Often significant life changes, adversity and difficulties, shape you and can make you a better person and also can lead you down new paths.
Often in the moment, when we encounter what may seem like a major challenge or difficulty, it may be hard to see how good can come from it. But I believe that in life, everything happens for a reason. Whether it is to teach us a lesson, bring us clarity, hep us grow or make us stronger.
When I hit a road block
Back in 2012 my business began to really take off, and things were running smoothly. I had all these ideas in the back of my mind for how to grow my business, create passive products and improve my processes. But I was always so bogged down in client work, that those things got pushed aside.
I did what I knew.
I didn’t seek business education, or follow business experts. I just did what I already knew how to do and was working for me. While that worked at the time, it all came unstuck when I fell pregnant.
I was hit hard with exhaustion and morning sickness. I found it hard to work, I felt so tired and sick. I tried working from the couch, and began to turn away some work.
While I kept things going OK during my pregnancy, once my son was born, I took some maternity leave (paid by the government) and just played a round with my blog a bit during that time. (The law with paid leave, meant I was not allowed to work during that time). Once leave was over, I then had to find a way to fit in work with a baby. I worked during his naps, which was usually about 40min 3 times a day. Not a lot of time!
I knew it was going to be hard in the early years, and was ok with just ticking along. BUT THEN.. at the end of 2015 I had my second son. And that is when things really fell apart. It was pretty much IMPOSSIBLE to work with a baby and a toddler. It was impossible to even get close to a computer. So I started trying to devise other ideas. I started a skincare line and tried selling handmade products on Etsy. I found myself in desperation mode, and my business hit an all time low.
So as 2016 came to a close, I realised I had to find a better way.
I found struggles push you to learn and discover and seek help, and I began a journey of learning business from online business experts.
So through this experience, here are my key take-aways.
Lesson One- Give Your Mind Space
Life with small children can get noisy and chaotic. It can be really hard to think. When your mind has too much to process, it can’t work through problems.
But it isn’t just having kids around that can be creating a lot of noise and preventing you from getting time to simply think. If you always have videos, audio books, podcasts or music on all the time, you brain is processing those things.
If in every spare moment you find yourself reaching for social media, mindless scrolling or watching videos, then you aren’t giving your mind free space.
With my life so busy, the only way I could survive and ACTUALLY THINK was to go walking. I walked everywhere, and while some people thought I was a bit crazy, it kept me sane and birthed many great ideas for my business. The boys would sit quietly in the pram, I would have fresh air, exercise and a good chunk of it time to think about things.
It is important to create time to regularly have quiet and let your mind just think and process. This is why so many people claim to have their best ideas in the shower, or while drifting off to sleep.
Don’t wait for those tiny pockets of time, create longer moments, so you can work through your thoughts and create better work, better products and better content.
Lesson Two- Maintain good Health
In my pre-kid days I probably wasn’t doing the best things for my health. In the early days of freelancing full time, I worked really hard to get my business going and honestly wasn’t go outside enough, or eating enough (or very healthy- chocolate, cheese, pasta and toast should not be your primary foods) and I certainly wasn’t exercising regularly.
I was pale, I always hit an afternoon slump and would struggle to have the focus and energy I needed all day.
While I made attempts at improving things, it wasn’t until I had my first son that I really woke up to the need to make health a big priority. I was one of those people who was thin even though I ate poorly and didn’t do much intentional exercise, so I never felt this great motivation to change my ways.
But pregnancy took its toll and I gained a lot of weight. I gave myself 3 months to take things slow and easy and adjust to life with a newborn. Then on New Year’s Day I committed to walking every day and got serious about working out. I started walking daily, and then tapped into the health world and became obsessed with sugar free and clean eating, and started to really change up my diet.
This also lead me down the path of learning about natural skincare and cleaning products. And as a new mum, I wanted to do my best for my child and create a healthy environment, so I really took a holistic look at health and made a lot of changes.
What I learnt was how big a difference good health can make. I had more energy, despite having a baby who slept poorly. I felt like I could cope with things better. It made me more clear headed and vibrant.
Having good health gives you energy, motivation and focus. It isn’t all about how you look, but how you feel. And when running a business, having more energy and focus is a big help.
Lesson Three- Every minute Counts
When you are forced to work in a short time frame, there is no room for procrastination or distraction if you want to get anything done.
Whatever time you give yourself is how long it will take. According to Parkinson’s Law –Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.
So when you have 8 hours to get something done, you will take 8 hours to do it. You procrastinate, you get distracted, you take your time.
A big lesson I learned from having a lot less time, is how to get more efficient. There is no time to muck about.
I learnt how to streamline my business, have systems for client work and for content creation. I used automation tools for small repetitive tasks. I planned out my week every Sunday, and each day listed the top 3 things to work on. I stopped being dictated to by my email inbox, and set up filters and checked it less often. I managed client communication and projects through Asana as well as my own business projects. (This keeps me organised and keeps my email inbox unclogged.)
I also create a work environment that helps me focus. No more playing videos in the background while working, like I did back in the day. Instead I use things like brain.fm to help me focus.
The better you can get at using your time wisely and efficiently, the better your productivity will get, and you will be amazed how much you can do in a short time.
Lesson Four- Vary up Work Locations
In the days before kids, I only ever worked at my desk. I found that when I got restless from sitting there I would wander off to the kitchen. It can be hard to sit still in the one spot for hours.
Once I became a mother, I quickly found getting time sitting at a desk wasn’t so easy with little ones around. I began to rely more and more on my laptop. I kept any design work that required using my Wacom for desk time. I then did things like emails, web coding and blog post writing on my laptop, which was constantly changing locations. I worked on the couch, at the kitchen counter, at the kitchen table, in bed, in an arm chair and even occasionally while walking around. It made me feel less restless and more comfortable.
Once I got an iPad, I could even start to draw and design on the go too.
I recently learned about anchoring. And that we can tie feeling and associations to places. So if you find that every time you sit down at your desk you feel dread or stress, simply working in a different spot can change how you feel.
Varying this up can give you fresh perspective. If you are feeling stuck, try working in another spot, or even going out to a cafe to work. Keep it fresh and changing will give you better motivation and vigor.
There is nothing less inspiring than starring at the same wall and sitting in the same chair for hours a day every day. Our bodies are designed to move, so move about and change things up.
Lesson Five- Discover what Matters to You
Some people go travelling to find themselves, or work on huge goals.
But I have found sacrificing yourself really makes you find yourself. You have to strip back to just the things that matter most to you. ‘You’ are no longer your only concern.
With little time and someone else’s needs coming first, it has made me question what matters most. Like what I really want to pursue and the life I want to create. This has helped in finding who I am, and has in turn helped my business branding and also given me clarity for what I want to create. I am focusing on what I really want from this business and who I want to to become.
Discovering what really matters to you and your greater purpose, gives you a vision and pull in your business. It makes your work more meaningful.
Lesson Six- Know Your Value
It wasn’t until, I had less time to work, and the extra financial stretch of children, that I really woke up to my value.
While my husband was covering our costs, it took some adjusting to not have much of ‘my own’ money any more.
It started to bring up money issues for me, and the way I had been handling money in my business.
I thought of the times people never paid me, or had me start a project, giving up my time to start something, only for them to decide to walk away, and never being paid for my time. I thought of the extra savings I could have had, if I’d been more diligent and took upfront payments, and used contracts.
I also had to get past my ‘junior designer’ mindset. When I first started out, I charged lower as I was new, but I hadn’t been increasing my rates often enough or by large enough increments to reflect my demand or experience.
I wasn’t valuing my abilities enough. I was in scarcity mindset. Afraid that if I bumped my prices too high I would be left with no work, or would have to turn away amazing clients that I really wanted to work with.
But with less time on my hands, I suddenly realised just how valuable my time was. I was taking time away from my kids, I was sharing my skills and experience, I was giving people advice beyond design. I was sacrificing sleep or chill out time (seriously the only tv I watch is kids shows with my boys, and I haven’t gone to see a movie in 6 years).
My value became important. And it took struggle for me to realise it.
Know your value, and if you struggle with it, take the time to work through the mindset blocks.
Lesson Seven- Small Things Add up. Keep Showing up.
It can sometimes feel like everyone is moving so fast. Putting products and content out there in no time at all. It can feel frustrating, when you are working on things and not seeing results soon enough, or you’re not progressing as fast as you want.
With the limited work hours of motherhood, I learnt not to rush. That goals can sometimes take time. But the key is to keep showing up.
Break things down into small chunks, do something every day, even if it is only small. Every step gets you closer to your goal.
Commit to it, and know that consistency is the most important thing. Consistency is what wins in the end. So start small, make it achievable, and keep showing up and doing the work.
So I hope you have picked up a few lessons and tips from my journey and learning curve. Whatever life throws at you, keep going, and look for the lessons.
Overall I have learnt the value of challenge and struggle. It forces you to look at things differently, find solutions and it lights a fire to become better than ever.