Note: High summer seems an ideal time to hang low and retreat from the bright spotlight.While “hanging low” during high summer, I’m posting ideas and archived posts. Many of them have been related to the Art of Productive Loafing, a talent I constantly re-teach to myself as well as to creative professionals and teams. But this archived piece looks at what happens when external circumstances and emergencies might require you to take a break or modify your work flow.
Say you’ve mustered the focus and fire to work steadily on creative work that matters – your novel, software app, product launch, client groove.
You’ve finessed time-shaping, optimized your physical space. You’re set, rolling, and flowing.
Then, boom. Life happens. A tropical storm floods your home. An ailing parent needs emergency care. A relationship crumbles. Your special needs child’s requirements lead to litigation.
When do personal needs trump business as usual? How do you halt or re-direct “business as usual”?
Those are questions several of you, especially as solo-preneurs and creatives, have been living – and Mark Silver & Jason Stein and others have been posting about the subject, too. I’ve helped several people co-craft “Emergency Momentum” plans to help weather cancer, business crunches, economic drops, parental needs, children’s emergency needs, and more.
But suddenly they’ve been questions I’ve lived in, too, frequently.
Emergency Momentum Plans are different from entering a stage of Fertile Confusion. Emergency Momentum Plans usually have a definable end point. They’re designed to “gear down” how your business operates or how you approach your create-n-work flow temporarily.
For Tracking Wonder and me, business as usual during a given week or month looks something like this: regular morning practice followed by deep writing/deep thinking time, several hours devoted to client preparation/research/meetings, book project research, article writing, collaboration projects, and hours devoted to big-picture thinking/biz development/team talk.
Woven in are times of productive idleness, mindwandering, walking, delightful diversions, and body electric exercise.
Outside of business are regular meal times and outings with my family, regular social gatherings with friends, irregular calls with extended family.
But a recent family emergency has me checking in with the best balance – or dance, rather, as a colleague describes it – of sustaining business and tending to personal matters.
3 CHECK POINT QUESTIONS
Here’s how I’ve been checking in with my best self to see if I need to shift “business-as-usual.”
1. Am I being distracted and not fully tending to the person-in-need? Family comes first in my life. My clients usually understand this. My values drive my business, not the other way around.
So when crisis comes, I have to check in with my principles and be sure I’m acting on them. If I’m not able to be with a friend-in-need or loved one-in-need because of business, then it’s time to re-schedule appointments or postpone product launches.
2. Are my clients’ and packs’ experiences with me being compromised? Here’s where it gets tricky for me and for several of my hard-working colleagues and solo-preneur clients. We want to astonish our clients and customers so they can in turn astonish the rest of the world. We want to serve full-throttle.
But in emergencies, it’s often better to postpone an appointment or delay a product launch. Can you fully engage a client or a product launch? Can you do the deep thinking required for your creative work?
If your customers – especially new ones not acclimated to you – potentially have a less-than-stellar experience with you, then be honest with them and explain the delay.
When my father’s emergency required me to drop business as usual in summer 2012, I chose to delay leading a webinar – and I am happy for all parties involved that I did. To create a seamless, non-distracting experience, I need reliable technology & WiFi and a clear state of mind. Neither element was predictable while I was – and am – in emergency mode.
Case in point: I had attempted that summer to maintain numerous client meetings. Although the ones I kept were remarkably productive for the clients, I confused the timing of one appointment (due to time zone shifts and schedule shifts), and the WiFi technology was not reliable in one instance. Fortunately, most of my clients have worked with me for such a long time that they know that such mishaps are not the norm.
With new clients and customers, you have little or no “forgiveness equity.”
2. Are you compromising your own health and mood by soldiering forward? Notice how I put this one third. That probably says something about me and the rest of us big servers. We forget that our own health should take precedence; otherwise, we cannot take care of anyone else well – loved one or beloved customer.
When I go into “emergency mode” – or “generator energy mode” as I often call it – I am adamant about running daily or practicing yoga daily and meditating daily. If at any time, I start telling myself I don’t have time for self-care, then business as usual has to change.
With my clients, I begin with this query. I suggest you do so as well.
If you answer “Yes” to two or more of these questions, it’s likely time to switch modes.
GENERATOR MODE – NOT INDEFINITE DISTRACTION
Some emergencies change to an ongoing adjustment of time, mind, and energy. Being on temporary Emergency Momentum Mode is not the same as regularly excusing ourselves for not shaping time to do the other creative work that matters.
Even though my family emergency has not officially ceased, I still chose, after two weeks, to pass the baton of decisions in part to a relative, return home (sanctuary), and adjust focus on business and creative work.
If for the past few years you’ve been saying to yourself you’re not developing creative work that matters – be it business, book, or social movement – because of an “emergency,” then you might not be taking care of your best self and setting boundaries.
Set limits within reason for how long you will run on generator mode. Be flexible yet firm.
DON’T GO IT ALONE
Anyone who faces a family emergency head on knows not to go it alone and to seek quality help wherever you can find it. You might instinctively reach out to relatives and friends to help out with personal matters.
If you assume a relative or friend won’t help out without your asking, you do yourself and that person a disservice by assuming and not asking.
But whom do you reach out to to aid with business matters?
And then there’s my A-plus business consultant and all-around wise emergency counselor, Charlie Gilkey of Productive Flourishing. The guy led a team in Iraq and rocks with his creative business. He’s had his own personal emergency.
So, I reached out to him to get perspective. Although he was in the middle of his own team workshop, he gave me a 15-minute emergency talk while I sat in the hospital cafe. When his three concerns matched my three checkpoints, I knew we were on the same page. Even we veteran coaches and consultants need coaching.
RE-DIRECT YOUR PRIDE
When I was younger, I prided myself on my work ethic and reliability among other things. I probably still do. But there’s no shame in placing family and your own well-being ahead of your business. It’s how I coach my clients to build their platforms as authors, advance their start-ups, and establish work-create-life priorities.
Rather than thinking you’re swallowing your pride when you re-direct business as usual, be proud you make decisions based on principle.
Be proud you act and decide based on what matters most.
I’ve added a bonus module called “Emergency Momentum” to the upcoming mini-course “Mastering Your Creative Work Flow.” In fact, I’ve discovered that the habits I have in place for finessing my creative work flow have helped me navigate emergencies and be vulnerable without spinning out of control.
But you know what? Being on personal emergency mode is that – personal. No one can “tell” you how you “should” handle an emergency. At best, they can help you talk to yourself. I hope you treat these check points as that – prompts to have a conversation with your best self.
DROP IN THE HUT
I’m curious about your stories and how you handle emergencies and what tips you have for re-directing business and create-n-work flows amidst crises.
Sharing stories helps.
Thanks for running with me,