All Ears & Whiskers…The Challenges of Solo Working!

Do you ever get those weeks when you just cannot get anything done? Or at least that is how it feels! Those weeks when you are so overwhelmed managing different aspects of your life, that you feel you are wading through exceptionally sticky and putrid mud! Despite your best efforts, you feel like you are failing at literally everything, and worse than that, you can’t work out which way to turn next! Throw in a daughter with a suspected broken foot from a cartwheeling injury, and you’ve given up all hope.

I can safely say I’ve had a couple of those weeks recently! But as I come to the end of the second one I am happy to report, I can see some light! I’ve always been a great believer in the theory that if something isn’t quite working for you,  throw something random and new into the mix and see what happens! And that’s kind of what I’ve done this week.

By nature I am not generally a prevaricator – give me a task, and I’ll finish it quicker than most – my productivity levels when I am focussed are exceptionally high – which is why I’ve never struggled to find or keep a job, but the issue is now, that I am basically working for myself! I am my own worst critic! I am also my own slavedriver! If there’s a spare second in my day, then I am always thinking – what could I be doing now that will be productive whether it’s making my own granola (which by the way I have never done despite having bought the ingredients several times), or knitting a sheep (I have done that)!

The odd thing is that I’ve just got back from a lovely holiday! Normally, I’m raring to go and tend to hit the ground running after a break, but this year, not so much. This is partly because I’ve lost some confidence in what I do – and perhaps I’m struggling to identify what I truly do! Which is weird, because, for the first time in a very long time, I’ve got some completely self-generated if tiny income. Actual hard cash!

So what is the issue!? Well, some might call it imposter syndrome – but I don’t know a person out there who isn’t suffering from that at the moment. Some might call it fatigue! Juggling too many areas of life including an energetic 9-year-old! I knew I was headed that way before I went on holiday so signed up to some online courses to try and plug a few areas of my knowledge that I felt a bit shaky on. I think they are helping, but it’s all taking too long for my liking!

I was also lucky enough to re-connect with a very old friend from what I call my ‘real’ career days, who is also trying to reinvent herself. She is far more learned and savvy than me, but she needed my help, and I certainly needed hers, so we wasted no time in getting together and chewing the cud.

I should say that Katie came back into my life after almost 20 years when she set up a fantastic self-development course, called Rule 6 Hub. It was aimed at giving women who had lost their way, and most certainly their mojo, the opportunity to find it again by rediscovering their passions and values. It helped me enormously. It reminded me who I had been, what I had achieved over the past 25 plus years, and what really made me tick. That was at Christmas, and from there I took courage and started to build on the embryo of a business that I had started with a friend 5 years ago.

That business was based on a blog we had started about living life resourcefully and reducing waste – a hot topic at the moment! And therein lies the issue! My interest in the area is deep – some might way forensic or obsessive – I literally cannot get enough information into my brain fast enough – my thirst for knowledge knows no bounds! This is almost certainly because people have started asking me more in-depth questions, and sometimes I’ve felt out of my depth in answering them – cue that bloody imposter syndrome. But equally, because you get to a certain point in your life where frankly you just want to know everything! I can totally see myself on Eggheads in a few years time.

Added to that there are lots of people out there doing essentially similar things – zero wasters, vegans, plastic protestors, you name it, and I feel like I’m not doing as good a job! That said, we like to differentiate ourselves from the hardcore tree huggers if that’s not too offensive. We are all about normal domestic households making those small changes to reduce their waste that can make such a big difference collectively.

What I have realised more than anything recently however, is how working on your own is incredibly hard. You’ve got nobody to bounce off – you’ve got nobody to banter with or share new ideas, you’ve got nobody keeping you focussed, motivated or in line.

For that reason I jumped at the opportunity of teaming up with Katie – we spent two or more hours talking through our respective frustrations with our businesses, and bingo, came up with mutually achievable and accountable plans.

I guess my point is this..there are very few of us who are good at operating alone. This was born out only this morning when I went to a village networking event. Almost everybody there was from a one-man business, and the speaker for the day raised exactly the same point – we are all one man bands, we all struggle to define what we do and our businesses are all in our heads. That is incredibly tough.

So my big lesson from this week is that it’s good to talk – as somebody who finds ‘networking’ a scary word, I have learned that staying silent and isolated is even more frightening. And that collaboration with others – sharing skills, ideas and most importantly motivation is a hell of a lot more enjoyable than ‘island’ life.

The irony of this is that right now I should be planning my blog posts for the week and month, and reviewing Katie’s web copy – I should be sending them to her to prove I’ve done what we agreed, which I haven’t – although I have thought about it a lot!

But I also know that when I get a block like this, the best thing I can do is splurge the words in a blog type situation. So what I am really hoping is that by throwing this down in undoubtedly far too many syllables, I will become ‘unbunged,’ able to avoid disappearing down too many rabbit holes, and capable of crossing the road without being startled by a headlight. Phew, I feel better already! Carrot soup anybody!?

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