Have you ever sighed with pleasure like that? Or taken a deep breath and exhaled with pure happiness and relaxation? Or been so in the zone that the hours flew by and you could have kept going forever and ever, whatever you were doing?
We've all had glimpses (hopefully more) of what it feels like to be in our happy place mentally, physically, and/or emotionally, but how often do we stop to think about how and why we felt that way? What makes our happy place our happy place?
The answer will be different for everyone, of course, but when was the last time you tried to deconstruct your happy place experience? And more important, when was the last time you tried to re-create your happy place experience in even a small way?
We are all affected by our physical environments. Without realizing it, the stresses around us, the energy around us, the people, and sounds, and smells around us all combine into one big experiential ball that affects our mood, our performance, our productivity, and our happiness.
I've always known this about myself. I can feel myself tighten up when I walk into a soulless conference room, I can feel myself come alive when I'm in beautiful surroundings, I know I am more creative when I am somewhere with high ceilings and light or surrounded by nature. I know these things because I pay attention to how I feel and how I perform. And that's why I encourage my coaching clients and anyone else who is interested in my performance "hacks" to Curate Your Environment.
This can be as simple as listening to relaxing music while you work at your desk, having a nice-smelling reed diffuser in your office, or using soft lighting instead of fluorescent bulbs. I do all of these things because I find spas really relaxing so why not make my working environment as spa-like as possible?
It can also be as practical as turning off email alerts from your phone so you're not always feeling harried and "pinged" or avoiding social events where you'll run into people who irritate or deflate you. After all, if you don't curate your environment, other people will curate it for you.
I know it's not always easy to control your environment. I don't live in a hermetically sealed bubble (and I'm guessing you don't either!). But we can focus on the things we can control and then curate our environments within those boundaries. It doesn't have to be all or nothing.
The little changes can make a huge difference in how you feel AND how you perform. You know whether you are at your best in chaotic environments or in more chilled ones. You know whether you nail presentations when wearing a power suit or wearing something a little less constraining but still professional. You know whether you exercise more effectively surrounded by the high-octane energy of a gym or running on a nature trail.
You may perform different activities at your best in different types of locations. I know when I am doing creative work or strategic, big-picture thinking, I need open, light, and beautiful spaces. I know when I want to push myself physically, I need the competition and variety of a team sport or obstacle course. I know when I am doing boring admin, I need to be in a "buzzy" place like a cafe or in my office.
Our minds are incredibly powerful and we pick up hundreds of subtle and subconscious cues from our surroundings. Curating our environments gives us a chance to be and do more of our best more of the time.
It just takes a little bit of reflection and a little bit of action. What's stopping you?
As with all the tips in this series, you won't know how powerful Curating Your Environment can be until you try it. Everything I've shared over these 10 days has worked for me and made my life easier, happier, and less stressful and I hope it will do the same for you.
Please let me know how you're getting on implementing what I've shared, and in the meantime, I'll wish you lots of time-full and stress-free days ahead.
Until next time!
"Is this what being an entrepreneur is about?"
There are times (yes, even now) when I wonder what I signed up for by becoming my own boss. Having a "regular" job is easier in so many ways: there is a lot of stuff you don't have to worry about - tech support, office supplies, overheads - and you can just show up, get your work done, and get paid.
And then I remind myself that having a "regular" job also means there is a lot of stuff you DO have to worry about: climbing a wobbly corporate ladder, office politics, awkward bosses, incompetence at different levels, and not being in control of your fate. All of those big picture things are why I didn't get a "regular" job after finishing business school. I wanted something else.
So whenever I find myself getting wistful about my "past life", I know there must be something I need to fix in my business. I know that my nostalgia is triggered by something that is frustrating me, and that's when I go back to the drawing board.
Because inevitably, my frustration stems from one of a few things: I am doing something I hate, something isn't working properly, or I can't see how what I am doing is having a measurable impact on my business. So I take the signals and sit down to see what I need to Delegate, Automate, or Eliminate.
What this means in practice is that I take my notebook and write down all of the activities I am doing. This is also where Tracking my Stats comes in handy because I have an accurate picture of everything I have been doing and how long it's taken me. (I Track my Stats every day.)
I look at the list and then do an honest appraisal of the activities, and group them into activities that I can: delegate to someone else (and take the frustration away... remember, what you hate, others might love, and vice versa), automate to lessen my cognitive load, or eliminate (these are the low-value tasks that are doing nothing for my business).
From a list of, say, 15 things, there are usually only a few that don't have an obvious "home" in one of the three categories. These might be activities that I just have to suck it up and do (being your own boss doesn't mean you are in your happy place all the time), BUT by delegating, automating, and eliminating everything else, I have more head space and time to do the tasks that are still on my plate.
Do you see how valuable it can be to spend some time thinking carefully about what you do every day? Not only can you save time by delegating, automating, or eliminating, you conserve your energy for more important (or exciting) things AND you are constantly improving your performance and your business's performance by making sure that you're not doing things you're not good at or that you're letting someone else (or a process) get things done faster and more automatically than you would.
Our days are busy, we have so much to do, and by clinging to things that we can delegate, automate, or eliminate, we only create micro-frustrations for ourselves all day long. Carrying cognitive loads can be exhausting, decision fatigue is a real thing that affects performance, so why not get rid of the things that you can?
Anxiety is nature's way of making us decide. You can use your frustrations and anxiety as a catalyst for delegating, automating, or eliminating the things that bring you frustration and anxiety (delegate your bookkeeping, automate your admin, eliminate unnecessary meetings; delegate your house cleaning, automate your bill payments, eliminate bad food...). These big and small things add up over the course of a day, a week, a year, a lifetime. Running a business is hard enough, and harder when you insist on carrying all the burden yourself. So share the load.
Delegate. Automate. Eliminate.
PS - This process is continuous. You can't just do it once and expect everything to be fixed forever. As you and your business grow, you'll need to delegate, automate, or eliminate different things.