Five things that help me stay sane while I am growing my business

When I started my web design business 18 months ago my workload evolved in a very linear manner: every time I approached the completion of a project I got contacted by a new client who needed a website. I just loved how organically my business was growing, to this date I have not done any advertising, all work has come in via word-of-mouth and social media connections. And my business keeps growing. This month I am juggling five projects at the same time while also figuring out how to launch and create my first e-course. I am the first to admit: it’s stressful. What they say about the amount of effort and sweat that is required to start your own business? It’s true. While I try to keep my weekends mostly free I pretty much spend every waking hour on my business. It helps of course that I love what I do but that doesn’t mean I don’t get exhausted and overwhelmed.

So how do I stay sane and healthy during these busy times? Here are Five things that are helping me:

1) Nourishment

As an emotional eater it is very easy for me to just numb my stress with comfort foods, which in my case means lots of sweets, carbs and lattes. Not surprisingly though this is not helpful in the long run, all it does is make you feel sluggish and tired and gain weight. Once I realized how busy I was going to get I made a conscious decision to eat more healthily. And to my delight I have gotten into a routine that I am loving! I have always liked healthy foods but I am a bit of a reluctant cook, it’s just not one of my favorite things to do. And I don’t know if it’s because of summer and its abundance of fresh and colorful fruits and vegetables but these last few weeks I have been really enjoying preparing all these healthy meals. I don’t cook much with recipes and I am so pleased that I am getting better at throwing a nourishing meal together with ingredients at hand. I am also developing a range of favorites that I repeat regularly so I am stressing less over deciding what to cook. 

Here are some of the routines I find most helpful:

  • Start my day with a herbal tea, coffee and a good breakfast. Usually that’s oats with almond milk, honey, shredded apples and toasted almonds, or just a boiled egg and an apple, or a steamed sweet potato mashed with coconut oil and shredded apple, also topped with toasted almonds. 
  • Make a weekly meal plan. Every Sunday my husband and I go out for breakfast (another favorite ritual) and I always bring my notebook and while we wait for our food I jot down a rough plan for the week, including any travel and appointments and a shopping list. We don’t stick to the plan religiously but it provides enough of a framework to avoid those panic moments in front of the fridge where we don’t know what to eat. 
  • Cook enough for leftovers. I LOVE leftovers!

2) Movement & FRESH AIR

As a notorious under-exerciser with a sedentary job it is very easy for me to just sit on my butt all day, working at my computer and not moving much at all. Not healthy, as is well documented these days! So at the same that I made the decision to eat healthier I also decided to get moving more and started a walking routine. What’s really helped in this respect is that I am doing this together with my husband and we love it! Every night after dinner we take a 4-mile walk around our neighborhood, which is quiet, green and has some lovely territorial views. On Sundays, after breakfast, we often take a long walk along the sea which is something I look forward to all week. And that is perhaps the most surprising part of this: I have always kind of dreaded exercising which meant I had to do it in the morning if I did it at all. But now I am really looking forward to our evening walks, it’s not just that it feels good to get out into the fresh air and move the old bones, this is also a treasured time where my husband and I catch up on each other and dream and scheme a lot. Our fitness is slowly improving and I definitely notice the difference this is making to how I feel in my body and head. 

3) Hire Help

When I was contemplating whether to create a web design e-course I was contacted by a young graphic designer who was moving to Bellingham and looking for a job. Apparently he had been looking at all the design companies in this town and felt rather underwhelmed by what he saw - until he found me! That was a very nice compliment! I hadn’t really planned on hiring someone but then I thought: I could do with some help, maybe this is serendipity?

One of the reasons why I’ve always been a bit reluctant to hire another designer is that people hire me because they like my particular style and also because of my unique combination of technical, business and creative skills. But I really liked how the young designer had approached me, he had done his homework and was articulate and took initiative. We share similar design aesthetics and he knows Squarespace in and out. So we had a chat and I hired him! 

What many people don’t realize is how much detail actually goes into the creation of a website, even with a service like Squarespace that provides stunning ready made templates. All the various settings (like SEO) aside there is always something that needs tweaking to make it look perfect or to enhance the flow of the content, I almost always end up using custom CSS code on the sites I develop. So the young designer has been helping me a lot and I can see a clearer path ahead now with both my design and teaching services.

4) Get Creative

When much of your professional - and personal! - time is spent in the digital world it is good to flex your creative analog muscles for some balance. For me this has come in the form of bullet journaling and starting a fledgling tarot practice. I love bullet journalling more than I ever expected and in addition to providing a creative outlet it’s also been immensely helpful in getting me organized (see next point.) I keep one bullet journal for all my biz and some personal stuff, and another for my tarot. I am taking Susannah Conway’s 78 Mirrors class which is blowing my mind a little. Her course and the private FB group are wonderful and I am learning so much. It’s a bit of a time commitment but one I am happy to make as it gets me out of my head and into my intuition and the present moment. 

5) Get Organized

As mentioned in the previous paragraph I’ve been using a bullet journal to get myself organized. I don’t follow the BuJo guidelines strictly but am rather creating my own system that works for me. I am not nearly as artistic and definitely not as neat as some of the BuJo advocates out there but that’s ok! There are no rules! It is no secret that I love organizing and the BuJo allows me to bring in my intuitive part that likes to get messy, which is then complemented and supported by the various digital systems that I also use. Read this post for more info and BuJo resources and links.

Here is a list of things that help me get organized:

  • My Bullet Journal.
  • 17hats.
    A productivity software for small businesses and I love it! I use it to send quotes, contracts and invoices, it has a time log and an amazing bookkeeping section. 17hats helps me establish workflows and email templates, keeps a calendar, to do list and reminders, and even let’s me create online questionnaires. I know I haven’t even touched on all of its functionalities and while it’s not 100% perfect (they are working on improvements and idea implementations all the time) it’s as good as a one-stop-shop gets and it saves me a lot of time.
  • Asana.
    One of my blogging friends, Christie Inge, pointed me to this project management tool and I recently started using it with my contractor. It’s a great system for keeping track of all our to do’s, sharing files and notes as well as creating deadlines and keeping an overview of where we are with a project. I love that I can send emails to a project which are then converted into tasks and when I receive an email from Asana I just reply to it and then delete the email, knowing that everything lands and gets filed in Asana. So far so good!
  • Pocket.
    I have tried Evernote but found it too much. I may try it again as my business grows but for now I want to keep things as simple as I can. And for that Pocket has been great. I read a lot of useful articles and blog posts throughout my day and rather than storing the URL somewhere or putting it into my Reading List I just save everything to Pocket and use tags to organize my content. It works great! So now, when I am thinking “oh, where have read about this again, or what was that good article on that subject” I just go to Pocket, enter a keywords or look at my list of keywords and voila, there is it. A simple and intuitive catch-all for my online articles. 

One thing I am still working on is getting enough sleep, almost midnight again! So I will bid you a good night and wish you a wonderful Sunday tomorrow :)