It is all too easy to get caught up in the minutiae that bogs us down and prevents us tackling the big issues that matter!
We have all heard the phrases “don’t sweat the small stuff“, “avoid the £5 tasks” and being a “busy fool“. It can take some real focus these days not to be distracted by social media, text messages, or even the lure of Candy Crush. In our ever connected lives there always seems to be something else to divert us from our well intentioned plan for the day.
I normally like to jump start my day when the alarm has gone off by trying to clear the clutter before I jump in the shower; deal with those social media posts, check for urgent and important emails and clear the junk, review my diary and priorities. I can then focus on the day motivated and determined on what really matters.
Well that’s the theory..! The best laid plans are soon distracted by a text message asking about plans for dinner this evening, or querying what time the kids rugby practice is starting. Slowly, but slowly the motivation and determination ebbs away like the flotsam and jetsam heading out to sea on a low tide.
I have been caught out in this cycle many times, and discovered that I needed to create myself daily success criteria, focus on the important goals that needed to be dealt with first… Only the urgent and important tasks get focused on, the non-urgent and unimportant get junked quickly. If I can delegate the urgent but not important then I will, or I will make sure they are scheduled in throughout the day. That just leaves the non-urgent but important to slot in ahead of when their priority is raised. Let’s not dismiss all of the distractions out of hand, networking and social media have a place and can be important.
I remember a one-man-band stationery supplier named Raymond, back in the 90’s. He used to deal with the company I worked for at the time and became a personal friend, so we chatted often. This was way before the Internet or any on-line ordering, it was all catalogs and salesmen knocking on the door in those days. One day I asked him how he was going to compete with the new Staples Stationery store which was opening up around the corner, surely they would be taking much of his business. His reply was that he offered a personal service, unlike these big chains, he would “personally deliver a pack of £1 biros” if that was what was needed, which is what he did often. Needless to say, his business didn’t last long. He never did the big stuff, just worried about the little stuff, a busy fool if you like, making nothing on a pack of biros in the never ending hope that the big order would come one day. Too busy to invest, too busy to sell, and certainly too busy to make any money!
After I sold my business I was in a real cycle of procrastination about how to move forward and what to do next. I had lots of ideas, some of which would take a while to get started, some of which needed funding, but the clear cliff edge was the need to find an income replacement strategy before the money ran out. This procrastination was exacerbated by decision to start my social transition, so I also had to decide on my own identity, and to ensure my family and support network were in place before I could move forward.
I’ve likened this to putting my whole life in a blender, forgetting to secure the lid and pressing the button. The resulting mess all over the place was kinda how I was feeling with all my references points and areas of comfort shot to pieces.
I remember sitting down and struggling to even write my CV, I was stuck on the top line – “name“. What on earth was my name, it was supposedly the easiest question in the world to answer, but right now it was the one thing causing me the more anguish; was I ready to transition?, would the world be ready for me?, could I make it?, was I “trans enough“?, would my family be supportive?, could I actually get hired as a trans person? – so many “what ifs“.
There were mornings where I wasn’t able to function, nights where I couldn’t sleep or would wake up in the small hours with my mind racing… could I do this?, how can I do this,? – I can’t even decide on my name, my brand and who I am!
One day I decided enough was enough and it was time to focus on what mattered… It was urgent and important for me to move forward, important for my family to have me functioning and earning a living. I decided to readjust my reference point from being “unemployed” to “self-employed” – after all I had started several businesses, been involved with Sales & Marketing, I know how to use social media; LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and good old email and let’s not forget the telephone.
I embarked on a task of creating a business strategy. I assembled a small PowerPoint deck for my life and business goals, and set out to show it to a number of trusted friends as mentors and advisers. Saying it out loud and explaining it to others gave me focus, let me hear that my ideas and plans were credible and I just needed to get on with them. I also got a feel for where my true passion lay.
I was now back to the issue that mattered the most, the issue that was still thwarting me; my name, my name… how could this be so difficult? I needed to break this down into small logical steps – I quickly realised that transitioning was important to me, it did matter, it was something I had to do, I couldn’t paint myself back into another corner and trap myself. This was the opportunity to go for it and to finally be myself after all these years of hiding and holding back.
I booked myself into several networking events, using Eventbrite, I found a number of free sessions on various topics; building a business plan, cyber security, female entrepreneurs and internet marketing. I decided if I couldn’t transition and do these type of events then that would be that. I had finally found my strategy to break the cycle and prove to myself that I could do this, or not. I worked on my LinkedIn contacts, introduced myself and suggested we meet for a one-to-one so we could explore synergies and of course give them the gossip on my own re-brand.
The plan worked, I had no trouble with my confidence, I worked the rooms, introduced myself to new and old contacts, explained my business plan and I was accepted and warmly welcomed. So what was all of the procrastination and fuss about? In fact I don’t think I had ever felt so confident and liberated in these face-to-face meetings and networking type events before, I believed in myself.
Finally, my decision was made; my LinkedIn profile re-branded, business cards ordered, CV written with Joanne Lockwood proudly at the top and submitted to job boards with some positions applied for. In the meantime, the real business plan was kicking in behind the scenes; my blog was re-energised and I began to pursued my true passions; Equality and Diversity, Speaking Engagements, some Freelance IT Consultancy, and I have even ventured into a bit of Acting.
I can do this, it just takes some self-belief, some passion and above all else a strategy to focus on what matters and get in with it!