I’ve been trying to figure out what I wanted to talk about this week. And while sometimes I think it’s important to have a singular topic, I also realize that we often have many, many thoughts going on in our heads at once. So that’s what this episode is going to be. It’s a collection of thoughts from the week. And I think part of the reason I’m feeling so scattered is because I’ve been incredibly scattered this week. It’s been very chaotic in terms of work, various projects all coinciding, weird things happening, and me just having to go along with it and make sure things get done.
So I’ve been thinking a lot about that. How do we find that balance that’s so important in the middle of the chaos? Because sometimes we can’t just take a break. I do talk about the importance of taking breaks and making sure that we do when we can, but there are those times where you’re committed to a project, or maybe multiple projects, and everything just comes together at once and you just have to get it done. So how do you do that without overly stressing yourself out in the process?
IDENTIFYING TRIGGERS & ADJUSTING YOUR MINDSET
For me, one of my solutions for everything is just to find humor in a situation. Sometimes it’s really hard to laugh when you’re feeling completely overwhelmed with all the things you have to get done. But if you can kind of take a moment and just find something that can make you laugh – even if it’s not about the situation itself, anything that can just shift your mindset a little bit to be in a happier place. I have a go-to video for that situation. It’s from the 2004 “Vote for Change” tour when Michael Stipe joined Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band for the song “Because the Night.” Number one, I love that song, and listening to good music is a good way to get into a better mood, at least for me. But the reason I will turn to that if I need a laugh is because of Michael Stipe’s dancing.
There are certain performers I will watch just for their dancing alone. Michael Stipe of REM is probably number one in my book. There’s also Thom Yorke from Radiohead, Beck, and probably most entertainingly the singer from the band Future Islands. If you’re not familiar with Future Islands, please go to YouTube and check out some of the videos so you can see, because that dancing is not something I can describe for myself.
But this particular video of Michael Stipe joining Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, there’s just a moment that’s about a minute and 50 seconds in where Michael Stipe just starts flailing about. And I don’t know what it is about it… actually, I do know what it is about it. That flailing about is entertaining, and it makes me laugh every time. We’re talking about a video from 2004, so that’s a lot of years this video has given me the value of laughter when it’s very much needed. So I keep that video handy, and if I know I need a laugh, I can watch that. Watch a couple minutes in and it just changes my mood right away. Here are a couple links so you can laugh with me:
Michael Stipe dancing: https://youtu.be/KOOmaBbqYBk
Future Islands (watch it all the way through): https://youtu.be/GK4lD3Uf8_o
So changing your mood is helpful, but sometimes you have to understand why your mood is what it is in the first place. And I had this big realization this week that certain sounds are triggers for me. And those are notification sounds – the ding of Outlook telling me I have new email messages, the alert telling me there are new text messages I need to read. Those sounds are just reminders that there’s more to do. I already know there’s a lot to do and the sound is not going to help me get them done faster. But something happens where that sound triggers something inside, and I realized that it was adding to my stress when it didn’t need to. So I turned those sounds off. The messages will still be there for me when I’m ready. And I still have the visual alerts to let me know they’re there in case it is something important, but the visuals don’t trigger me in the same way the sounds do, so those sounds will stay off now. And I realized that because I was in the middle of something I needed to focus on, and all the dings and the sounds and the alerts and the beeps… it was too much, and every time it took me away from what I was doing. And I talk a lot about eliminating distractions, so take your own advice, Amanda.
And the sounds don’t bother me all the time. I’ve never actually paid attention to it prior to this week, but it’s just been a very heavy week. For example, I had to teach a two-hour class one night, and in the two hours that my phone was away because I was talking to a class full of students, I came out of there with 54 text messages. I had 54 messages waiting for me to read after two hours. That’s a little much in my opinion, but everything worked out as it always does. And the key thing there is to pay attention. If you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, yes, it’s most likely because of all the work you have to do. But is there something else that is contributing to that stress that you can control? Can you turn off a sound or a notification or something else that might just help you breathe a little bit easier, or put on a good song or find a video to watch?
BEING A BOSS
Moving along to thought number two, on being a boss. People often say the reason they started their business is because they want to be their own boss. There are all these terms and phrases out there, particularly for women – things like boss babe and girl boss and lots of things with boss in the name because, we get it, you want to be in charge. There’s nothing wrong with that. But I do have some opinions on what makes a good boss. And this doesn’t matter if you are working for yourself, if you’re working for somebody else who is your boss, if you are the boss and have other people working for you, if you’re working with clients and technically they’re your boss on that project (but they’re also not because you’re running your own business and you can do things your way, too).
And that’s where I feel there gets some conflict sometimes where, again, we’re talking about triggers, and there are certain things that can drive your defenses up very quickly, and those differ for everyone. But I do see it in a lot of the Facebook groups about business. One of the big triggers seems to be when a client tries to dictate what the business owner, or the freelancer, can or cannot do, because that’s not really how it works. When you are a freelancer or you work for yourself, you don’t have to do what they say. If they want to control what you do, they have to hire you as an employee.
But just like with everything else, it all comes down to how you communicate with the other people. Being kind is a huge asset. Knowing how to talk to people politely and communicate directly, but without being condescending, without being rude, can go a very long way. And I’m thinking about this because I was recently on a project where somebody who was “the boss” on that project did not understand how to properly treat people. Being the boss does not mean that you’re better than everybody else. It doesn’t mean that you know more than anybody else. It doesn’t mean that your position on that project has more value than that of anyone else’s. I’ll use production as an example because that’s my field. A director is not necessarily more important than a PA. They serve very different purposes, but one is not better than the other. Just think how many CEOs out there cannot function without their assistants. Assistants, again, are not less valuable than the CEO. They actually probably know how to do quite a bit more, and their knowledge base is different. So we should be embracing everybody’s differences.
And when you’re working on a team, whether there’s somebody in a position of power or not, it’s never okay to treat anybody as if they are less than. And really, when you get that ego involved, and you start talking down to people, you’re creating tension, sometimes hostility, and you’re making an unpleasant work environment that doesn’t have to be that way. Actually, instead of leading your team, you’re separating your team.
But, on the other side of that, I always try to understand where someone else is coming from. So if you feel that somebody on your team is being disrespectful or condescending, before you go into attack mode, or defensive mode, or make a big deal about it, stop and think about why. Do you really believe the person’s intent is to talk down to you? Or could that person possibly be so wrapped up in what he’s doing, that his focus is solely on that one area of his main job, that he reacts a certain way in the moment – maybe he says words that he shouldn’t or has a tone that is inappropriate – but maybe it has nothing to do with you? Maybe he’s not even aware he’s doing it.
I just like to give everybody the benefit of the doubt. I try to understand where they’re coming from and understand what the intention is. And in a lot of cases, I think that person is really just trying to do a good job, and maybe needs to keep focused and any interruption or distraction is a trigger for that person. It doesn’t make it okay, but I think it happens a lot. And then the person on the receiving end internalizes it and thinks maybe they did something wrong, or maybe that’s just a terrible person and they don’t want to work with them anymore. There are a lot of things that can happen, so just taking that pause to think about it logically instead of emotionally might make a big difference.
Now if that person genuinely just doesn’t care and wants to be the boss. and in control. and have an ego. and doesn’t want to work with the team – he wants the team to work for him (or her, or anyone) -you don’t have to work with them anymore. That’s one of those big perks of working for yourself and being your own boss. You don’t have to keep working with people who don’t align with the way that you like to work. So finish out the project, be professional, and then go separate ways. It’s perfectly fine. But if you are the boss, or the leader, or you’re in charge of a project, think about the human element and how everybody else is feeling. I think we all can learn a little bit by trying to understand where everyone else is coming from. And remember that we’re all people. We all have feelings. We’re all trying to do a good job, I hope, so having a little more empathy for the entire situation and everybody’s part in it might help everybody do a better job by working together.
And my final thought this week… Wouldn’t that be nice to have a final thought? I don’t mean as a final thought forever, but just a final thought for a little while. This isn’t my actual thought, by the way, this is a little bit of a tangent. It goes back to my fascination with those who don’t have the inner monologue. I just wonder how peaceful that is if you’re not hearing the voice in your head that’s talking for you. And everybody I know who doesn’t have that says their thoughts are more abstract, but nobody can explain to me what that means, or what that’s actually like. But in my mind, it just sounds peaceful to not have that voice talking all the time. So that’s what I’m getting at with final thought, just for a little bit, sounds pretty nice at times.
But my thought is more about balance, again. It’s a very common theme with me, balance, because I think it’s so important. But again, there are those times when balance is very tricky because you do have all the projects, and you do have all the tasks, and the things, and probably more in your personal life, and it just keeps piling up. So how do you find that balance? And I think you have to take it in the moments where it’s available to you. You might not have time to sit down for an hour and watch a TV show. But you might have a few minutes to have a cup of tea, or coffee, or whatever thing that you enjoy. You might have a few minutes to sit down and play with your pet and realize that they have that joy that we all should have as humans. There’s usually something small you can do to help maintain your sanity until you have time to take a proper break.
And sometimes I think we have to bargain with ourselves and remember that, even though we’re running businesses, we don’t have to work all the time. It’s not just about work-life balance, it’s about work-work balance. When you make a commitment to a project, yes, you need to see that through. But you don’t have to take every project that comes your way. It’s okay to say, “No, I don’t have time to do that right now because I need to focus on self-care that day,” or that week, or whatever it is that you need. This whole scenario came up for me this week and was another reminder that I need to take my own advice sometimes.
It’s been pretty chaotic for the last few weeks. It’s been several days since I’ve had the opportunity to just take a proper break, because there’s always been something going on that needed my attention. Even if it wasn’t the full day, it was a lot of the day, or was in the back of my mind. These things happen sometimes. It’s perfectly fine. Again, I am not complaining about being busy right now. But the episode of the show I’m working on just wrapped. We’re in pre-production for the next episode, but there’s still more than a week until that actually starts shooting, so I have a little bit of breathing space. And I’m starting work on another video for a client who I do two of these for every year. That’s coming up in the midst of everything else. And then I got a text from a client who needed my help for a couple days. And I said yes, because I have the time, and right now it is a little bit in my head that I should take jobs when they come my way because the world is a little bit weird right now and I don’t know what it’s gonna look like at the end of this big show that I’m working on.
And I even sent my brother a text message thing I wasn’t quite sure if it was a gift or a curse that this work kept coming my way. I choose to think about it as a gift. But in the back of my head, again, I was kind of wondering, hmm, maybe I should have said no to that one because I really feel like I need a week to focus on my own projects that I’m getting a little behind on, like this podcast. But at the same time, this other client is important to me, and I know that he needed my help. So, it was part of maintaining that relationship, and contributing to a project that’s important to me. I felt like my decision was justified. But just as quickly as it showed up, that opportunity went away. The client had the dates mixed up, and he didn’t need my help after all. But instead of thinking, oh, man, I just lost a job. I thought, oh, good, now I can have that break after all. So definitely a gift that it was given to me and also a gift that it was taken away just as fast.
Again, it’s just about perspective, and choosing to find the good, and believing that things happen the way they’re supposed to. In this particular situation, what was supposed to happen is I’m supposed to take a break. So that’s what I’m going to do. I’ve now recorded this episode of my three random thoughts of the week. Now I’m a little less behind on the podcast than I was this morning. And now I’m going to go eat some food. Thanks so much for listening.