It’s a beautiful still morning in Cape Town. The house is quiet, and I am back at my desk. A working year begins.
It’s a different start to the year though: some shifts in my client base mean that my time is arranged differently. Instead of an adrenalin-filled online news shift, my day starts with 90 minutes of intense work on my own business, before beginning work for clients.
I have as usual done my review of 2023, courtesy of the wonderful Kerstin Martin and her calm business framework, and laid my plans for 2024 – but even those are different. As part of the work I am doing with my burnout coach, I am looking at everything I do with a critical eye: Is it essential? Is it efficient? Why am I doing it anyway? Is it something that someone else could do? Is this a place where I need a boundary?
No, I won’t now detail all my 2024 plans
I’m aware that I’m the only person interested in the detailed inner workings of my business, so this isn’t one of those new year posts where I make a long list of all the things I intend to do (even though that’s tempting because it’s so easy to write).
Rather, I’d like to look at some of the deeper things that have been exercising my mind and spirit, in the hope that some of the tools I’ve unearthed will be of use to other people.
Three ways to dig down deep
As songwriter Marc Cohn says, digging deep is:
… a feeling in your heart
And a lump in the throat
It’s a strange and lovely ride
By digging deep, I don’t mean talk to a therapist (though that is always useful). Instead, I mean the process of questioning your own unexamined assumptions about things. Here are three ways I did that.
The Calm Business Review has one particularly valuable section – a look at the things that sap your energy. As Martin says: “A calm business is all about energy management.”
The exercise involves identifying five energy drainers, thinking about a dream scenario in which you would feel calmer about that person or situation and then making a list of actionable steps towards the solution.
For me, for instance, an energy drainer I identified was the feeling that no matter what I do about marketing my business, I don’t seem to get anywhere. My dream scenario says: “Have effective ways of marketing what Safe Hands offers. Solution: Find my own path.”
Why do I need to find my own path? Because all the research I have done over the years hasn’t helped.
The very many online gurus on the subject seem to exist to punt their own systems, make money and move on. I don’t want one of those websites where you scroll and scroll and scroll through text littered with exclamation marks only to discover that the thing on offer costs a gazillion dollars. I don’t want a sales funnel with an endless series of relentlessly upbeat emails. I don’t want to write content that exists only to capture a popular Google keyword. I don’t want to sing my own praises on LinkedIn day in and day out.
It’s the thought of all that that drains my energy.
My action steps? Sign up for a series of emails that Martin is offering; do a deep dive into all the marketing that I have done in the past and see what actually worked – and then make my own plan based on that.
Top tip: I’d recommend taking a look at the Calm Business Review, and doing the energy drainer section, if nothing else.
TWO: POLICIES AND BOUNDARIES
Also on my list of energy drainers is the sense that I have of being pulled all over the place by notifications, meetings and emails.
In 2023, I made a start on a “tech policy” (inspired by this article: Why you should create a “Tech Policy of One” (And how to do it)). As the article says: “We might not have control over exactly how we spend our work days. But we can control how we interact with and use the technology that powers them.”
In 2024, I am going to find that work I did last year, finish it, and implement it. Expect a blog post soon.
As a start though, I am trying out a suggestion by Robin Sharma – the 90:90:1 rule in which you devote the first ninety minutes of the day, for 90 days, to one important thing.
The first 90 minutes of my first working day has been devoted to writing this blog post – and every day from now on, the first 90 minutes will be devoted to changing the way my business works (my top goal for 2024 is to get off the treadmill, to find ways to move away from my current way of working which is essentially based on a revenue model where I earn money for hours worked.)
Top tip: Find ways to organise your day so that there are spaces in it to do intense focused work. Try time blocking as a way to get this done.
THREE: FEAR SETTING
Yes, yes – I know all the motivational gurus say you should set goals. But hidden behind those goals is (often) something else: fear.
Take my top goal of getting off the treadmill (that is expanding my income base to include different kinds of income streams). For years, I’ve set goals to make an online training course to do just that. After all, I know how to train, and I have a wide skill-set. And there are any number of experts who promise to make this easy (if you will just take their online course!!!!!!!).
And yet, year after year, I don’t make such a course, let alone sell it.
That’s because I am afraid of it.
So I did. It took me three days to pluck up the courage to do the exercise, which involves taking your “what if” idea and looking at all the possible things that could go wrong, and then looking at ways to address those issues.
Dear reader, I thought of 20 things that could go wrong – mostly along the lines of fearing that I will fail, get it wrong, be seen to be utterly and completely useless at various things. You get the picture.
Most of the fears can be addressed by doing some decent research and starting with something small. And the rest will be dealt with by writing about the process (I’m doing a rough-and-ready journal on my neglected personal site, but expect some blog posts here too).
Top tip: Just watch the video – it’s just under fourteen minutes long and worth it.
2024 – the year of adventure
Having done this work, it’s clear that I need to expand and change my business and my marketing – and that I need to take some risks to do that.
My 2024 word is Adventure, and my motto is:
I am the captain of my ship
I am the captain of my soul.
The good ship Safe Hands is setting forth on the seas of 2024 ready to take risks, be more open and vulnerable and be adventurous.
It’ll be a strange and lovely ride.
Main picture: Johannes Plenio, Unsplash
How to reach me
Contact me if you would like to chat about how I can help with all your communication needs (writing, editing, coaching and training, social media). I also help small businesses and organisations with project and operational management.
I write a post every week, some about my professional life and work, and some about broader issues. You can get either of those, or both, in your email, by subscribing here.