks is to cook once a week, separate everything into preset meals, and throw them in the freezer so I can focus on work and life without worrying about where my next meal is coming from every day.
Just try to avoid getting trapped in the caffeine/sugar loop, where you forget to eat breakfast, get desperate for coffee and sugar at around 10am, forget to eat lunch, and then go on another sugar binge at 2pm! This will make you feel sick and stressed. Fill up on real food instead and you will notice a difference.
Write it all down
When you are running your own business and going through a tough life season, there are moments when you are so overwhelmed by everything that it’s all you can do to stay standing. I’ve been there too. Here is a trick that really, actually helps: write it all down. Every last crazy thought in your head goes onto paper, and suddenly, you can think a lot clearer and maybe even come up with some solutions. Make a top ten list – 10 reasons why I’m frustrated right now – or a big dreams list – 10 things incredibly unlikely things that I really want to happen. Get it out of your head and onto paper and you will feel better pretty much every time.
Don’t give up
Here’s a thought – if you make it through this season and come out the other side, and your business is a disaster and so is your health and your personal life, you will still be able to say one thing: I never gave up. And I really think that is all you need to ask of yourself sometimes.
Keep trying, don’t give up, and one day, you will get through this.
Bonus: Get This List To Print & Put Up On Your Wall
Are you a visual person like me? Or do you read things and notice they go in one ear and out the other (also like me)? I made a printable for this list so you can put it up near your work space and help yourself stay focused on what matters. Enter your email here to download a printable one page version of this list: