Love what you do

 

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Whatever career, job, role you have – make sure it is one you love.

I just heard someone say ‘happy new year.’ I kid you not! It is February and there are daffodils out, if you please.

Clearly if you are an ‘out with the old, in with the new’ sort of person then you’ve have lots of reading to do to these past 6 weeks or so, preparing your year ahead. So, I will keep this short so that you can get back to your continuing rejuvenance. Save for one piece of advice for anyone wanting to improve their relationship with work, or their life in fact, at any time of the year:

Love what you do, and when you can, do what you love.

Recognising that life is imperfect, this piece of advice as given to me many years ago at a moment where I genuinely didn’t know what to do but knew what I loved. I am reminded of this each year as I scroll past lists of New Year’s resolutions (January) met and unmet (February)…

As an alternative to this need to physiologically and professionally detox  I feel captured in this phrase above is all the ambition I need any time of year. This is a desire to be the best I can, looking for the right place to be. And help others by doing the best I can, and loving what I do.

“…this phrase above is all the ambition I need any time of year.”

This won’t translate every moment at my desk to bliss. But I genuinely don’t expect that. Getting to a place of satisfaction with the work we do takes hard work and quite often frustration and pain. Sometimes for considerable time.

But the aspiration is to be in the right place doing the right thing, with the right people, however hard that is sometimes – what is not to love about that?

And if I am wrong? Well you know where to find a few dozen blogs helping you exercise whilst you work, drink the optimum amount of green tea, and route to finding the perfect coach….  On you go… and Happy February (again).

Make a plan, have fun and always take a raincoat with you

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Some lessons for getting out and messy with a new business.

Two years ago I sat at a desk with a new computer. Ha! Yes, I was starting my own business.

This is a continuous learning journey, so I am reflecting today on what I have learnt these last two years. But I am also keen to share my experience, in a positive way, with many others who are going it alone this January.

I was eager. I had a genuine and urgent desire to give honest and professional communications support to organisations going through transformation and change. I wanted to surround myself with creative people, with innovation, and with professionalism. I wanted to do a good job, work hard and take home a decent income to support my family.

1. Think about it very hard first

The time I spent thinking about the business before I took the plunge was invaluable. I lived with the idea for quite some time. If I am honest it was several years. In a more focused way it was four months. I used to run and think, talked to people already doing it, read books about juggling family and work, write spreadsheets to work out income and time ratios on various service models…

2. Have a plan, and be prepared to change it

The plans I made in January 2012 are not those I am working with today. But they are the parents of what my business is today. And the business will need to change and adapt. The plans need to be there, the compass to return to when things are blown a little off course, or are confusing.

3. Believe in what you do – fully

It is really important to love what you do. It is also really important to believe in what you do – with integrity. Your business is not just work, it is your vision and you can only effectively communicate your vision to prospective clients, partners and staff if you believe it can make a difference.

4. Work hard

Obviously! But no: I mean really, really, really hard. Be prepared to work beyond the hours and boundaries that are common to most roles. You are now a leader, innovator, contractor, vision maker…

5. Have fun

You don’t do anything as much as work (unless you raise children or have other care duties full time – which is arguably harder). So you need to love it. Running your business is a chance to work with people whose company you enjoy, in situations that stimulate you and in service to individuals or companies you believe in. So enjoy it. And steer the work toward these opportunities.

6. Follow your instinct

You have probably set up the business because you know how to do the thing your business offers. So follow your nose, work within environments that feel positive and do something with niggles (they usually mean something is not quite right).

7. Where you can, run your business, don’t let it run you

Some places in your life are sacred spaces. The business may be important and you may be passionate about it. But it is not, and should not be your entire life. Partly because, hopefully, you have other meaningful pursuits but also because creative spaces away from work often fuel the energy, ideas and drive you have within your business.

I have only been doing this a very short time. What I know I am confident about. What I don’t I am excited about learning. In the journey there are bumps in the road, difficult situations, wrong turns. So here is a very difficult point to take on-board.

8. Make some mistakes

When you make a mistake, recognise it, work it out and rectify it. Reflect on it and chose how it might positively change how you work. Move on. Don’t linger or dwell too much.

9. Have a raincoat for rainy days

Difficult moments (created by you or others) can be hard to take – especially when you are running to keep up to start with. Running a business, even with staff or contractors, can be a lonely affair. So for difficult days you might need some skin, a tough shell to take difficult moments without letting them effect beyond need. A friend of mine calls this a beautiful but invisible mac (raincoat) – for the business equivalent of a rainy day.

Any regrets? Loads, but rather than regrets I prefer to consider them opportunities for change.

So, for all of you standing at the edge of starting your business…

10. Dive in

Ready, steady go…

Working from home: Just a joy or the smart way to do business?

So I have heard a lot this week about New Yorkers working from home following Sandy. Perhaps it will encourage more people to use this fantastically productive mode of working.

Well let’s get past the whole – you can work in your pjs and sip fresh coffee whilst hanging up washing in your ‘break’. Here in for me lies the crux of it for both boss and employee (or freelancer ): this is about being organised and focused. Few distractions and lots of potential for smart working.

So some things to help you:

Get-up

Try to keep to a working day, whatever that is for you. Don’t be tempted to press snooze on the alarm too many times. You will lose the momentum of the day which is worth more than time in some cases.

Plan it

Take advantage of a self-focused day for optimum efficiency. By all means take breaks but schedule them in. The washing can indeed wait until one of those.

Avoid mixing business and pleasure

Don’t have friend over for lunch or coffee – you are working and need to keep boundaries. They won’t necessarily be aware of the demands on your time and it is hard to make people leave.

Have an office

Even if it is your kitchen table for the day or a month, have an office. This is somewhere you go and come back to. Make calls from there, make notes, make money. At the end of the day pack up and keep tidy. Respect the space.

Communicate with the office and your clients

Just because you are at home does not mean you are away from work. People need to reach you receive the same professional communication. Keep your phone near and your email open.

Keep a log

Note down what you do and how long it takes. Irritated office-devoted colleagues may ask you ‘what you did all day’. More productively for you and them is a little self-evaluation – did you work better that day or not? Working remotely is not for everyone.

It is not childcare

It is exceptionally difficult to mix childcare and working from home. In fact most employers frown upon it for good reason. Divided loyalty is not a productive situation. If you have no choice then try to establish some schedule for you and your little ones that ensures the work gets done in sensible portions.

Mix it up

If you are a permanent home worker, for whatever reason.  Get out. Talk to colleagues and associates. Don’t get cabin fever or lose perspective.

At the end of the day. No one will know if you are in your pjs when you land the biggest contract of your career to date.* Because at the end it is about what you do and the energy you bring to it. Not where you are. So make the most of a new age of zero-carbon communing, remote-offices, kitchen-table businesses and turn on the kettle for a good days work

*The exception to this is video conferencing – please remove cats, guitar playing husbands and pjs from the office at this point. Experience speaking my friends.