Very recently I was a bit poorly.
Ok I was more than a bit poorly…I had a viral infection, which led to a lung infection, which then led to pneumonia.
I was so unwell I had no choice but to hit the pause button.
For almost 2 months.
As a mid-week single parent running a business being ill is the last thing you need!
My husband had to arrange to work from home and take on childcare, housework and all other life admin for a while.
Here I was lucky - many people don’t have that support.
But I had no energy to work on my business.
No posts on social media.
No participation on social media whatsoever.
Nothing but the barest of bones of client work (thank you again lovely clients for being so patient and understanding!).
Being forced to down tools was incredibly hard and stressful. As with most illnesses, I had no warning so was not prepared. I was desperate to get back to normal, but I just had to be patient and let my body recover.
However, it's not all doom and gloom...
I learnt a few good lessons in this time...
The world didn’t fall apart.
It sounds silly but it can feel like this sometimes can't it?! When you feel a lot of pressure and spin so many plates – as we small business owners do – it can feel impossible to stop. But when you have no choice, you realise that many of those plates don’t need to keep spinning. You can actually put them down and pick them up again later when you are able to.
If you're feeling stressed and overwhelmed, ask yourself what absolutely HAS to keep going and what can wait a little longer.
There is a lot of help and support out there - you just have to ask.
Building a business can feel lonely sometimes but if you're open to it you will find a lot of support on your doorstep. Family, friends, business connections, local business networks, local business support agencies and more.
The thought of being a burden on anyone often puts me off asking for help, but friends and family were happy to provide support and my clients were understanding that work would be scaled back temporarily. In hindsight, I could also have asked for support from business networks to hold the reins for me in some places until I was ready to get back to work.
You can’t do everything alone, so learning to recognise when you need some support and asking for it is an important skill to learn.
Plan and schedule your content ahead of time.
I've blogged about this before and talk to my clients about this all the time. Planning your content has so many benefits - more balanced and well-thought-out social media posts and blog themes, better consistency across your social media, more time for genuine engagement, more time for running your business in general! - but it takes a bit of commitment to stay ahead.
But I'm human. I don't always stay ahead.
Right when I really needed to have content scheduled and automated I didn't have any in place... and then I wasn't able to think about it. I had zero presence on social media for a looong time! For someone in my field this felt humiliating!
I learnt the hard way that it really is important to plan your content and make the time to prioritise it.
Before I had to stop, I thought I was doing plenty of big thinking / CEO thinking / goal setting. But stepping right back from it all made me realise that I wasn't thinking far enough ahead. I'd had some great ideas for my business that really excited me but I'd stopped trying to work towards them and just focussed on the month ahead.
I now have my big scary goals and business ideas at the front of my mind and I'm working towards them each week. I've already noticed its helped to focus me on what's important and what's not...long may this continue!
Be kind to yourself.
Last but not least I found it very humbling to let go of control and give in to having to stop. It wasn't my fault I was ill and yes, I wish I'd learned these lessons properly before I had to stop, but I couldn't change that. All I could change was how I dealt with the next step. I had to be patient and let my body heal and build up more energy. I had to stop kicking myself for things I hadn't done and learn from my mistakes. Also, importantly, I had to be realistic about what I could achieve once I was back to work.
I honestly believe that being kind to myself and gently getting back into work, allowed me to run my business quicker and more effectively than if I'd forced myself to jump straight back into where I'd left off.
If you've been feeling overwhelmed and unable to stop...try it! Hit the pause button and prioritise what's important for you and your business. You'll thank yourself for it.