I am writing to you just a few short hours before getting on a plane to visit my wonderful family in New York. The past five days have been intense. Since Monday, I have spoken at two different events, written a three-page article for a business magazine, had a handful of sessions with my coaching clients, and hosted an Entreprenora event in a room full of amazingly powerful women, all while managing the day to day operations of my two businesses (meetings with investors, P&L reviews, phone calls to partners, difficult feedback to team members...) and my family life. It has been exhausting.
I am generally a high-energy, can-do person, but by yesterday morning I was feeling rough. My head was pounding and I literally felt like someone had taken a straw and sucked the lifeforce out of me. I felt listless and tired and did something I never do: I took paracetamol and lay down for an hour in the middle of the day. But there was still so much to do: emails to send, suitcases to pack -- I am a chronic last-minute packer -- and articles to write. And amazingly, most of it got done (thanks to the paracetamol and the energy-boosting powers of salted caramel ice cream!).
But oh, how I did not want to get up this morning at my usual 5:30am and write my article. I wanted to stay in bed, harnessing all of my energy for the long flight that I will be doing solo with our high-octane toddler. But you know what? I did get up. At a slightly later 6:25am, but I got up, and here I am. What did it for me was to remember one of my guiding principles: you can make excuses or you can make things happen.
Now ladies, this is not something I am perfectly consistent with. I get it. There are some days when there is too much to do and you can't do it all or you shouldn't do it all. And I am never an advocate of over-working or running ourselves into the ground (work smarter, not harder!). But let's face it, there are times when we could do something, instead of nothing, when we could follow through on the commitment we made to ourselves instead of letting ourselves down because it's "just" ourselves we would be letting down.
I made a commitment to myself and to all of you (even though you may not have known it) that I would be here every Saturday sharing and writing and hopefully helping you in some big or small way. It would have been so easy for me to not show up, to justify not writing this article by telling myself that I still have to pack snacks and take a shower, and pick up my daughter's stroller, (and, and, and...), and that you probably wouldn't notice anyway. But I didn't. I showed up to write and I showed up for myself.
And I'm glad I did. Because these small disciplines, these small acts of showing up consistently, these small decisions to do instead of not-do, make up our lives. And at each intersection, we can either take the easy way out or take the committed way forward. And I have promised myself that I will, at least more of the time than not, take the committed way forward. That I will make stuff happen, even when I don't want to.
We all know how difficult life can get. But difficult is just another excuse to stay the same. (And as my husband said to my daughter the other day, "there is no can't, only won't.")
So my tough-love message to you today is to dissect your excuses, interrogate your resistance, and commit to yourself that from now on, at least a little more than you otherwise might, you'll stop making excuses, and start making things happen.
We're all in this together.
For so many of us, no matter the industry, the best part of what we do is often the act of getting started. It's exciting, it's new, and it's as-yet-unsullied by reality and obstacles. We know generally where we want to end up, and that generality keeps us excited and hopeful.
But the devil is always skulking, lurking in the details, waiting to pounce on the excited and hopeful, and that's why it is so important to finish everything in some detail before we even start thinking about starting.
Because the options available to us are often endless, and the decision-making requirements only get more exhausting.
Finishing before we start makes the best use of our time, energy, and funds because it eliminates much of the guesswork and stress involved in a project before things get guess-ed up and stressed-up. It means our costs are (mostly) predictable, our finish is (mostly) predictable, and our satisfaction with the end result is (mostly) predictable.
Marketing campaigns? Decide which message goes to which target group, agree the copy, the format, the delivery medium, the style and fonts used, and which graphics to include before you start sending.
New product launches? Finalize every detail about the product itself, how and when it will be delivered to the customer, the packaging, the delivery vehicle, the price, promotional discounts, A/B testing plan, success metrics, and sales targets before you start production.
Hiring decisions? Write the job description, think carefully about the scope of the role, decide the pay/salary structure, the profile of the ideal candidate, and create the onboarding process before you start looking.
(Chefs do this too... my cousin recently revolutionized my approach to cooking by introducing me to a concept called mise en place which loosely means everything in its place, and which I have taken to mean that you chop all the vegetables, measure out all the ingredients, and get out all the utensils you'll need before you start cooking... Gousto and Hello Fresh have built successful companies by helping normal people finish before they start in almost exactly this way.)
Finishing before you start is a powerful tool that so often gets neglected in the excitement to jump right in and get moving. But taking a bit of time to frontload the preparation can reap big dividends in time saved, stress reduced, costs managed, and results achieved.
So, what will you now commit to doing differently in your business? What will you take time to set up before you set off? What will you get done before you get going?
What will you finish before you start?
I'd love to hear your success stories.