You start a business to have freedom and choice

and then you turn into someone who works all hours, can’t switch off and is permanently stressed!

This is such a common habit with business owners that we asked Drive Group Leader David Brown of Potentiality Coaching to help us find ways to be kinder to ourselves and get the life we really want from our businesses.

This is the transcript of a live Q&A.

Q. I was asked if I’d had a good Bank Holiday. I said I’d worked some of it and they asked what I did. I quickly replied and added – “Seriously, I need to have a word with my boss, she’s taking the mickey now.”

David Brown It’s easy to forget that when you run your own business, you can take bank holidays whenever you want. Just because everyone else is working, doesn’t mean you need to. You can schedule work for when you are most productive.

Q. Is the real problem not that we can take time off whenever we want to but that we can’t switch off even when we’re not working?

Q. I totally agree, sometimes it’s difficult to switch off and remove yourself. That said I have learnt (the hard way) that doing this even if it’s just for a short period, will bring you back refreshed and MORE productive. Knowing when you’re not being productive and stepping away is the key.

David Brown Absolutely. Productivity wanes when we are “on” all the time. We need breaks. You seem to have this sorted better than most Andy. Your experience has given you much great wisdom.

Getting organised

Q. So many people get completely overwhelmed by their business. What’s a good way to deal with that David?

David Brown Be organised. I was working with a client this morning and he came up with a strategy that really works for him when he is overwhelmed. Spend the time first thing in the morning or even last thing at night and make your lists and prioritise.

This gives you the time and space to let your mind range over things. When it is relaxed it works much better than when it is continually stressed. You’ll think of better solutions that way and generally be more aware of more things. It also stops you fire fighting.

Q. Also, when something is written down and recorded our spongy brain will stop spending energy trying to remember it. Instead it can focus on bigger thinking.

Q. That planning should include holidays! Not necessarily long periods away, but half days or days where you have activities planned and you go and do them. For me the days that I take off are really useful, I always come back refreshed and often with fresh thinking about a problem or issue, as a result of not sitting at my desk festering about it.

Switching off

David Brown It takes practice to switch off from the business. If you don’t everything suffers. Your health, your well- being, your relationships AND your business. Practice being PRESENT. Don’t be with your kids or partner or friends and have one eye on your e- mails. They do not feel you are with them. This is all a bit touchy feely I know, but it bloody works. If you can only be with them 30 minutes, better your full undivided attention for 30 minutes than 3 hours of mediocre time, don’t you think? Research shows that people cannot multi- task. Undivided attention is what gets that laser sharp focus. You are more lightly to get better results and quicker that way.

Q. I have (in the past) felt tied to the business unable to switch off and get away. Hand on heart it’s not good for you on just about every level. Hindsight is a wonderful thing I know, I recognise that there will always be times of intense work/production – some of that is outside of my control/influence. I’ve also learnt to manage expectations better. If you always say ‘yes’ and deliver the goods to unreasonable time lines you set an expectation that this approach is accepted (though never acknowledged verbally etc) and it’s the beginning of the end as you have lost control.

David Brown Anything will do that clears your head and makes you feel refreshed. A walk, workout, cup of tea, read a book. We are not machines, we are people with ebbs and flows in our day and in our minds

Managing time

Q. So, when working for oneself, if an hour passes in a heartbeat, how can I run my business AND have choice and freedom?

David Brown Great question Louise. You run a business. You make choice. You embrace freedom. It all starts with choice. It is SOOOOOOOO simple, almost too simple, so people overlook it. If you had an hour what would you choose to use it for in your business? It’s time you’re never getting back. How will you make it count?

Q. Although I know the theory, putting much of it into practice is really hard. I like to help people and I know I should put me at the top of that list but I tend to slip down with more frequency than I’d like. Is practice and discipline the answer?

Q. I can completely empathise Louise, I find the same thing even now and it can be really hard to say ‘no’ and put yourself first. But often these seemingly important must have things aren’t anywhere near as ‘must have’ as you were originally told. People build in wriggle room, often more than is necessary, so it’s worth asking the question about the real timing for delivery and also giving yourself some breathing space.

Q. This is where it’s important to remember the type of business you run. If you’re in business to respond to clients as and when they need it (first line support) then that’s what you need to do but settling boundaries and client expectations is key. If people want to jump to the top of the queue and expect you to be available whenever they need you, they need to pay more than people who are prepared to wait! After that, it’s about how much you work for others and how much you work for yourself (biz growth etc), not forgetting all the other roles you play in your life that may take priority!

Mind and Body Connection

David Brown The mind gets to the end of something naturally. Either the task is over or you run out of steam. If the task is over and you have energy to move on to the next thing, move on and be even more productive. There will come a time when the mind will stop. That fuzzy, hazy feeling when you feel restless. That’s the signal for the body to step in and give the mind some rest and stimulation in other ways. That’s your cue for exercise. It may not be convenient, so take the next ideal opportunity.

Q. Is there evidence that concentrating on something that is not business – exercise, playing music, art, etc., is as beneficial as meditation for example. I know a lot of people can’t get to grips with the idea of “emptying the mind”.

David Brown Meditation is focussing on one thing. The Japanese Tea Ceremony is that kind of meditation in movement. Running, once you get into a rhythm, is meditative. Your mind goes somewhere else and is free to think without you being aware of it. That’s why you have the answer to your problem after your run. The same applies to all kinds of things that promote that single focus. The Moving Meditation courses I run promote that sense of focussing the mind, opening to awareness and enhancing creativity and productivity.


Q. Any tips for how to feel better about giving yourself permission to have down time? As the business is me I often feel quite guilty if I have the downtime I was happy to take when I worked for someone else.

David Brown The business is not you Emma. You are so much more than your business and so your business only sees a fraction of who you really are. You need to take care of you as a whole if you are to give all you need to your business.

Q. Knowing the theory and actually being able to put it into practice are very different things! I’m very good at beating myself up about absolutely everything, but I think considering how much time I want to spend playing each of my roles will be very useful.

Take Control

Q. I often hear business owners refer to their business as a baby, in constant need of attention. But, even parents get baby sitters to have time off, don’t they?

David Brown Thanks all for your questions and insightful contributions.
Please do not lose sight of your life when you are in business.
None of your success, wealth or kudos matter if you sit alone in a bedsit on the weekends because you did not have time for your friends, partner, children etc.
This is your life.
Go out and enjoy the things you love.
Take the time.
You owe it to yourself, your business and the people you share your life with.
Use your business as an opportunity to create the life you really want for yourself.
Create it.
Don’t hope its going to happen without focus and determination.
Take control and choose the life you want to live and that includes your business and the freedom it can give you if you let it.

For more great information on how to take control of different aspects of life and business sign up to David’s blog at Potentiality Coaching