Below is a copy of my latest post as a contributor to Noonday’s blog, Flourish. I love being able to lend my voice to this incredible resource! You can read it and my other Flourish posts here.
I’ll let you in on a little secret.
I’m a Noonday Ambassador. And when I’m booking Trunk Shows, writing blog posts, or engaging on social media for my business, you may assume I look the part of a stylist in a fashion company, but in reality I’m probably still wearing my PJs. I’m snuggling a blanket on my couch, grasping coffee like the life-giving tonic it is. Sometimes – prepare to be shocked – I’m not even wearing earrings. I’m expressing enthusiasm in written form, even though my yawning face and hot mess vibe might tell you otherwise.
This isn’t inauthentic. Rather, it’s proof that I’m showing up as I am: as someone who genuinely has all the passion her words convey, even if it’s sometimes – often – underneath a layer of gunk.
This is the life of a tired social entrepreneur.
For years, I’ve struggled with fatigue, anxiety, brain fog, and more. It’s improved but still affects me and made me hesitant to join Noonday. “That’s for people who have something I don’t,” I thought to myself.
I’m so glad I listened to my heart instead. I didn’t let these fears sideline me, but chose instead to believe that there’s more than one way to be a social entrepreneur. I chose not to wait for a perfect moment that may never come.
So I dove in. And now I’m a tired girl who has a business she adores that creates impact and allows her to travel the world, instead of a tired girl pining after impact, community, and adventure she thinks she’s disqualified from. I’ll take it.
But to make this work, I’ve had to learn to honor my needs and maximize the mental and physical energy I do have. Don’t get me wrong – fatigue is real, and can’t always be mitigated by a simple hack. Some days I have nothing in me, full stop. But when I do have something to give, I need ways to boost my energy, plus systems to keep everything running smoothly, with less reliance on how I’m feeling day to day. And maybe you do, too.
So whether you’re always tired or you’re just looking for a little more productivity (aren’t we all?), let’s get super practical. Here are 10 tips to help you to find more joy and less stress, and to use your energy well, whether you have a lot or a little.
1. Practice self-compassion. I have a million big ideas at any given time, but then I remember I still need to answer that customer email and I forgot last night’s laundry in the washer. Even though I’m all about believing in myself to do big things, I also believe we need to be gentle with ourselves. Without grace toward myself, I would have crumbled by now under the weight of my own criticism. Trust me, I’ve experienced that plenty, and keeping that tendency at bay is a constant – but so, so good – discipline. The growth of our Artisan Partners’ businesses depends on me moving forward, even if it’s slow. It depends on me responding to overwhelm by resting, not quitting. So I think of them and remember that bringing my imperfect self to this work, broken and yawning, matters.
2. Take care of yourself. This one is obvious, but we all need a reminder, yeah? Sleep. Exercise. Take your meds. Drink water. All that jazz.
3. Find your people. When I’m short on grace or self-care, my fellow Ambassadors get me back on track. Plus, they can help in areas where I’m not strong; we’re always sharing resources with each other. (I’m the one with the nerdy spreadsheets to share. Others share awesome photographs I can use.) And, it’s a huge boost to be around passionate people who lift your spirits.
While in Vietnam on an Ambassador trip, an often-dormant vibrancy came out in me thanks to adventure, learning, celebration, and sisterhood. Karaoke with Jessica Honegger is a highlight I’ll always remember. [credit: @carynnoel]
4. Create – or go to – a productive space. For some this is a home office, but when I can swing it, my best work is done at coffee shops and libraries.
My local library. How can I not be inspired while sitting by these windows?
5. Prioritize tasks that move your business forward. I’m so guilty of “shiny object syndrome.” I hear or think of an exciting idea and start researching it when I should be booking Trunk Shows. I do try to make time for both types of work – after all, shiny objects can yield long-term results – but when I have to choose, it’s important to focus first on what gets the most ROI (return on investment).
6. Plan focused time using block scheduling and checklists. This works for a “side hustle,” a full-time job, or anything in between, because it’s all about creating a plan to use your time well. The goal is to spend your energy being creative, rather than spending it detangling a mess of to-dos. To get started, write out the blocks of time you have to work your business in a given week. Then, assign different categories of work to the blocks of time you’ve carved out. You may wonder why I’m so structured, but I’ve found it takes massive mental energy – which I often don’t have to spare – to decide what to do out of a long list, or to flit around among different tasks. Next, support your time blocks with checklists. Mine prompt me to do recurring work, and also to think creatively about improvements and future projects, so I can capture ideas and review them regularly. This may sound like a lot, but many steps are super quick or infrequent. I just need them written out so that when Monday rolls around, even if I’m not feeling energized, I at least have removed the barrier of figuring out what needs to be done and fretting over whether I’m using my time well. I grab my Monday list and my coffee, and I get to work.
My two favorite coffee mugs sum up the conversation playing in my head every morning. (Spoon is wood-burned by hand by my friend Gauri of GSMade4U.)
7. But, build in margin. Your time blocks need not be rigid. We Ambassadors treasure our flexibility! Just try to plan a little work time without a pre-set agenda so that when life happens, it won’t derail your week. As I write this, my husband is recovering from knee surgery and my kids are off school because of the windchill (which, in Wisconsin, is saying something). You’re your own boss, so be a kind one who understands the need for unplanned rest days, family emergencies, and even impromptu lunches with friends. Use your agenda-less work time to catch up, dream, read a business book you’ve been meaning to get to, or just take time off!
8. Faithfully use a system to keep it together. Being on the older end of “millennial,” I’ve always oscillated between digital and analog tools. I’ve landed on Trello as my tool of choice, though I still do a lot of brainstorming on paper. What matters most is finding what works for you and sticking with it. When ideas and tasks are in a trusted system, your brain will learn to chill out and stop pestering you about them (true story).
Trello boards hold my block-scheduling plan as well as my Getting Things Done system, based on the book by David Allen. And, Trello’s option for a beautiful background photo provides a nice lift!
9. Employ scheduling and automation. This can mean use of software tools. Or, it can mean simply using templates, or drafting a batch of emails or social media posts ahead of time. Do your future self a favor here; she might be having a rough day, and she’ll thank you.
10. Gear up for extroverting. Of course, my work includes Trunk Shows, which take a lot of energy! Amazingly, that’s when my passion and energy come out most. I light up chatting with women, empowering them to create a better world while upping their style game. But I spend my commute listening to a podcast rather than singing in the car. I try to streamline my set-up. I accept help from my sweet Hostesses. I return home and chill for awhile before bed. Since this is work I love, I’m able and excited to bring my A-game at the show, but protect my energy and surround that time with quiet.
And now I want to speak to you, friend, you who are intrigued by becoming a Noonday Ambassador but fearing that you’re too tired to make it work. I can’t say what is right for you, and I fully honor your need to put your health first. But I can tell my own story: I’m so glad I brought my broken, tired self to this movement instead of waiting to feel awesome. So if you dive in, know that we’ll surround you with compassion, cheer you along your own race, and give you all our tips to make this work for you.
Whether you think you’re not energetic enough, or fashionable enough, or outgoing enough…there is not just one “type” that can succeed in this work. You’ll find tools and strategies to create success for our Artisan Partners and for yourself, because you’ll believe in your work, and you’ll be surrounded with women who believe in you. And you may find that the very thing that you think holds you back, will become the most compelling part of your story, simply because you decided to say yes anyway.