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Expert Answers to Biz Questions

Listen in! Pick up some expert advice to a reader's question that we selected from CyberSchmooz.

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The Biz Question

Burned out!

I'm a one person computer software instructor with a fairly successful business. However, I'm getting so tired of telling people how to press enter or send email or run a spell checker. Any ideas on what I could do to branch out, maybe database development, or how I could re-energize myself? I've tripled my business with hard work and networking over the past five years, but find I'm dragging myself to appointments because I can't take the repetition of telling it all again. Suggestions anyone? Thanks.


Answer: from our Guest Expert Terri Andrews of The Turquoise Butterfly Press

Hi Marilyn,

At one time, I worked as a business consultant and when my clients came to me with problems similar to yours, I'd tell them they were "P. & P. Deficient." Of course, they looked at me like I was a taco short of a combination plate. But when I explained that self-employed people with a staff consisting only of "me, myself, and I" may suffer from a lack of Praise and new Projects, they started to understand their "problem."

Even tho you enjoy many advantages over the employees of the world, you do suffer the disadvantages -- such as isolation, mundane work, and repetition. With no one to bounce ideas off of or to pat you on the back, especially after you've tripled your business within 5 years (good for you!), you may subconsciously want someone to say "Good Job!" or be there to lend a helping hand with all those tiresome jobs that occupy far too much of your time.

Are You P & P Deficient?

Here are a few symptoms:

  • The only way you can get the energy to face the day is if you have 2 liters of Mountain Dew or a pot or two of coffee. And even with that, you don't feel "up" enough to work.
  • The thought of another meeting, more paperwork and having to deal with the exact same people or projects make your stomach turn.
  • The flu is the only time you get an actual vacation.
  • You've found ways to entertain yourself thru meetings and mundane jobs -- such as finger puppets, paperclip necklaces, and trying to fit a lifesaver over your tongue.
  • You're so lonely that you have a 30 minute phone call with the telemarketer -- and she begs you to let her go!
  • Your to-do list is building up because you're consciously procrastinating. You know you're doing it -- and you just don't care.

Does this sound like you? If so, don't fret yet. I've been there too -- and believe it or not -- you're totally curable!

The Cure: Coping and Overcoming the P & P Blues

The solution to your problem is as easy as getting all your daily P's. Here's how.

The Praise Phrase

Have you ever finished a project ahead of time or done really well with a client and you're full enthusiasm until you look around for someone to tell -- and realize there's no one there? Sure, you can tell your mom, your spouse, or your friend -- but if they have no clue of what you do -- then you might as well be talking to your cat.

What you're lacking is a good old-fashioned pat on the back. You need to know how good you are and how well you're doing. And sometimes, when you work solo, you can't conceive just how far you've come. Here are a few cures for you to try:

Find people with similar interests and form your own "office support system." Join professional organizations (those that meet for luncheons and banquets). Have at least one biz lunch a week and join on-line support groups for folks in similar situations. A small Internet conference each morning in a chat room can be your own virtual reality water cooler -- with the benefit of never leaving home!

Do some public speaking. If you have something interesting to offer a group of kids (in your case, computer skills), then contact your local school system to see if you can give your time to a classroom. There is nothing more inspiring than 25 little faces looking up to you in awe of your abilities.

Surround yourself with positive affirmations. Quotes, funny cards, mood music, low watt lighting, cartoon strips, photos of your favorite people, copies of your press clips etc -- anything that makes you smile.

Build yourself up. Update your resume and your portfolio. Whenever you need a mental boost - look at what you HAVE accomplished, rather than the to-do list laying on your desk.

Go away -- far, far away. Yes, this means some real time off. Go away and leave work behind... Stay in a hotel, go camping, or visit friends -- the key is to find a way to pamper yourself because YOU HAVE EARNED IT!

Take care of yourself. Exercise is one of the best ways to pull yourself up and out of "Blahsville." Try to get some walking or stretching in every day. Eat more fresh fruits and veggies, drink at least 8 glasses of water daily, take a daily multi-vitamin, avoid fast food and get a good night's sleep. Your need for re-energizing may be just as physical as it is mental -- so take care of yourself (i.e. -- Don't kill your boss!)

New Projects Phase

You mentioned branching out your business -- perhaps in database development. It's a great idea and a wonderful way to feel that "rush" of excitement and motivation that can only be felt when you work on something new and interesting. I say, Go For It! It's a great cure for what ails ya. But before you go all out, take the following into consideration:

Make sure you can handle it. If you're overwhelmed with work now and can't keep on top of current projects -- is it really wise to start something new?

Start SLOW and easy. Don't jump right in with something bigger and better. You could lose the solid footing that you've built for yourself already. Make the first part of your biz a priority, and the second can be incorporated in, not placed on the top.

Prepare a solid business plan with a to-do list. A five-year plan, a one-year timeline for deadlines. You'll need a clear look at the time needed for each project as well as financial requirements.

After you've done all that, then hop on that bus and go for it! Expand, add, and branch out. It's a great way to raise your adrenaline.

It sounds to me like you're doing great -- tripling your business in just 5 years! What a tremendous feat! I'm impressed with the amount of work, dedication, and energy it took to get yourself where you are today. I can only imagine where you'll be 5 years from now! Pat yourself on your back and give your top employee some much deserved credit. You've earned it! Why not go out and enjoy it?

Hope this helps!

Terri Andrews

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