Getting Out of the Doldrums – 7 Tips for the Self-Employed

Getting Out of the Doldrums - 7 Tips for the Self-Employed
7 Graces co-director Nancy Goodyear explores what it’s like when you’ve lost motivation and passion for your work, and gives tips for pulling yourself out.

To be ‘in the doldrums’ is an old maritime expression. The doldrums is a belt of low pressure in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans that lies along the equator. Because of its location, the weather is either very tempestuous or incredibly calm. In fact, it gets so calm that the winds disappear altogether and sail-powered ships would get stuck ‘in the doldrums’ for days, or even weeks, until the wind picked up enough to get it moving again.

We business owners can also fall into our own kind of doldrums. We’ve all experienced those weeks when everything feels like an uphill battle – when finding the motivation to get out of bed takes all the energy we can muster. And as for getting ourselves to work…well, forget it!

Before I was self-employed, when I had a ‘proper job’, I could just about drag myself into the office and muddle through on autopilot on those days. Now that I’m self-employed, it’s a different matter. I’m my own boss. And, by nature, I’m not the kind of boss to breathe down my employees’ necks when they’re having a bad day.

The trouble is, when you work for yourself you have to be self-determining, self-motivating and self-managing. In those gloomy, low energy periods, that’s hard to do. And when the gloomy days stretch into gloomy weeks, how do you keep going? How do you stop yourself from quitting?

If you’re self-employed, it’s useful to have strategies to pull yourself out of the doldrums when you find it hard to keep going. Here are some of my personal tips:

TIP 1: Don’t panic.
First and foremost, don’t panic! It might not feel like it right now, but this will pass.

TIP 2: Take a break.
Clear your diary of everything non-essential and create some space to ‘just be’ in the gloom. Our tendency is usually to turn our backs on our negative emotions and try to will ourselves happy; but sometimes, leaning into your uncomfortable, unhappy places can be just the thing to bounce you back up into sunshine.

TIP 3: Be with people.
Working from home can be very isolating. We are social creatures and need human company from time to time. For me, sitting across a table from a real life, living, breathing human being is very different from chatting to them on Skype – even if I can see them on the computer screen. If you’re feeling low, perhaps you’re lonely and need some real life contact. Arrange to meet a friend for lunch or a coffee, or just go and be where people are, like a café or library.

TIP 4: Follow the energy.
If you feel bogged down by all the things you ‘should do’, you might find your mojo by looking the other way. Sometimes turning your back on the ‘should dos’ and focussing instead on something that inspires you can bring everything back into focus – even if you feel inspired to do something that bears no relevance to what you think are your current priorities. Go with it. It might lead somewhere completely unexpected.

TIP 5: Get into your body.
When we’re in work mode, we’re generally ‘in our heads’ and our energy can get stuck bouncing around inside our skulls with nowhere to go. Our bodies start to feel deprived of energy and attention, so moving away from the desk and the computer to do something physical can get the blood flowing and bring your energy back into balance. Go for a walk, put on some music and dance, go for a swim or to the gym, cook yourself a nice lunch or even just do the washing up – but step away from your desk and let your head switch off for a while.

TIP 6: Do the filing.
If you feel uninspired, lose yourself in the automatic, mundane tasks that need little or no concentration or effort. Instead of your usual work routine, do your accounts, tidy your desk or set up a new organisation system.

TIP 7: Rethink and review.
Perhaps the reason you feel stuck and flat is because something isn’t working for you anymore. Maybe you have no energy for your work because you’ve evolved and are ready to move in a new direction. Take time to reflect on where you are now – in this moment. Are you bored by what you’re doing? Is it no longer challenging? Does it no longer feel relevant to you? What do you feel called to do, now?

Closing Thoughts

Let’s be clear: being stuck in the doldrums doesn’t mean you feel any less passionate about the work you do. It’s not that you hate being self-employed and want to go back to being employed. Nor does it mean you’re lazy, flaky or not cut out for self-employment. It’s just that, for some reason or another, your ‘get up and go’ has wandered off for a while, leaving you feeling stranded.

The doldrums can give you a feeling of disconnection from your business – but also from yourself. There is no wind in your sails to keep you on course. It can feel like you have been cast adrift, waiting and waiting for the wind to pick up again.

But be assured: the wind will pick up. It might take a day, a week, or perhaps even longer. But eventually, it will happen. And when it does, you will feel more confident in your ability to ride out the inevitable storms that will impact you as a business owner over the years, and reconnect with your work in a deeper, more thoughtful way.

We at the 7 Graces Project CIC specialise in helping self-employed, ethical business owners and social entrepreneurs discover and maintain a deep connection with their work, so they can become inspired, motivated and resilient leaders in society. We do this through our platform building packages, ethical marketing courses and community activities. If you’d like to find out more about how we can help you grow and market your ethical business, feel free to drop us a line via the contact form on this site.

We also welcome you to become part of our ever-growing community on Facebook.

Nancy Goodyear
31st October 2014

Nancy V Goodyear, Co-Director of the 7 Graces Project CICNancy V Goodyear is a Business Mentor and Coach who loves to help social entrepreneurs and small business owners cultivate their relationship with self, their business and their audience. With a BA (Hons) in Learning Disability Nursing, she has extensive professional experience working in health & social care within the non-profit sector. She is fluent in French having lived in France for some time. She is a graduate of the Coaches Training Institute and the Co-Active Leadership programme. She is also a director of The 7 Graces Project CIC.

Nancy on Twitter: @NancyVGoodyear
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Lynn Serafinn author of The 7 Graces of Marketing LYNN SERAFINN, MAED, CPCC is a certified, award-winning coach, teacher, marketer, social media expert, radio host, speaker and author of the number one bestseller The 7 Graces of Marketing — How to Heal Humanity and the Planet by Changing the Way We Sell and Tweep-e-licious! 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market their Business Ethically. She is listed in the Top 20 of the Top Marketing Authors on Twitter by Social Media Magazine and was a finalist for the prestigious Brit Writers Awards. She also received the eLit Book Awards Silver Medal in Humanitarian and Ecological Social Affairs, as well as the Bronze Medal in Business and Sales. Lynn’s eclectic approach to marketing incorporates her vast professional experience in the music industry and the educational sector along with more than two decades of study and practice of the spirituality of India. Her innovative marketing campaigns have produced a long list of bestselling non-fiction authors through her company Spirit Authors.

Lynn is also the Founder of the 7 Graces Project CIC, a not-for-profit social enterprise created to train, support, mentor and inspire independent business owners to market their business ethically, serve society and planet, and restore all that is best about humanity.

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