How to Survive – and Thrive – When You’re Running Your Own Business

That was it. That was the word my coach used to describe what she called a critical first step towards greater productivity as a business owner.

“First, you have to empty your mind,” she said. Capture all those thought fragments, need-to’s and should-do’s, have-to’s and to-do’s, someday’s and one-day’s on a giant flip chart or a blank page in your planner first. Dump it out on paper, so you don’t have to carry it in your head for another second. Then move on from there.

And I get that.

Like every entrepreneur I know, my head, too, tends to be full of noise – sheer energetic clutter as my thoughts zoom from the client I forgot to call yesterday to the blog post I need to write for next week to the program I want to launch next month.

There are days when I push through one event after another, one deadline after another, by sheer force of will. You don’t even want to know what time of night – or morning – I sometimes finish these posts.

And of course the moment comes, when I have to crash.

I have to just stop for a minute.

I have a deep need to create “empty” space in my mind.  

It’s not just a tool for better planning. It’s a self care skill that is critical to managing our lives, and to thriving as a business owner.

In fact, I preach this to my clients all the time. 

You need vacations.

At MINIMUM: Two weeks at a time.

Every year.

Every. Year.

And in between vacations, you need daily, weekly – quarterly – doses of empty time.

Empty time.

Creative time. Quiet time. Open time.

Empty time creates space in your spirit for new thoughts, new ideas, new awarenesses to emerge.

Empty time is rest.

Renewal.

Restoration.

Space.

It’s sooooo easy to seek this out unconsciously.  Our bodies crave it. Our brains need it. So we gorge on junk food and mindless TV or scroll blankly through Facebook while having a 3rd slice of Meat Lovers Pizza.

I deserve a little downtime”, we tell ourselves.

And that’s true.
 
But there are healthier ways to meet this need, this ebb and flow in our energy that is as natural as the waxing and waning of the moon.

While visiting friends last year on the west coast, I was delighted to stumble on a local tradition just north of San Francisco. All the neighbors on one particular stretch of beach come down to the shore at sunset, every night. They bring something good to drink, and settle in. They sit on benches and chairs, walk a little in the surf, catch up on things.

And wait.

When the big orange ball in the sky drops below the rim of the Pacific, everyone heads back in to start their evening.

Empty time.

These days, I make it a point to plan a full weekend away, a personal retreat, every quarter, just to give my mind and body time to rest, to recharge in a new place, to think.

When I’m working at home sometimes, I’ll just drop what I’m doing, stand up and stretch, and go for a fast walk that feels as good to my body as it does to my mind.

Sometimes I set my timer, stretch out on my couch and take a 15 minute power nap. (And yes – that does help.)

But my very, very favorite thing to do is to head for the porch.  I leave my phone in the house. Turn off the TV or radio. Grab a little fan if it’s hot, or a shawl if it’s cool.

I pour myself something good to drink, choose a spot, put my feet up, lean back with a sigh…

…and wait.

I wait for the clouds to drift across that patch of sky. I wait for the sun to come up over the mountain. I wait for the moon to rise past that one patch of trees. I wait for the bunny I just got a glimpse of to come back out of the brush pile. I wait for the bluebird sitting on my clothesline to flutter off to the tulip poplar nearby.

I wait for the noise in my head to settle down.

Just a little.

Recently, I had one of those long, full days of meaningful work, guiding clients and witnessing triumphs, teaching and talking and writing and reading and, well, running a business.

Then, at the end of the day, I headed out to a spot where I could see the open sky. I needed Big Blue Space. I needed fluffy white clouds that crept so slowly across the sky I could barely tell they were moving at all. I needed to breathe for a little while.

I know that you, too, are pulled in (too) many directions. Every woman I know is stretched thin.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

You will be far more effective, whatever you do, if you create space in each day for some Empty time.

So what about you?

Do you take time like that? What do you do? And how does it help?


Photo Credit: By Halfrain, and LiquidCrash, on Flickr

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