Take a strategy / “Big Picture” week!

The need for a ‘Strategy Week’ arose this week when one of my Accelerator clients was feeling burnt out after a really full-on few months work-wise and various stresses and responsibilities over the Summer. I advised taking a little time off – this is such an essential part of running a business, but when you’re your own boss it can be SO hard to sign that permission slip!

I’m terrible at taking time off – it’s so hard to shake the guilt and to reassure yourself that the business will not collapse if you take a break. However, it’s SO important to nurture your own mental, physical and emotional wellbeing. You are far more important than your business and it’s no use having a business that’s soaring if you’re too exhausted and stressed to enjoy it. If you don’t look after yourself, it will impact on your health and personal life, and, “Work is more important than friends, family and health,” said NO-ONE EVER.

Also – over-working and burning out is ultimately terrible for your business too. It’s not true that taking time off is good for you, but detrimental for your business. You ARE your business. If you’re not working properly, your business won’t work properly. Pushing through exhaustion, overwhelm and burnout is a recipe for starting to hate your own business, making mistakes and bad decisions, resenting clients and not being able to market yourself anyway because you’re just not there energetically.

 

Strategy week

 

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, stressed, burnt out – my primary piece of advice is TAKE SOME TIME OFF. Whatever you can manage. The world and your business will not fall apart if you do this. However, for my client at this particular time, taking a full break just didn’t feel right to her and she didn’t feel comfortable with totally stepping back from the business. So I’ll share with you the advice I gave her, in case you find yourself in a similar position!

If for whatever reason, you’re really struggling to give yourself some total time off with no work whatsoever, and a complete break from the business isn’t sitting right with you, then can I suggest instead scheduling in what I’ve decided to call a ‘Strategy Week’.

Whilst a Strategy Week absolutely should enable you to recover and feel much better, this is not just a thinly veiled excuse for some time off (not that you need an excuse!) A ‘Strategy Week’ is actually incredibly beneficial for your business and is something it’s wise to do at least on an annual basis anyway. It’s common for many successful business owners to regularly take time off from the business specifically to strategise and recharge – and this is in ADDITION to taking time completely away from the business for holidays etc.

 

Strategy week

 

The purpose of your Strategy Week is to take a step back from the hectic hamster wheel of operating your business, and instead to spend a week purely as its CEO, allowing yourself to look past the minutiae at the ‘big picture’ instead, giving your head and body the space and time to reflect on the past, reassess the present and plan for the future.

When we’re caught up in the daily tasks of running a business it can be so hard to do anything strategic, as we’re locked in operational mode, just doing, doing, doing. It’s easy to just keep repeating tasks and doing/selling the same things over and over because we’re in the habit of doing them, even if they don’t actually serve you well any more.

Taking some time out gives you the opportunity to reassess your priorities, reconfirm your long term goals, and make adjustments to the way you do things in a way that will more efficiently take you where you need and want to go, rather than just exhaustedly chugging along the same well-worn path that you might not even want to go down any more. It shifts your focus from operational to strategic, enabling you to rest and recover, then come back to your business with increased clarity, intention and motivation.

 

 

 

SETTING UP YOUR STRATEGY WEEK

 

  • Decide on a week for it and block it out in your calendar
  • Let clients know you won’t be available during that time and put on your Out Of Office
  • During that week, don’t do anything operational – no client work, marketing, admin etc
  • Decide on some really strict working hours – these can be as few as you like, but I’d advise no more than a couple of hours a day max. These days must feel restful and spacious.
  • Ensure all ‘work’ this week is hands-free. We ideally want you to be able to do ALL ‘work’ this week whilst sitting or lying down on the bed or sofa, or sitting in a nice café, or going on a nice walk. This work is mainly going to be going on in your head – allowing your brain time to mull things over, wonder about things, explore ideas, investigate things, sit with feelings and generally letting it ‘breathe’.
  • While mulling things over in your head, you may at times want to make some notes. You can use your laptop if you really want to, or use your phone to dictate notes into a dication app, but ideally, to be able to really let your body and mind recharge, it’s best if you allow yourself to be fully away from screens, in comfortable clothing, in a comfortable environment, with just a pen and some paper when needed. This really should feel like a break.

 

Strategy week

 

POSSIBLE ACTIVITIES FOR YOUR STRATEGY WEEK

 

  • Think about the last 6-12 months. What has brought you lots of joy? What has gone well? What lights you up? What have you been doing that you want to do more of? Then think what hasn’t gone so well? What have you not enjoyed, what hasn’t gone well? What have you found draining? What have you been doing that you wish you didn’t have to do?

 

  • Reconnect with your passions. It’s easy to lose sight of the joy and love that brought us to our businesses in the first place, and it’s easy for the daily grind to stamp all of that passion out of it. Reconnecting with what lights you up is so important and can really give your business a new lease of life. There’s an article here with lots of helpful prompts you could mull over and/or journal about.

 

  • Reassess your long term business goals. Ask yourself, “If I knew I couldn’t fail, what work would I be doing in 3 years’ time?” Think about the type of work you’d be doing, where you’d be doing it, who you’d be doing it with. The ‘if I knew I couldn’t fail’ part is so important – dream big and don’t be constrained by what you think may or may not be possible. Be honest with yourself about what you truly would love to be doing – there’s an article all about the importance of this here.

 

 

  • Reassess your long term personal goals. As yourself, “If I knew I couldn’t fail, what would my life look like in 3 years’ time?” Consider your geographical location, your home, your family, your friends, your health, travel, your hobbies, your free time. How would you be spending your time, where and with who? What would your days look like?

 

  • Decide on an annual focus. Look back at your long-term business and personal goals and ask yourself, “What would I need to focus most on in this next year that would most effectively move me towards those 3 year goals?” You can do this for both your business and personal life.

 

  • Mentally audit your services and products. As a photographer, you may offer various different services (e.g. weddings, families, branding, pets) and also various different products (e.g. prints, albums, wall art). Which of these do you really love delivering? Which light you up? Which do you feel excited about when people book/choose them? Conversely, which ones do you get a sinking feeling about? Is it possible to stop offering things you don’t enjoy and/or focusing more on those you do enjoy? Often we just offer things because others do, or because we’ve always done it so we keep doing it. Remember this is your business – it can take whatever shape you want it to and you don’t have to offer certain services/products just because others do. Cut out the things that drain you and allow yourself to focus all your energies on things that nourish and excite you.

 

Strategy week

 

  • Think about how you can simplify your business. No-one likes complicated. It’s a recipe for hurtling straight back into overwhelm. There’s a helpful article here to give you a few ideas about how you can streamline your business and achieve more by doing less.

 

  • This might sound counter-intuitive after the previous point, but is there anything new you would feel really excited to add into the business? Maybe shooting film? Or starting a new family photography service if so far you’ve only shot weddings? Perhaps you’d really like to get involved in some in-person events? Maybe there’s a really great product you’ve seen that you’d love to start offering? Maybe you’d love to do a personal project, just for fun (here’s loads of advice about how to do that here.) Definitely don’t add in things that you feel you SHOULD be doing – those are things that will drain you. But actually doing more things that bring you joy and excitement can actually energise you. Only keep things in your business that light you up, and if you don’t feel there’s enough in there that’s really lighting you up, consider what you can inject into your business to put a bit of fire back in your belly again.

 

By the end of the Strategy Week, hopefully you will have not only allowed your body and mind to really rest and recharge, but will also feel able to return to your business with renewed passion, greater clarity about the correct route forward for YOU, and a simplified business built solely on things you actually enjoy and that won’t drain you moving forward.

Let me know if you decide to do this, and let me know how it goes!

Anna 🙂

 

 

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