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4 months into re-inventing Mondays

Time has flown by. It feels like only a moment ago that I was blogging about being 3 months into my career transition… and here we are, having passed the four month mark. Looking back at my previous posts on this topic has inspired me to share some updates about how things are going, how much my efforts to re-invent Mondays are bearing fruit and how free-lance life is treating me. In case you missed them, here are quick links to previous posts on this topic:

Are you ready? Let’s jump in.

Settling into uncertainty

Not knowing what the following day, week or month would hold filled me with uncertainty during the first month of free-lance life. Although I had felt well prepared for not knowing what the day would bring, after all, life as a CEO was never predictable, I really felt it in those first few weeks. I remember recording a podcast in those early weeks, talking about my empty calendar, my empty inbox, the sense that it was really just me, sitting at my desk, alone, making it up as I went along.

Fast forward to now, and I am glad to say that I have begun to settle into uncertainty. The past few months have had many ups and downs and brought much time for reflection, and I realise now that I need the uncertainty just now. I don’t want to know what the next day or week will look like. The not knowing gives me space to experience and try out different ways of working and allows me to figure out what I enjoy and what I’d prefer not to do again.

A folder of things I have said no to

My mix of pro bono and paid work definitely keeps me busy, and I am probably overcommitting my time in the interest of trying out new things. I am mentoring at a local high school, offering pro bono coaching, writing articles and going to events alongside consultancy contracts, course design, leadership development and workshops.

I am on the hunt for what brings me joy, and what sparks my curiosity, and along the way I have plenty of experiences that teach me where I don’t feel I can contribute. Some things just aren’t a good fit, regardless of how lucrative they may be. Hence I have set up a new folder called literally ‘Things I have said no to’.

So far, it’s not very full, but the list is growing steadily, and I hope to use it in the long term to help learn what really matters to me, what fills my cup, and what I *could* have said yes to for money. It is a privileged position to be in for sure, but it is also a way of exercising responsibility. I can’t do everything, and I need to focus my energy where it matters.

Habits that work for me, and some that don’t

In some of the previous posts I have talked a lot about my work/life balance and that continues to be a big theme for me. Recently I worked on a course about digital wellbeing, and trying out the exercises I designed prompted me to focus on what habits I have that foster wellbeing and help manage my relationship with technology. Given how nuanced my relationship with technology is this is a complex topic, but one worth thinking about. Here are some insights into what I feel works well and also some things that maybe don’t:

Over the past four months, I have become A LOT BETTER at taking breaks. Breaks to step away from the screen, breaks from wearing headphones, from notifications, from social media, from email and from technology all together. This has all sorts of beneficial consequences. Take today. I had a pretty intense meeting, which demanded a lot of my attention and focus. Coming at the end of an already pretty busy morning of focused work, I ended the call with a headache. I felt tired, irritated. I got up, went downstairs, and had a drink of water. Stress headaches like that used to be quite a usual feature of my working life. Old me would have had a quick break, and then got back to work, trying to focus enough to ignore how my head felt. And it probably would have worked, but at the end of the day I would have felt spent, exhausted. Instead of returning to my desk, I took half an hour to do something different. I did a small DIY chore that had been on my to do list for ages, taking all my attention to sand and paint a small hole in the wall. Even after ten minutes my headache was gone, and I felt much better. I did go back to work after a while, feeling refreshed and ready to concentrate again. For me, that’s a win.

One area of my life where technology has become more prevalent is fitness. I usually find half an hour in the morning to exercise, stretch or meditate. I watch the video class on the screen in my office, where I have enough space to spread a yoga mat or follow the routines. My neighbours, I hope, aren’t watching my efforts at jumping jacks… . The fitness app I use works with my smart watch, and enables me to match exercise choices to my mood and energy levels. Some days I want to sweat, some days I just want to sit. For a variety of reasons, morning meetings have become rare for me just now, and this morning I stood in the sun in my office in tree pose, happy to soak in early spring sunshine and energy. Another win!

A habit that doesn’t work so well for me all the time is my CEO brain. It’s super helpful for running my free-lance business (and soon, a properly registered new company… more of that next month), and it’s equally valuable for leadership training and coaching and lots of other things. It’s helpful when I can help out, take responsibility as needed, and it can make working with me easy. I am so used to not breaking things, that I have become a very steady pair of hands. Unfortunately those steady hands are attached to a mind and heart that all too easily assume responsibility and care, too. I catch myself solving a problem or thinking about a strategy that my clients haven’t asked for. They may be paying me to design a workshop or a course, meanwhile I have revamped their professional development offering in my head. Coaching is a good antidote for CEO brain, as it’s trained me to place trust in the other person, to trust that they know or can find their path, or the solution to the problems facing them. And of course they do. They are creative and capable and amazing at doing what they do. As my own free-lance venture grows, I hope that I can utilise my CEO brain in good ways, without taking on responsibility beyond what is appropriate.

On my wish-list

At the start of embarking on this adventure my wish-list ran something like: make enough money to pay the bills, find more joy and balance. Along the way I unexpectedly acquired a record player for my study (yay!) and a lot more fun people to work with than I had imagined in those first few quiet weeks. Over the past few months my list has expanded and now includes: a sit/stand desk, more art for my work-space and a wall I can write and scribble on.

The thing that isn’t on my wish list anymore is more joy. That’s definitely happening and I am grateful every day for this adventure and all the amazing people I get to work with every week.


Podcast episodes about my fresh start:

Listen to Leading Virtual Teams on: Apple PodcastsGoogle Podcasts and Spotify.

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