Episode #85: What Happened When I Took An Unplanned Month Off Business & Social Media

Today's episode is all about taking an unplanned month off – how that felt, what became clear during that month, and some huge lessons I'm taking with me going forward.

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Ruth Poundwhite 0:06
You're listening to creatively human with honest conversations about what matters to us and how it really feels to build an online business, put our work out into the world, make an impact in our own unique way, and importantly, to get well paid for it. I'm your host, Ruth Poundwhite, business mentor to quietly ambitious humans. Hi, and welcome back to the creativity human podcast. It feels like ages since I have sat down and recorded a proper solo episode, I guess it has been ages. And I wanted to talk about taking an unplanned month off, it was actually a bit more than a month, but some of it was planned for my business. And that is partly the reason why I haven't done a proper solo episode for ages. So basically, back in December, I was planning to take three weeks off for Christmas. And then it ended up for personal family reasons being I should have worked this out before I started. But basically, I was off from mid December until the beginning of Ferb, so basically a month and a half. And it was a very interesting time, it opened my eyes to a lot of things, it made me realise a lot of things. It really helped me with my relationship with social media. And I just wanted to come on and share about some of those things. So the first thing I really wanted to say is that something that I really noticed towards the end of 2020, when I was wrapping things up with my clients, my group, my group coaching programme was that everyone was tired, everyone was really, really tired, everyone was really ready to finish sooner than I think we normally are at the end of the year before Christmas. And most of my clients told me that they hadn't really taken any proper time off, or much proper time off in the whole year in 2020. And I think that a lot of us found ourselves in that position, because we couldn't really do much, and we had to stay at home. And even if we did, you know plan to take time off, it's hard, isn't it mentally, to take time off when you can't escape your normal surroundings like, you can't even clear your head and go to the coffee shop, whatever. I know that some time we could and everyone listening is in different countries. But you know, I mean. So that's what I found interesting towards the end of 2020. And I had taken a decent amount of time off. And I had scheduled that in in advance. But I also felt very tired. By the end of the year. It didn't help that I had, like, I just had like colds and stuff like that kind of normal stuff. But I felt like I had a lot of work to do and had all the colds. So it made it kind of difficult. And then family stuff happened mid December. And I was like, wow, okay, I really need to take time off. Like I really need to just focus on what is important. And right now, that's not my work. And luckily, I had already planned, like I said, for three weeks off. So I had already told my clients, I was going to be off for three weeks. And luckily this family stuff kind of happened right at the beginning of that time off or just before that time off. So it made it easy at first, like I didn't have to make any immediate decisions about what to do after the three weeks, which was kind of lucky, I guess. And yet, during that time, I kept debating, you know, I kept thinking, you know, I've got three weeks off.

It's all over Christmas and New Year, there's a lot of stuff going on, and a lot of emotions, a lot to deal with. And I kept thinking, should I take more time off? Can I take the whole of January off? And my brain trying to keep me safe kept telling me No, you can't do that. That's too much. Like, no, you need the money and all of that stuff. And it felt like a hard decision in some ways. But ultimately, I knew it. I knew I'd already made that decision, I could feel it in my body. And I knew that it's exactly what I would have said to any of my clients that they've been in the situation, we have to be able to take time off from our businesses. I mean, we're building these businesses in the first place in order to support our lives. So we have to be able to take time off from them. When life happens. And when I made the decision. It did feel completely right and easy and like, you know, like a sigh of relief. And I just want to note here that I know it's a privilege to be able to take time off like this. I totally recognise that it's a privilege. If you have if you have a regular job, then obviously it depends on your employer, but some employers will give you time off when you know, crappy stuff happens. And some won't, but when you run your own business, it's like well, who's gonna pay who He's going to earn the money when you're not working, right? So it's a privilege to know you've got money saved in order to fund that time off. And at the same time, because I've spoken to a lot of people about this through my work, a lot of us what's the word like we underestimate how safe we really are. And this is certainly something that I do like money safety, wanting to feel secure or wanting to have a certain amount of money in the bank thinking I need to earn a certain amount of money to feel safe. That is a big story that shows up for me all the time. And when you're making a decision like this, and you feel unsafe, I think it's really smart to actually look at your numbers. And I bet you that's like the most basic advice ever comes up with my clients all the time that comes up with me all the time, look at your numbers, get clear on the facts, what's the bare minimum, you need to cover whatever time you need to take? And usually, you'll find that you're safer than you are. But yeah, I do acknowledge that for some people time off is not an option. But for most of us, there is some leeway there. Anyway, like I said, after I made the decision, and I did use, like my support networks to help me make this decision, and my mastermind group and I spoke to coach and stuff like that. But once I made it felt right, which was really nice, you know, it's always validating when you've made the right decision. And it feels right. The hardest part of that decision, though, was me choosing to cancel my group programme rise. And that felt like a big decision. And that played with my mindset, a lot. So I have run this group programme, it's basically a group coaching mentoring programme, I've run it three times. And it has been an incredible experience, both in running it working with the wonderful humans, and it's been a really amazing way to bring more financial stability to my business. And I was, I've been selling it in December, I was planning on starting it again in January. And I thought I knew for sure I couldn't start it in January. I mean, there's work that goes into starting with a new group of people. And I don't want to start when I'm not in my best space, you know, I want to give my clients the best experience. And I knew that I wouldn't be if I started it in January. And obviously I could have postponed it. And I thought about postponing it. But all I just knew that I wanted to cancel it. And that's not to say that I won't run it again. But I just knew that I wanted to cancel it. And that was a difficult decision. But I had to just kind of trust my gut on it. And I just my gut was telling me to cancel it. And what happened in the end is I had to send out some pretty big refunds, which isn't fun. But I hadn't spent that money. You know, I people had only paid for it a few weeks beforehand. It was fine. And then one of the people ended up working me through one to one instead. And a couple of people are not working with me at this time. But when I just want to say about this, that when you have to make a decision like that, that feels kind of crap. Because it did feel crappy. In some ways it felt right. But it felt crappy in other ways. I always just trust that it's the right thing. And I felt I did worry about letting people down. Like, that's the thing, even if it feels right for me, there's still that crap feeling that you're letting people down. I know that people were excited about being part of the group programme. And it was really hard to tell them that I decided not to do it. Obviously, I explained why. And they totally understood, you know, there was personal stuff going on. But

I trust that it's the right thing. And I trust that those people are going to I was going to work with I will probably get to work with them in future. And if not, something better will come along for them. Instead of what they were going to do with me, and I just have to trust, you know, there's nothing else I can do. Because if I had gone ahead with it against my gut feeling, I wouldn't have delivered a great experience, I probably would have had some resentment there. And I wouldn't have served my clients the best I can. So I had to trust my gut there. But I just wanted to say it was a difficult decision. And as for whether I'm going to run it again. I don't know I'm kind of jumping ahead here. But basically, when I took that time off, some things have become quite clear to me about the direction of my business. And it actually became clear that rise in its current format is not what I want to run again. So I'm working on changing it, but I'll get to that, I'll get to that. So when I was first taking the time off, I just I was deleting social media anyway, for Christmas. I've started working with a Social Media Manager towards the end of last year. And the reason I've been doing that, so I'm still writing my own posts, but I just wanted some sort of what's the word like a buffer between me and Instagram. I want it to be so that I don't have to log into it. So I was really I should probably shouldn't go into all this now because I'm going to do an episode about this in a few weeks. Bye. I was kind of thinking about my relationship with social media thinking about Okay, what sucks me in? What is it about Instagram that I get sucked in? And I was thinking, well, it's every time I have to pick it up and use it right, it's every time I have to post a story is every time I have to post a post. So just having some buffer, having someone else posted my posts, having someone else posting some stories, for me, not all is a kind of buffer. So I had already scheduled some posts over Christmas, I had already like decided I was taking a break anyway, which was helpful. And then in the new year, I told her, you know, I'm not going to be writing any new posts for the foreseeable future, don't worry about it. And she was just so amazing. And she was like, I can repurpose some old stuff for you, I can keep your social media going. And I was just like, Wow, that is so lovely. And it was just really nice to not worry about social media. So if I didn't have a social media manager, I would have been okay, with not posting at all, I think that would have been an absolutely fine choice. And I don't think it would have impacted my business negatively at all. Having said that, it was really lovely to feel what it's like to be supported in a time where you're not putting out any content and to see your content still going out. That was pretty cool. And it was good, because if I do, I have no enthusiasm, I had no energy, I had no capacity to write anything decent for social media, it would have been absolutely pointless for me to push myself, and to just carry on posting when I didn't feel it. And I basically because I mean, I'm not going into personal details, but it was a difficult time. And yeah, I was just absolutely exhausted, I did not feel good about my business at all, it was really interesting to kind of observe, I was feeling really crappy about my business. And I actually don't think it was anything to do with my business. I think it has to do with my, the personal stuff that was going on. And for some reason those crappy feelings were attaching themselves to my business. So I just want to share that in case that comes up for anyone else. Because I really don't think it has anything to do with my business other than the fact that I think I was a bit tired, before breaking up, breaking up, like at school, before finishing for Christmas. I honestly, I was feeling crappy about my business. But I don't think it really had anything to do with my business. And the good thing is like, I've had periods like this before, but this was a pretty intense one. But I just sort of I had decided, like, it doesn't matter how I feel about my business, because I know I'm taking all of January off, I don't have to feel anything about it. And I really didn't think about it. I just decided it's okay, I'm going to write out the feelings. And then what was interesting is after a couple of weeks, I had tonnes of clarity about my business. So I still didn't have any enthusiasm to work on the staff or put stuff out there. But I had a lot of clarity. And the main clarity was around. There was a few things. Okay, so basically,

the first feeling I had was, oh, I've got loads of space now and time. And I never have space and time, I did not realise how at capacity I was, until I took the time off. It was just really interesting to feel what it was like to have free time. And to be honest, I didn't really have much free time because I was dealing with other stuff. But it was just interesting to kind of witness that. And when I realised that I was kind of at capacity and didn't realise before it made me think, Well, you know, I need to create more space. In my business, I thought I was being very intentional about creating space in my business is what I preach is what I talk about. By need more space, I need more space in my head more space in my diary, more space in my calendar. Yeah. So I really realised that. And the interesting thing is, when I did start to get a little bit of enthusiasm back I was I wanted to do a bit of work to kind of get back to a bit of normality, especially when my son went back to nursery. And I was just working on like bits and bobs, you know, basically pootling around behind the scenes. And I really enjoyed it. And I just thought, wow, I never have time to poodle around in my business. And it felt really nice to have that time. But then my scarcity brain was was kicking in and it was going, Oh, but I won't have any time when I get started again. So I better do something now in my time off to generate income when I go back, because I won't have enough time to think about the big picture stuff. I don't know if that even makes sense. I mean, it kind of doesn't make sense, right? And thankfully, I've got tonnes of support. And I talk this through with people and they were like, you don't need to do anything now. You know, they asked me Are you safe with money? Do you need to make any money now? If you need to make money in a month's time? Can you just worry about it then I was like yes, yes, yes. So I was like, Yeah, I don't have to do anything. I do not have to make any money and I don't have to make a plan from it. Money. That was the thing my brain was like, okay, you don't have to make any money right now. But you need to make a plan for making money soon. And I realised that it wasn't really a money problem. Like I said, I've really got this story about safety and security with money. And it comes up all the time. And it's so important to look at the facts, because they're often not as bad as we think. I think this has been a big thing for me since being the breadwinner. And I really should do an episode about that, because that brings up all kinds of stuff. But basically, I think it's a time scarcity problem. And I know I mentioned this on a recent episode, but it is coming up for me a lot. And now that I've kind of named it time scarcity, it's very, very helpful. But yeah, that was definitely coming up for me. And it made me realise I've got time to pool around in my business now. And I can decide that I will have time to be able to pool around in my business, even when I'm back at work, I will have time to look at the bigger picture, even when I'm back at work. And the thing is, the ironic thing is, and we always kind of teach what we need to learn ourselves, right? I'm always going on about looking at the bigger picture, I'm always talking about taking like a step back to work on and not just in your business. So it's not all about putting out the fires. But you get to look at the big picture stuff, you get to think about where this is all going and why and what for. I have a whole frickin course about it. If you're interested, it's called clarify. And it's on my website. And I talked about having business meetings with yourself regularly. And actually having a business meeting with myself is something that I do regularly. But that definitely slipped down the raid slipped off the radar in 2020. And I think it goes back to what I was saying right at the beginning of the episode about how most of us even if we had time off, we don't feel like we had time off. Because we're always just kind of in our normal surroundings all the time. And I think that's why I didn't step back to look at the bigger picture. Because it's just hard to do that when your brain is just like everything's the same. It's like Groundhog Day, it's really hard to look at the bigger picture. So actually, that's kind of just coming to me while I'm talking. I think I need to be a bit kinder to myself for not doing that in 2020. And I think we all need to be kind to ourselves. But yeah, it was really interesting to notice what it felt like to have that free time to play around. And the clarity really came around, I need to have vehicles in my life. I have been fully booked with clients for several months now. And I've decided to reduce the number of clients that I'm working with. At the time of recording this, I'm about to have a new space for one more client in March. But

yeah, I'm working with fewer clients, and that that space may not be there for very long. So if you are thinking about it, then please get in touch working with fewer clients, because I like working with clients in a really deep and hands on way. So for my energy sake, I need to work with fewer than I have been. And I am a 100% committed to the bigger picture 100% that he just made it so clear this time off. So being more supported, I'm going to up my hours with my VA, again, I'm looking for more ways in which to be supported, getting as much stuff out of my head as possible, because that's the thing. It's one thing, having time to do things. It's another thing, having space in your brain to think about things and hold things all the time. There is lot of emotion, there is a lot of emotional labour. There's a lot of mental load that comes with running a business, there is so much like on any given day, how many things have you got in your head that you might need to get done? I bet there is a lot. There's certainly a lot in my head, even though I am more supported now. So my goal is to get as much stuff out of my head as possible. And interestingly, when you're listening to this episode, it should be coming out after the interview I recorded with romaine mass, who is an online business manager. And we were talking about the importance of being supported. And we were talking about how doing less really is the key but doing but in order to do less you need to be supported. So definitely go and check that one out. But yeah, basically, I'm committed to scaling up this business and scaling down my workload. And I 100% believe it's possible. And actually, I meant to talk about this earlier on in this episode. But basically, it's what I did with my previous business. And in my previous business, I took five months off for maternity leave. But the difference between taking five months off then for maternity leave and taking one and a half months off now unplanned was that Firstly, it was planned, and I had been working towards it for nine months of pregnancy. And secondly, that business was at a different level, in the sense that I had been running it for like nine years or something by that point. I had already automated loads of stuff. Whereas this business, I'm like two years in. I'm still in the phase where I'm doing a lot of things So it's just a really important lesson. So I've done it before, I know I can do it again. And trust me, when I say in my previous business, I was earning more and more money working less and less and less, that is not just like a nice thing to say. It was true. But it did take me a lot of work to get there. And I can't like deny that it takes work to get there. But honestly, I was earning more money working less. So that's it's reinvigorated like my goal of that happening in this business. Yeah, more automation. I am setting up like automated email series for certain courses that I'm going to keep open on evergreen rather than launching them all the time. And the key thing is, and this is something Villa main talked about in the in the last episode. The key thing is that if my business relies on me, if anything goes wrong with me, my business falls apart. And that's something that Villa main really emphasised in last week's episode. If it relies on my head, and my head is too full, then things fall apart, or to start to fall apart. You know, I don't want to like catastrophize here, but that's like the worst case scenario, right? So I want a business that can work, even if I'm not working. And even though I took a month and a half off, I still did earn, like I have to add here, I still did earn money, I earn less money than if I had been actively working. But because I've got a lot of like, I've already been sort of layering payment plans and launches and stuff. So I did have money coming in. And that felt very nice. But I want it to be I want it more when I'm not working. That is a massive goal for 2021 massive goal. And my word for the year, which I talked about in a different episode is harmony. And so I want to earn more, but I'm not going to be working or I'm I am 100% committed to that. I don't think I mean, I've always believed it. And I've always talked about it. But taking this month off and going through a very difficult time. Personally, I've just something has just flicked in my brain. And I have decided, I've decided that I am working less, making more and making it easier. And I'm not going to pretend it doesn't take work to get there. But I'm not going to burn myself out doing that work.

So I'm going a bit of a rant here. Anyway, the next thing I was going to mention was my relationship with social media. I cannot tell you how good it is to take over a month off Instagram, delete the app for over a month. It is bloody brilliant. It will it will who what's the word? What's the word it will like? sever those links in your brain, those pathways in your brain that are just like telling you to scroll, scroll, scroll mindlessly, it's so good. That was also very eye opening, I didn't realise how much anxiety I had comparing myself to others. It's again, it's something that I preach. And it's like, you know, doing business your way helps you to cut out that noise. But I didn't realise how much I was comparing myself. And I think actually, that comparison is probably getting in the way of me scaling my business the way that I want to because I am all about soulful heart LED, feel good business. And I'm all about doing the practical stuff. That makes it easier. So I am not afraid of funnels and stuff. And I know that there's some people who will say that funnels are icky, and all of that, but I don't believe it. Do I believe some funnels icky? Yes, absolutely. Do I believe funnels as a concept are icky? No, I don't. And that's the kind of, that's when like noise people can get in your ear. And in your mind, you think, oh, people are gonna judge me for doing the funnels and stuff. And just taking a month away from all of that noise just really helps you get clear on what you personally really want. Anyway, I am not going to talk about the social media stuff now because I've decided in a few weeks time, so probably like two or three weeks time, there's going to be an episode all about my relationship with social media and all about the things I've learned through reading several books about this and taking a month and a half off Instagram and talking to clients about it and all of that. So keep your ears open for that episode coming in a few weeks. So yeah, overall, taking this month off was it was unplanned. I didn't do it because I needed space for my business. I did it because life happened. But it turns out I needed space for my business. And it turns out that did event like I felt no enthusiasm for my business for ages and then suddenly loads of clarity, loads of excitement. Like when I did start back with clients and stuff. I was really ready. And I think that's important too, because I wouldn't have done a good job with people if I came back before I was ready. So it was a really interesting experience. And I guess I just want to end the episode by saying if you're feeling that you need a bit of time off that you need a bit of headspace then maybe you should listen to that. And again I know there's a there's definitely an element of privilege there but but be really honest with yourself. Look at the facts. What's the bare minimum you need? Are you really safe even if your brains trying to tell you you're not safe? If so you can take some time off doesn't have to be a month and a half, it could just be a few days. But it's really, really important. And I also need to end by saying, I know some of this, like the outcome of all this might sound great. But this has been a really crappy time, like, personal personal stuff was crap. And we've been in lockdown in the UK over winter. And it just sucks. And I know that we're all feeling that and I know that a lot of people are feeling this lockdown more. So I just want to end by saying that whatever you do, whether you've managed to take time off, or whether anything good has come out of it or not, like you're just getting through it. We're all just getting through it. We're all feeling it. Spring cannot come quickly enough. And yeah, take some time out if you can, it is so important to step back from your business. And I cannot tell you the the dots that will be connected when you actually stop trying to connect the dots. That sounds so silly, but I'm sure you know, I mean, anyway, look out for that episode in a few weeks all about social media, which will be a juicy one. I hope I made a lot of notes when I was reading a lot of books about quitting social media. So I'm going to try and incorporate some of that stuff too. And yeah, take care of yourself. And let's hope that things start looking up very, very soon. Okay, I'll catch you again soon. Bye. Thank you so much for listening to another episode of creatively, human. If you have a moment, I'd be so grateful if you could rate and review the podcast, it really does make a difference. And if you'd like to carry on the conversation or ask a question for a future q&a episode, there are three ways to connect with me on the Facebook group on Instagram at Ruth Poundwhite or my personal favourite, my behind the scenes newsletter. Just go to Ruth poundwhite.com forward slash newsletter to subscribe and keep doing what you're doing because your work really does matter.

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Note: at this time transcripts are automated and unedited, which means errors may occur. But we hope you find them helpful!

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Show Notes

Today's episode is all about taking an unplanned month off – how that felt, what became clear during that month, and some huge lessons I'm taking with me going forward.

“I didn't realise how at capacity I was until I took some time off”

Some of the things I talked about:

  • How I made the decision to take an unplanned month off (& what was hard about it)
  • How I felt about my business during that time
  • How I felt about money & time
  • Clarity I gained around my bigger picture
  • My relationship with social media

Links from this episode:

Other episodes you might like:

“There's a huge mental load that comes with running a business

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