Sustainability – This time it’s personal
Sustainability – This time it’s personal
When I was asked to be a panelist for ACU and StartSomeGood’s Social Enterprise Design Course and talk about personal sustainability, I was prepared and excited to share what I’ve learnt. Because I’ve cultivated a practice of being calm and organised, I love sharing this so that others find their flow as well. I see too many people running themselves ragged and it breaks my heart. So below are the questions I was sent and my approach and if you want to talk more about personal/life sustainability then drop me a note!
How do you balance getting things done, with maintaining your strength and energy to keep doing the work?
I’ve got a running list of things I want or need to do and prioritise them and I have blocks of time in my calendar set aside for non-negotiables. For me this includes my health and wellness commitments, things like preparing emails and blogs, planning and outreach and of course client engagements. If things feel overwhelming, I’ll ask, ‘what’s the one thing I need to do today that will move things forward?’ or ‘what can wait until tomorrow?’. I was wisely taught that priorities look like: 1. paid work 2. mass communications. I also have a plan, and make sure I’ve got enough scope to be flexible.
How important is your purpose to your energy levels and keeping up your motivation?
Energy levels fluctuate. But my belief in my purpose rarely waivers. That said, i recognise when I need to connect with my community, if I need a reminder of why I’m doing this. Remind myself that it’s normal to experience ups and downs, give myself a break (mentally or physically) and sometimes even imagine the worst case scenario. Could I walk away from it all? How would that feel? Just because I might not be feeling fired up 100% of the time, doesn’t mean that I’m giving up. So the purpose is really at the core of continuing to show up, knowing that there are people who need my help and that my core value is to ‘make things better’.
How important are your personal networks and support groups? What suggestions do you have for maintaining a strong support network and personal support?
ESSENTIAL! The founders journey has been quite a lonely one at times, the personal and professional support networks that I have now keep me feeling my best. I live in two places, half the year in Sydney and half the year in Southeast Asia so maintaining those connections is really important to me and knowing that it’s necessary to give and receive. I haven’t done anything conventionally. I started a for-purpose business when the main players in this space were charities, I choose to live in two places when most people think that’s fantastical. So having people that understand and accept me, and some who inspire and support me, some more who push me to go further… whether professionally or personally, I need them and I’m grateful to them every single day.
What do you do as part of your regular routine, to help maintain your personal wellness?
I prioritise good quality sleep, my morning and evening routines support my sleep to enable me to be my best each day. My morning routine is sunshine, water, coffee, journalling, and reading my horoscopes, that last one might be cheesy but it usually cheers me up and that makes it worthwhile, in my opinion. Then movement. When I’m walking, I also tune into podcasts. So inspiring!
Another great mentor of mine, says body first, business second (thanks Kate Northrup), I take that advice very seriously, when I’m in Sydney, I love nothing more than to get out for a walk first thing in the morning, when I’m in Siem Reap, I dance Nia 4 times a week. These are my non-negotiable self-care actions.
I create consistency and also allow some flexibility, sometimes you need to explore or try a new work environment. I get out and work in different hotel lobby cafes, hotels are my main clients, so it’s good to spend time in their spaces. When I’m in Southeast Asia, I love to visit the amazing temples that are so accessible… sometimes I’ll even do that midweek if I need a boost of spirituality.
Have there been times in the journey when you struggled to maintain your energy and enthusiasm? How did you get through that?
Absolutely! I don’t think there will be times when there isn’t an occasional struggle of sorts, but I know the extremes are less severe and I honestly believe that the hardest struggles are behind me. Yet, just last week I struggled to find motivation, even with a lot of exciting prospects and projects on. It happens. So knowing when to take my foot off the accelerator is really important. Knowing when staring at the screen, spinning my wheels is not productive and giving myself a refresh. It could be a walk, a shower, a swim… or something deeper; a hike, a long chat with a friend or a weekend retreat. Choosing what will help and what’s realistic in the given situation, to fill up just a little bit to get through the next commitment or to fill up a LOT to get to the next milestone. There are always things we can do, small and big and in between to help us move ahead. Sometimes that might be to just not quit. To leave it for the day and say, let’s take a look at this again tomorrow.
Is there anything you would like to share with the group, that you have learned about personal sustainability along your journey?
Yes! And also that I’ve learned that there will continue to be lessons!
I’ve learned that structure is good, it helps, and having standard operating procedures and templates help! Don’t start from scratch on everything. Use automation. Use freelancers, they help you develop your structure and systems because you need to give them that to get started. Have goals, but not random made up ‘I want to make a million dollars’ type goals, proper goals. I want to reach out to 10 people this week and connect. I want to get 32 new clients in the next 12 months. I’ll dedicate 1% of my time to volunteering. I want to dance every Tuesday and Thursday morning. Then be consistent.
Embrace more spirituality. The way we’ve been programmed to work isn’t sustainable. Creative work like what most entrepreneurs are doing, isn’t an 8-hour a day thing you just switch on and off. We’re not making widgets anymore (anyone else study management in the 90s??) so time and output are not directly reliant on one another. Do the work, show up, be disciplined, and also, let go of expectations, take care of yourself, and trust that everything is happening for you. Because it is. And the more I learn to trust that, the more it becomes true. Lose rigidity, not structure, but hanging on so tightly to every little thing strangles the very thing you desire, let it go… let it flow. Do your best and everything will happen as it’s meant to (not necessarily how you think it will!). When I moved to Sydney at the end of 2019 it was with the vision of developing and growing and taking my business to the next level. When Covid hit in 2020, I was in a new city with almost no friends, no work, and no chance of getting a job (gosh damn I tried so hard that year, effort doesn’t always equal results!). Guess what?. I developed, I grew, and I now have a degree of understanding, a way of operating in my business that I highly doubt I would have developed if I hadn’t spent that (awful) year sitting on my butt. Is that what I wanted to happen? Of course not, but was it meant to happen? Yes… I think it was. So even when things are super shitty, you might not see at the time, it is serving you in some way. Most of the time this is true.
Invest in your personal development. In 2018 I was on a long bus ride from Phnom Penh to Kep. It was dark. I’m prone to motion sickness. I discovered podcasts! Changed my life! I listen to a variety of well-being and business related podcasts and I’m grateful every day for the time I’ve invested in ME, to learn from others who are on the path and have traveled the path before me. In my enthusiasm, I’m possibly a little annoying. With my episode recommendations and urging people to find the podcasts, they resonate with. I hear so often, “I don’t have time to listen to that”. “I can’t”, “Oh it’s okay for you…”, “You’re lucky you can do that”. I don’t think anyone I’ve ever sent a recommendation to has come back to me and said – yes! I listened to that, it was mind-blowing… because they didn’t listen. That makes me sad. I’m not lucky, I’m consistent. And sometimes when energy is low, all I can do is choose to listen to a podcast (ideally on a walk but sometimes lying on the couch) and I’ll find some peace or inspiration or just know I’ve done my best in that moment. Maybe podcasts aren’t your thing. But invest in yourself, your personal and professional development and do it consistently.
Thank you Nimmity Zappert for the invitation and to Tom Dawkins and Tayana Grundy for the incredible session on June 28th and to all the students in the program, all the very best! It might not be the easy road, but it’s definitely a worthwhile one and I wouldn’t have it any other way.