“I believe there’s a natural ebb and flow to our weeks and months. Sometimes we’re up, everything comes easy and we have an abundance of energy. And sometimes it’s a huge struggle to even work one hour per day.”
~ Niall Doherty
This piece is titled after a blog post I read and loved many years ago, written by the legendary Niall Doherty. I loved this piece because, at the time I first read it (circa 2011), it so well put into words a phenomena I was well-accustomed to but hadn’t realised that we all face.
What I’m referring to is the unavoidable fact that there are times in our life, during which we feel completely motivated and full of energy and there are times (sometimes for no apparent reason) that we’re simply not. In fact, even more so, we feel positively de-motived and seriously lacking in energy.
This state of affairs, if not managed appropriately, can be seriously damaging for the solopreneur. Rarely do we have someone available to pick up the slack when we’re off our game so our business inevitably suffers. Also, if we repeatedly fail to handle these periods properly, we can become disillusioned and depressed about our ability to run a successful business.
We all know how important consistency is to our success, right? So how do we maintain consistency of output when our energy and motivation levels fluctuate so regularly?
And let’s get real here, when we’re talking about the downswing, it’s not just the natural ebb and flow of our energy that we need to consider, it’s all the other things life throws at us along the way, such as illness, emotional upheaval, holidays, distractions and general life stuff. Given how much life throws at us in the course of our daily lives, it’s no wonder that our “flow” is, more often than not, reduced to a trickle rather than a steady gush.
So, what are we to do with this?
I wish there was a simple fix but unfortunately there isn’t. The reason for this is two-fold:
a) downswings (or rough patches) are a natural part of life and therefore cannot be eliminated entirely and
b) the way to better handle a downswing is extremely nuanced. There is, unfortunately, no one-size fits all approach.
By nuanced I mean that there are times when the response to your downswing is to get tough and display some serious discipline and at others it’s to give yourself a break and allow yourself to recover and regroup plus a plethora of responses somewhere in-between.
The problem I see most people face is that they are either consistently hard on themselves and are therefore on a fast track to burnout, or they consistently let themselves off the hook and as a result, never really make ground with their businesses.
I have a few suggestions to help you better manage this:
1. Raise your awareness
Raising your awareness of your emotional, mental and physical state is absolutely key for navigating the highs and lows of life. One way I love to do this is a practice called morning pages, where, first thing, before doing anything else, I free write 750 words, no editing, no purpose, just writing whatever is present in the moment, this can really help you to better understand what’s going on for you. When we know what’s going on and have an awareness of how we’re truly feeling, then we’re better equipped to choose an appropriate course of action.
2. Get honest with yourself
With your awareness raised, you’re far better placed to choose an appropriate response to whatever is going on for you. Feeling tired because you stayed up late and binge-watched Netflix episodes? Then suck it up and get back on track, because giving into the temptation to lie in is a slippery slope. Feeling run-down because you’ve been sick, whilst working too many hours on your business and caring for a family member? Then consider giving yourself a break and/or some nurturing self-care. If you have taken the time to truly understand what’s going on for you, and follow that with being really honest with yourself about what you need then the appropriate course of action will become clear.
3. Make the most of the upswings
Knowing that a downswing can strike at any moment, it’s crucial to make the most of those times when we’re on fire and feeling like we can accomplish anything. Feeling in the flow with your writing? Why not batch create a few blog posts so that you have something in reserve for the weeks you’re really not feeling it? Feeling lit up by creating graphics in Canva? don’t stop at the ones you need for this week, batch create enough to cover you in less productive times. Taking into account the fact that your upswing will inevitably transition into it’s well-known counterpart, allows you to make the most of your periods of increased creativity to put in place things that can cover you during the low.
And if all else fails, use your downswing as inspiration for your business. The idea for this post for example came during the middle of one of my own personal downswings and rather than pull out my hair trying to figure out what to share, I looked at what I was experiencing and chose to share this: my best advice for dealing with this very situation.
This is important for several reasons. First of all because it gets my mind thinking about what I personally need to do (or not do) in order to feel better and secondly it’s important for my audience to know that I too struggle with periods of low energy and a lack of productivity. If all I did was present to you my best self, that would suck because it might have you believe that what you feel when your motivation levels are on the floor isn’t normal and is somehow a failing on your part.
Rest assured it’s not. We all struggle. We all have downswings and there is a way to succeed in spite of them.