It's easy, especially when the future seems uncertain, to become jaded, to let annoyances pile up, to react to the short-term instead of thinking through things strategically with the long-term in mind. It can also be difficult to focus on your work when the seemingly reactionary decisions of your competitors — such as doing work for a deep discount or as trade for "exposure" — affect the conversations your clients have with you.
If you can keep your mind and your energy in a space that is healthy, you'll be able to more clearly see the opportunities that are in front of you right now. Here are some tips on how to do that:
1. A Gratitude Journal
I've talked about these before, and I believe in them so much. Take time each day to jott down three things you are grateful for. You can do this with regular pen and paper, one of the many gratitude apps, or even Instagram. Yes, we all like to have our mini pity parties and no one is grateful 100% of time, but you can't keep that up 24/7. Spending a few minutes each day focusing on what you do have (and it doesn't need to be material) instead of what you don't have will help shape your outlook.
2. Watch What You Say (Or Write)
While you may take note of a few things you're thankful for, it sort of negates the entire process if you then turn around and use Instagram Stories, Facebook, or Twitter to vent about every little annoyance. No need to be a Pollyanna (those are just as annoying), but venting should make up a small percentage of what you share, not the majority.
Go through your social media posts from the past month and see how many are complaints. Set a goal to cut that number in half over the next month. Chances are you’ll start to notice a positive difference in your perspective.
3. Unsubscribe from the Dramacolypse
While you should have people in your life who are willing to be REAL and not fake happy-go-lucky 24/7, you should also be careful not to surround yourself with people who are cynical dream-stoppers. This also includes people you follow on social media. If someone gets under your skin or lives in your head "rent-free," unsubscribe, unfollow, or mute them. Real drama is your friend who is going through chemo or a divorce or taking care of a sick family member. Unnecessary drama is the inane gossip people make up because they are intimidated by someone else’s success.
4. Declutter and Streamline
The scientific law Occam's razor suggests that the simplest solution is usually the best one. Getting simple, however, is not always easy. It requires being willing to let things go. It also requires checking your ego at the door so that you can make things work for you without worrying about what everyone else is doing.
Take some time to evaluate what things or processes you can cut or simplify in your life or workflow. This isn't a license to be selfish, but it is a way to evaluate what you need to do to simplify your life and your business. What areas can you streamline?
Create margin for your life. The easiest way to do this is to create boundaries around how you work and when you are available to people. There will be some days that require you to work late and reply to emails at 2:00 A.M., but if this is a daily occurrence, it's likely time to slow down.
Slowing down can be difficult because it often means giving up the facade of power. It is also easy to justify our propensity toward a frenetic pace by using the excuse that we love our work. You should love your work. You should also love yourself and your family enough to keep your mental, emotional, and physical health in check.
Slow down. Go to sleep. Get some exercise. Take a "sabbath" day or afternoon to renew your mind and spirit (it doesn't have to be Saturday or Sunday). As the saying goes, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." Once you slow down, you’ll find that you think more clearly, focus better, and get more done when you sit down to work again.
Originally published April 2009