You were on a roll, just had your busiest month yet. Business has been going great, like pinch yourself good. After five years you feel you finally hit your stride. Then wham!
You get the flu. Your entire family gets the flu. You’re down for the count, bed ridden, achy, your brain a fog. You start to get better, but push it a little too hard and relapse, this time it is bronchitis.
You’ve been completely derailed. Suddenly weeks have gone by. You’re behind on everything. And you feel so overwhelmed you can’t focus. Even worse, you wonder why you should bother.
Your sense of responsibility is strong though. You don’t want to let other people down and they are counting on you. You struggle to muster up the courage to get back on track. But where do you start?
Okay, in full disclosure this story is about me! This exact scenario happened to me last winter. And a similar story unfolded for me the other week. Life happened and I got derailed…again.
That’s one of the hardest parts about being an entrepreneur. You have to constantly put yourself out there while dealing with whatever curve balls life throws at you. It can be hard to persevere when you’re physically and emotionally drained by life itself. Here are my five steps for entrepreneurs to get back on track after life derails your efforts:
1. Acknowledge What’s Happened
It can be tempting to try to suck it up and push on. But this approach is like ignoring spilt milk, eventually you will have to clean the mess up and it will only get worse. Take a moment to acknowledge whatever caused you to derail. Write about it in your journal and talk about it with friends, mentors or your coach. This will help you process everything. Then, as appropriate, let your customers know what’s up. It could be a simple, “Sorry for the delay, I’m sick” or “I apologize about this, but I am going to need to reschedule due to a family emergency!” They don’t need all the gory details, but transparency wins you trust. Plus, most people genuinely care, a little compassion from others and a few kind words can help you get back on track.
2. Imagine You’re On a Trampoline
I get it, you feel pretty down. Maybe whatever has caused you to derail is leading you to your lowest low point ever. Or, more likely, it isn’t quite that bad but it is making you feel pretty down. Imagine you are on a trampoline; the lower you go the higher you’ll bounce back. I started using this visualization technique when I was in high school after experiencing my lowest low point, it helped me recover to be a better stronger person than I was before, and I continue to use it to this day.
3. Do Your Rebounding Rituals
After I fell flat on my face from the flu this winter I struggled to make a full recovery. It’s because I pushed myself too hard when I should have eased back into things by balancing work with self-care. That’s when I made a list in my journal called “Rebounding Rituals” where I wrote all of the things I do that rejuvenate me. The list included things like go to yoga, talk with friends, drink water, sleep, take my vitamins, express gratitude, etc. Now whenever I get derailed, I consciously choose to practice my Rebounding Rituals and slowly work through the list.
4. Give Yourself Permission to Renegotiate Commitments
Most entrepreneurs have high expectations of themselves, which causes a lot of stress. This pressure is largely self-imposed. Sure, you want to be impeccable with your word, but sometimes life happens. And most people are understanding. As you emerge from the abyss review your plans, re-evaluate your priorities and renegotiate your commitments so that you follow through on what’s really important. Think about getting derailed as an opportunity for you to cut the fat so that you’re focused on what matters most. You’ll realize that a lot of those expectations you had aren’t as critical to your success as you had imagined them to be.
5. Take it One Day at a Time
Getting back on track is a process that takes time, just how much time it’ll take depends on the situation. You have to make a concerted effort day in and day out. Instead of fixating on how far behind you are, focus on being in the moment and doing your best now. You aren’t going to complete all these steps in one day. Give yourself time to chip away at these steps and remember to show yourself a little compassion.
As entrepreneurs we can put undue pressure on ourselves to go, go, go. And it doesn’t help that our society values busyness; it is common for the urgent stuff to get done at the expense of the important. But when life derails our efforts we are given a rare gift to take a critical look at why you’re doing what you do and prioritize self-care so that when you get back on track you are even better then before. Think of it as slowing down to speedup in a more sustainable fashion.