Do you ever get the feeling that you’ve got an angel on one shoulder and a demon on the other?
- One of them is the ‘good’ little angel, encouraging you to do the right thing and keep everything in perspective.
- The other is the ‘bad’ little demon, pushing you to go further, work harder and say ‘yes’ to more people more often.
It’s a difficult phenomena that afflicts two different kinds of people. Cartoon characters, and self-employed women! I’m sure it affects men as well – but we women know the kinds of pressure we’re under – and the way we add to that pressure with our high expectations of ourselves and our businesses!
However, inner conflict doesn’t have to be part and parcel of self-employment. It can feel like one of these archetypal beings is your friend, and the other is your enemy, and invariably they pit what you feel you ‘should’ do against what you ‘want’ to do.
Here are a few examples of the Little Demon’s advice:
- “Don’t let anyone down, ever. Your family, your clients, your staff and even the people behind you in the traffic jam are all relying on you completely, so don’t blow it.”
- “That mistake will affect everything you do for the rest of your life.”
- “That bad day you just had? Everyone saw. And when they look at you, they’re shaking their heads.”
- “You’re not achieving as much as you probably should be by now.”
- “You can’t really delegate your work – there is not a soul alive on this planet who understands your business like you do.”
- “Ok, well if you really are tired, you can rest today. Just forget all about your work and pop some daytime TV on. Then you can work three times as hard tomorrow. It’ll be fine.”
Recognise any of these? The Little Demon isn’t bad, really – she actually represents a big part of who we are. Her approach probably arises from your ambition, enthusiasm, and sheer determination to be successful. However, if you follow this inner slave driver to the letter, life gets pretty hellish.
What about Good Angel?
Her voice is maybe a little more feeble, but she does have something to say to us:
- “You are completely in control of your life, and you will make every day count.”
- “There is enough time in the day to do what you need to do. Pace yourself and do your best, and everything will be fine.”
- “You can be a great mum, a great employer and look great every day.”
“What could possibly go wrong?”
- “Delegate your work. Your assistant is perfectly capable of taking care of this.”
- “No-one minds if you make a few mistakes here and there.”
Little Angel is almost too good. She’s like a gleaming business coach who tells us we can attain perfection. After all, who doesn’t want to strive to be their best? Her advice is appealing, and it’s tempting to believe in it, but the truth is that no-one is perfect all the time. Life happens, in spite of our very best plans, and there will be times we have to put our goals to one side for a spell when priorities are jostling for attention.
The truth is, both of these are a little unrealistic. Little Angel is like an unattainable ideal. Little Demon is her perfect foil, but she mustn’t be allowed to take over.
So how do you strike a good balance between the two?
- Learn to tell them apart
Ask yourself where these thoughts are coming from, and think them through to their final conclusion. Are you really as bad as you think? Would it really be a business disaster to extend a deadline? Is striving to be a supermum worth it – and are ideals like that worth striving for anyway?
- What’s the real issue here?
It may seem like a simple question of diary management, for example whether to accept a dinner invitation on top of a full day of meetings. However, the real question could be much more complex and have more to do with our expectations of ourselves, the expectations we believe other people have of us, and a refusal to acknowledge our own human needs.
- Apply your own reason
When we’re busy and stressed, the first thing that happens is we become irrational, which means we’re unlikely to make sensible choices. If you feel pushed, panicky or despondent, you’re not at your best – so it’s probably not the best time to negotiate a new contract or agree to something you’ll kick yourself for later.
- Take your time
Business decisions deserve your best attention – which means approaching them when you’re at your best. My colleague uses a great phrase when she’s not prepared to take action on the spot: “Let me think about that and get back to you.”
- Talk to someone you trust
When you’re running a business on your own, shouldering a lot of responsibility, good judgement is vital. However, that doesn’t mean you have to deal with things alone. Who knows you and your business well, and can give you an honest assessment of where you’re at? Whether that’s your partner, a business associate or an assistant, try and gather some trusted people around you and test your ideas out on them.
These are my five pointers for negotiating your way between the devil and the angel of time management. They’re both worth listening to, but ideally you need a good blend of the two – adding that final vital ingredient to really taking control of your business and your life – you!