The Thinkers - Chris J Birch (3)

Episode 3 of The Thinkers by Chris J Birch. Accompanying the Podcast

The Thinkers - Chris J Birch (3)

Once we’d begun our journey onto self employment, finding time to get work done that wasn’t directly linked to our day to day work was proving difficult. The first thing that slipped was answering the phone. I know that most people starting a business need to be answering the phone constantly in order to continue driving work forward but I remember distinctly missing two calls in one day and so that evening, I popped out to get a bluetooth headset, which were a little bulkier at the time and I made sure it was always charged and practically glued to my ear from the time I woke up to the time I went to bed. I’ve had many a conversation with staff and clients at 7am while walking the dog or shaving. They would never know the difference and to be honest, I didn’t mind at all.

At this point, a Business Coach would likely identify that I’m probably working a little too hard and failing to separate work from home. Well that was entirely true. But I’ll tell you something that a Business Coach wont tell you and wont recognise; I didn’t care.

And to be honest, I still don’t care now.

Now, I could stand here and tell you that its vital to separate the two entities in your life and dedicate time for home and family but in truth, if you’re self employed, that never happens. Not really.

I remember turning my phone off for the first time in 5 years after it being on 24/7 and it was like someone had sliced off a limb. It was only off for a few hours while I took a little time to sit and relax.

Your life as an Entrepreneur, Business Owner, Director, Contractor, sole trader, whatever is all encompassing and is fuelled by your engagement and motivation. Switching off from time to time is essential but totally forgetting about your Company after 5pm is ridiculous and honestly, if you’re doing that, you’re probably less busy than perhaps you should be.

When you do need to switch off though, it shouldn’t be for no reason. Your mind as an Entrepreneur is running at a faster rate than most of the employed people out there. You’re at the circus juggling balls and spinning plates while watching the elephants take an unexpected crap in the corner. All the while, the employed people are the ones selling the tickets outside.

You have a lot going on and its tough to switch off so I’ll let you know what worked for me. It may not be for you but it maybe worth a try.

Firstly, there’s no point in getting everything completed before you decide to switch off. Nothing is ever complete so that’s the first thing to put to one side. Accepting that and focusing on what’s essential to be completed right now is important and once that’s done, look at the other tasks, put a date next to them and accept that they’ll be done by then.

That free’s up your schedule to have time to yourself.

Then you need to stop people contacting you. I took the top ten people who’re likely to call me in the next few hours and I made sure I called them first. For example, my Dad usually gives me a call in the evening so before I switched my phone off, I called him to have a chat. By doing that to your top ten, you’re stopping any interruptions to your downtime. Any work that develops from those ten people gets written down with a date alongside.

After that, you need to look at your surroundings. If you’re planning on staying at home for your downtime, you need to pick a space that’s free from distractions. For instance, don’t head into the room where two of the bulbs have gone or where you really need to clean that extractor. Instead, pre-plan which room and take a look around first. If that room or space works for you, use it.

Then you’re ready to relax. It sounds ridiculous but relaxing takes a lot of effort.

The last problem to deal with is your mind. Unfortunately, its not something that can be easily fixed. You’re used to thinking about multiple things at once so trying to empty your mind of business related things will likely leave lots of room for more to come flooding into its place.

The way to solve that is to use your downtime from work to focus on a different project that focuses your mind elsewhere. You’re almost distracted from work Because youre focused on something new and different. Maintaining that focus will drive down your relaxation points.

Knowing what worked and still works for me isn’t going to necessarily work for you but its a good template to get things started.

When you’re ready to return to work, its never a good idea to head straight in at maximum. I’ve worked with a few Company owners who take two days to unwind and then stress themselves out within the first five minutes of being back at work. I’ve told a few people to think of their work time as an unending rollercoaster; by gradually clicking back to the top and then letting the madness of the business owners world take over. But towards the end of the ride, it slows down and gives you a chance to get off or get going again.

Pushing that analogy even more, when you do decide to get off the ride entirely and leave the world of self employment, or at least leave the Company through sale or other circumstances, you’ll miss it. Your body will have become wired to the up’s and downs associated with your day to day life so it’ll be both mentally and physically draining once you’ve left that world. That’s why you tend to find that Entrepreneurs rarely settle with just one company and often have more than one running side by side.

I hope this has been helpful