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Why I’m thrilled we’re going back to school

A thrilled mum whose kids have gone back to school.

Lockdown has brought challenges for all of us. It’s made us more aware of what we actually need in our lives. Everyone’s experience is different. You might have struggled with isolation, or you could have the opposite problem. One of the strangest things for me, as someone who’s used to working at home on my own, was the sudden invasion of the rest of my family. In fact, I’m still sharing the office with my husband. The biggest challenge of all was home schooling. I’m not sure I can actually call it that if I’m being totally honest. I don’t know if my kids learned anything from me. It’s been a tough time and I’m absolutely thrilled that my two have gone back to school. This is why.

Mental health

The thought of schools closing sent me into a blind panic. My work relies on peace and quiet, especially when I’m getting into a new project. I made a plan of things I could do at the kitchen table while the kids got on with some work, thinking I could organise my way out of it.

I couldn’t.

The one thing I didn’t take into account was how much time I would spend supporting my anxious children. Sometimes they’d cry. Other times they’d just hide in their bedrooms or spend an hour and a half procrastinating over a five minute task. The truth is, they were sinking. Home and school don’t normally overlap this much. Home is a safe place where they get to play. It isn’t me handing out handwriting practice. My youngest went back to school for three weeks at the end of term and he was like a different child. Even though school was different, he thrived on regaining some sense of normality.

Mum guilt

Guilt is a familiar concept to pretty much any working mum. Everyone’s coped (or not) in their own way. I’ve spoken to plenty of business owners who have basically ignored their kids. School work generally depends on the child accessing what school have sent without much supervision. I felt as if I was doing a half-arsed job on everything.

Some of my friends talked about what a privilege it was having their children at home so they can teach them. That made me feel even worse. There have been some silver linings, but mainly I just wanted my happy, clever kids back. I couldn’t deal with my own thoughts and stresses about the situation. How do you support the people you love the most if you can’t even function yourself?

A functioning business

I’ve been lucky. We’re a self-employed household but my husband’s work has continued from home. We’ve had to make decisions based on finances but we’ve never been at risk of homelessness. There’s also the fact that lots of my clients went quiet just when I needed them to. The projects that they might have called me about were put on hold. It might have been a struggle financially, but at least it’s given me the time to focus on the things that really needed my attention.

Now the country’s opening up, I’ve started to get busier. There have been a few mornings where I’ve abandoned the kids to the TV. It’s been the only way to keep things going. Cue more mum guilt. Going back to school means that they’re spending the day with people who are there to take care of them. I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling massively relieved about that.

I’m telling you this story because I know I’m not alone in having these struggles. My clients have them too. Talking about the things you share with your customers helps you to build trust. If I can help you find the right story, please get in touch. I speak your customers’ language.  

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Why I’m not buying into hustle culture

Hustle culture causes stress
Photo from energepic.com via Pexels

I used to follow lots of business gurus who talked about ‘hustle’. They’d mention their families but the main thrust of their advice was that you needed to work, work then work some more until you’d ‘made it’. I never really saw much about what life would look like when you’d made it, or indeed whether there was an actual definition. The overall idea seemed to be that you shouldn’t take a holiday or even a day off until you’d got to the top. Hustle culture was everywhere. Even the people who had kids talked about the importance of balance but seemed to spend their evenings and weekends working. Of course, I don’t know what was happening behind the scenes. Everything I saw about these people was based on what they put on social media. All the same, it played on my mind. Did I really need to subscribe to hustle culture to have a successful business?

What’s my problem?

When I say I’m not buying into the hustle, that doesn’t mean I believe in slacking. Working hard is part of building a successful business. I think my issue is that hustle seems to go beyond that. It’s not just hard work. I’ve seen people talk about not sleeping or never taking a day off. As someone with two small children I know that not getting enough sleep is a form of slow torture. There’s no way I’m doing it voluntarily. There might be times that you need to work silly hours to get something done, but it’s not sustainable long term.

I knew that I needed to create my own definition of success and mark my own boundaries if I was going to get anywhere.

Defining success

I see a lot of people online talking about earning 6 or 7 figures. That might be meaningful to some, but not me. Not that I’m longing to live in a cave or anything. I’d just rather make enough to have a nice life, quality time with the family and a few decent holidays. If that means I don’t get to be a millionaire that’s OK.

When it comes to role models I take social media posts with a pinch of salt and talk to people I actually know. The main thing I discovered is that everyone has different boundaries. The important thing is to look at how you want to spend your time and how that translates to reaching your goals.

Accountability

I sometimes wonder whether ‘hustle’ is some people’s method of keeping themselves accountable. If you haven’t worked an 18 hour day you haven’t done enough. The truth is, you don’t have to hustle to set goals and get results. If I don’t take time off I get exhausted and make bad decisions. My holidays don’t just give me family time, they provide brain space too. Looking at the world from a different angle gives me new ideas for normal life.

I also have an amazing coaching group where we commit to take action and report back. That action can even include identifying times when we need to rest so we live to fight another day. That’s the kind of accountability that gets you where you need to go.

Why am I telling you this? Because I know that a lot of you struggle with it. My business isn’t just about writing. It’s about sharing the stories that mean something to you. If you need help speaking your customers’ language and finding the stories that are important to them, just get in touch.

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Networking: The business resource that keeps on giving

Networking - you are not alone

I’ve been thinking about the resources I use in my business a lot recently, trying to work out what’s working and what isn’t. I keep coming back to networking, mainly because business is often about who you know and partly because there are so many options. As I mentioned in this blog I’ve found that paid networking events have given me more solid relationships than free ones. But then I talk to other business owners and realise that not all networking is created equal. It got me wondering about the kind of networking I do and why it works for me.

Timing

There are so many networking event that you could feasibly spend all your time going to them, but you wouldn’t get much work done. The demands of family life rule out both breakfast and evening networking events for me which helps me narrow them down.

It means that I only go to daytime events, which has a massive impact on the kind of people I meet. They’re often senior employees of larger businesses, which usually means they have money to spend. (Yes, I’m totally capable of being mercenary.) I’ve also met people who’ve built up their side hustle or who threw themselves in at the deep end like me.

Connecting with people

Building a business is about creating relationships. Some of the people I’ve met networking have become customers, but others have become my unofficial ambassadors in their own networks.

My main networking group is women only and hugely supportive in lots of different ways. There’s always a listening ear and great advice. While approaches differ between business owners and employees, there’s still one common thread. We all promote each other, even though that’s not a requirement of membership. My network has widened because we mention each other on social media and attend each other’s events.

Follow up

My favourite networking groups have become my favourites because they make it easy to build relationships. I’ve no problem with making the time to follow up with new contacts individually, but it’s easy for your email (or theirs) to get lost in the midst of a heaving inbox.

While social media can be equally busy, the memberships with Facebook groups have brought more lasting relationships. Other members ask questions or share their content and the hive mind gets to work. People don’t just learn what you’re about in a chat over lunch, they see reminders all the time.

Other networking groups

I often turn down events because they don’t fit with my schedule or my budget. But I’ve also said no without really understanding why. I look at some of the people I’ve met over the years and marvel at the connections they have and the events they’re invited to. Often the only difference between us is that they’ve been in business for longer and have more contacts.

Yet sometimes I think I hold myself back through fear. What if they’re just better than me? Maybe they’re ‘proper’ business owners and I’m just someone who’s going to be found out one day? I think it’s something I need to address.

If there’s one thing I want you to take away from this, it’s to look at the events you’re going to (or not going to). Are they the right ones for you? Is avoiding some holding you back? The reason I tell you this story is not because I have a networking event to sell (I don’t), but because I hope it’ll help. It’s also because being honest and sharing my story has helped me to build my business and meet some amazing people along the way.

If you want some help sharing your story in the right way, just get in touch.

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Are we really pivoting?

Are we pivoting? White arrow on purple background.
Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

I know, I know, I’m sorry – I’m sorry if you’ve heard the word ‘pivot’ far too many times in the last couple of months. I’m definitely tired of it (along with ‘unprecedented’) but if I’m going to face the thing I have to use the word. So. Are you pivoting? I keep getting it mixed up with pirouetting. That may actually be a better choice. If you feel as if you haven’t stopped spinning you’re not alone.

Pivoting has become a key term because a lot of us have had to consider it. Whole industries have come to a standstill overnight. Some are eligible for Government support but others aren’t. We’ve all got bills to pay and mouths to feed. I started pondering the actions I’ve taken since lockdown and what I’ve seen other businesses do. What’s been happening for you?

Are we pivoting or just readjusting?

To a word geek like me, pivoting means turning in a completely new direction. This has clearly been necessary for a lot of people. I’ve seen friends whose work has disappeared overnight apply for all kinds of jobs. Delivery drivers and grocery shop workers are in higher demand than ever before.

For the rest of us, it’s possible that we’ve just changed the way we do things. Your business might be able to continue online rather than in person. I’ve done online networking and a friend’s yoga class is now taking place over Zoom. My eight year old’s guitar lesson and football sessions have gone virtual as well. Virtual football coaching with a kid hurtling around the garden is quite an experience! The great thing is, we’re able to continue even if some bits have changed.

Getting creative

For some of us, adapting has meant getting creative. Pubs have started offering takeaways – I’ve even had a socially distanced gin delivery! My personal favourite was the lady who is painting rainbows on people’s windows. She’d normally be creating beautiful hand painted signs and chalkboards for shops and events, now she’s cheering people up at home.

My business has always been online, so it’s mostly business as usual. (Apart from the fact that I’m currently home schooling two under 10s.) The trouble is, some of the businesses I work with are struggling. It’s made me look at creating new products that will help without breaking the bank. What’s more, they’ll still be there when we go back to whatever the new normal turns out to be.

Is this a pivot?

Even though I’m creating new things and have adjusted my working week to fit around the kids, I’m not actually pivoting. I’m doing the same thing I was doing before, writing words and trying to help other business owners. All the same, things have changed. It’s not that long ago that I swore blind I was never going to create any kind of digital product. It all seemed like far too much work. Creating something I could sell wasn’t too much of a stretch. I just had to get over my horror of generic content by creating something semi-generic.

The real challenge was the techy bit. How on earth was I going to set up an online shop that would actually take money without me being involved? Well, I’ve done it. Turns out that the people who make shop software want small businesses to be able to use it so they make it easy. I know, who would have thought it?

Are you pivoting or just adjusting? Whatever your experience I’d love to hear about it so please share in the comments.

Further reading

This is my third dispatch from the realms of self-isolation. Here’s the first. And the second.

Also, if you’re in the Nottinghamshire/Lincolnshire area and would like your windows painted with rainbows here’s the lady to talk to.

If you’re looking for a shot in the arm for your business marketing, sign up to my email list for blogging and content tips straight to your inbox. You’ll also receive a free copy of my guide ‘Stop hiding your business’ as a thank you.



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My isolation silver linings

Isolation silver linings and smiles.

I’m delighted to have been challenged by the fabulous Steve at https://thediaryofdad.com/ to write about the positives that have come out of isolation. I have to confess, when all of this started I was panicking. As a business owner, the possibility of not being able to work for an extended period was scary. At least I don’t have employees to worry about. I’d convinced myself that I couldn’t possibly get anything done with the kids at home. Thankfully, there have been plenty of positives. Here are just a few.

I have an amazing business community

I’m used to spending time on my own, working at home while my sons are at school. I’m also an introvert so I thought that the hardest thing about isolation would actually be having the entire family under one roof, all of the time. It actually turns out that I miss talking to other adults, whether it’s at networking events or the school gate.

Thankfully, I’m part of an awesome small business community that quickly mobilised to take events online. It’s not quite the same as hugging your friends in person, but it’s great to keep in touch. Whilst social media isn’t always good for my mental health just now, spending time in the right places has been a real bonus.

Flexibility is key

One of our biggest isolation challenges has been the change in routine. It’s also created one of the biggest positives. My kids love routine, so we’ve created our own. School have sent suggested activities home but it’s up to us how we structure them. We’ve also introduced stuff that they wouldn’t learn at school, like how to do their own laundry, as well as new takes on fun activities. Who knew you could get IT, music appreciation and cookery into organising a kitchen disco?

I’m also thankful that we’ve created a balance when it comes to working at home. My husband and I are both self-employed, but while his workload is steady, mine fluctuates. With good communication and flexibility we’ve been able to settle into a pattern that works for both of us.

Work is still happening in isolation

The fact that my business is already online so can mostly carry on going (kids permitting) was a real silver lining. However, I had no idea whether my clients had any money to spend. Thankfully, some of them do. Some are using the enforced down time to get on with projects that they hadn’t had time for before. Others just need some help communicating with their customers without sounding like they’re trying to profit from a crisis.

The thing is, we’re all just trying to get through this as best we can. It’s been really heartening to see how many people are supporting their community, including other small business, when times are tough.

My kids are mostly great

There are days when I can’t face another conversation about Pokémon. Or Minecraft. But mostly I’m really glad that we’ve got the time to listen. I feel as if I’ve got to know them better. It’s also been great to discover that they’re actually pretty resilient. My youngest turned six in isolation. The fact that this year’s party was a cake and the extended family on FaceTime didn’t faze him at all.

I always knew I was pretty patient, but it goes further than I ever imagined. It has to when your children’s insecurity about the situation comes out two hours after bedtime when you just want to flop in front of the TV. Being able to take the time to administer hugs when they’re needed has been the biggest silver lining of all.

Thanks to Steve for the nomination. I’m nominating Rona Myatt to pick up the baton and talk about her isolation silver linings.

If you’d like to learn more about what I do (when I have time to do some work) or ways to improve your business marketing, you can sign up to my mailing list by completing the form below.

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How are you?

How are you social distancing?

I had a completely different blog post written for this week. Yet somehow I couldn’t bring myself to publish it. It felt a tiny bit irrelevant to tell another story when the world has turned upside down. So here I am. The only question running through my head is ‘how are you’? Not just for you, but for myself as well. The last time my eldest son went to his fun football session, I got a funny look from one of the dads because I coughed. I couldn’t bring myself to tell him it was his aftershave! Now, every time I cough I wonder if it’s the first sign. Trouble is, I am a cougher. My youngest boy is too. Blame the asthmatic ancestors whose legacy wasn’t the condition itself, but extra sensitive airways. The last couple of weeks have seen me in extra vigilant mode in case the usual coughs become unusual ones. I’ve also been conscious of the different ways that people have reacted to this. I’m not going to talk about the crowds who treated social distancing as a green flag to flock to their local beauty spots. It’s a waste of energy and I’m going to need all mine. What I will tell you about is what’s helped me and what definitely hasn’t.

The personal networks

I’m lucky to be in a brilliant range of business networks, but there are some beyond that too. The parents at the school gate and the local community associations are all a part of my network. It’s been heartening to see how many people have stepped up to help. There’s been co-operation that has helped quarantined families and vulnerable people to be fed and supported in other ways. There have been social media posts in my school groups giving ideas for things to do with the children. There’s also been a phenomenal level of whingeing. I know it helps some people, but the difference between that and the alternative is really striking.

Business support

Most of all, there’s been business support. The panic that your business won’t survive doesn’t last long when you’re in a community of amazing women who’ll help you to brainstorm ideas one minute and teach you how to implement them the next. They’ve also helped to alleviate the guilt. It’s more than working parent anxiety just now. It’s the feeling that you shouldn’t be promoting your business when other people are struggling. The truth is, you shouldn’t feel bad about offering something that will help people. There’s also nothing wrong with putting on your own oxygen mask first. If you can keep a roof over your head and food on the table you’re less likely to need a bail out and that’s better for everyone.

How’s your social media?

Life is being lived on social media more than usual at the moment. There’s been extra positivity because support groups are mobilising on Facebook. There have been the usual spats, but no more than usual. The thing that’s got to me, more than anything, are the people predicting what’s going to happen. I don’t mean the experts. I’m hugely grateful for the people who are providing proper data and explaining the psychology behind the guidelines. I mean the people fretting about stuff that hasn’t happened yet, if it ever does. It took me a long time to stop worrying about things I can’t control, which means I can’t deal with other people doing it. I appreciate that’s my foible but it’s made me much more careful about where I spend time. 

I hope you and your loved ones are OK. Saying ‘how are you?’ has taken on a whole new seriousness, hasn’t it? If you need anything, whether it’s practical support, a listening ear or absolutely anything else, please shout. I’m helping quite a few people with finding the right words to market their business at this strange and crazy time, so let me know if I can do that for you too.

In the meantime, take care and I’ll speak to you soon.

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Leaving your comfort zone

Comfort zone
Are you stuck in your comfort zone?

When you’re in business there’s a lot of talk about leaving your comfort zone as a tool for growth. I’ve realised that it’s a message that mostly resonates with women. A couple of weeks ago I shared the image below on my social media accounts and the response was greater than anything else I’ve shared this month. Then I realised that everyone who liked and commented, no matter which platform they saw it on, was a female business owner. It wouldn’t be the first time. It’s entirely possible that I’m living in a female centric bubble on social media, but it struck me that you don’t hear men talking about comfort zones. Maybe the ones who start businesses are just naturally confident and the rest get a normal job. Yet I meet loads of women who start up on their
own but lack the confidence to shout about what they do. I don’t say this as someone with all the answers because I struggle with it myself.

I’ve been trying to think of ways to get rid of the mind monkeys (thanks to Claire Mitchell at The Girls Mean Business for that phrase). Actually, since I’ve been watching Baby Chimp Rescue on BBC2 they’ve turned into cheeky chimps in my head. (Seriously, if you haven’t watched it, do. It cheers me up and makes me sob in equal measure.) Then I realised that I’ve already done something that lots of people wouldn’t do outside of a gap year adventure. When I was already a (supposedly) sensible solicitor I headed off to Argentina for a solo expedition. No organised tour, no nothing. Just a husband who’d gone to learn advanced skiing for six weeks and a self-planned itinerary. This is how I got the confidence.

Baby steps

When I told my colleagues that I was going to haul myself across Argentina with nothing for company but a good book (often the best kind of company) they looked at me as if I’d gone a bit mad. My friends and family, on the other hand, barely batted an eyelid. (Although the potential cost of international phone calls meant my mum finally learned to text.) This wasn’t the first time I’d travelled alone, although it was certainly the most dramatic. I had a habit of taking myself off to different cities to explore for the day and took a family history research trip to Edinburgh. By the time I landed in Buenos Aires I was ready. While big, dramatic leaps out of your comfort zone are sometimes necessary, it’s definitely worth getting warmed up first. 

Getting involved

The biggest shock of landing in a foreign country by myself was the fact that I was completely alone. It was scary and liberating at the same time. I could do whatever I wanted and didn’t have to negotiate with anyone else. Starting a business was much the same. The key (for me at least) to tackling both situations has been to get involved with something. In Argentina I booked the activities and got a table for one in the local restaurants. It’s amazing how many people talk to you when you’re by yourself. It’s the same in business when you find the right networking groups. I’ve built relationships with people that understand the life and my business (not to mention my head) is in a better place because of it.

Does all of this mean that I’ll never have to worry about leaving my comfort zone again? Of course not. Mind monkeys can strike even the most successful of us. It’s just reminded me that it is possible. If you’re reading this thinking that I’m braver than you, I’m not. I’ve probably just had more practice.

If starting a blog is outside your comfort zone, I’m here to help. My 5 day blogging kick start challenge starts on Monday and will help you go from a blank page to a finished blog. Sign up using the form below to join in.

Want more?

Claire Mitchell from The Girls Mean Business on squishing
your mind monkeys

Treat yourself to some real life baby chimps in Baby Chimp Rescue

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5 business Christmas gifts for your favourite business owner

Business Christmas gift

Have you made a Christmas list? When you run a business, Christmas gifts can start to shift towards practicality, or even become completely intangible. For most of the small business owners I know, the list goes
something like this:

  1. More sleep.
  2. Even more sleep.
  3. Snacks.
  4. Financial security.
  5. Gin.

Does that look familiar? Now obviously that list is only useful if you’re happy to drown in snacks and alcoholic beverages. Actually, now I write it down that doesn’t sound too bad. But what if your loved ones would like to get you something that will really help your business? I promise that business Christmas
gifts don’t have to be boring. So, if you’re being asked for suggestions (or if you’re reading this looking for ideas for the business owner in your life), here are my top 5 ideas.

1. A Kindle

I resisted getting one of these for years, mainly because I love actual books. Then when my husband suggested a Kindle for my birthday I remembered how many times I’ve run out of books on holiday and been forced to browse the local charity shops or the selection on the hotel bookcase. Obviously, I jumped at the chance. In business there is always something new to learn and loads of business books to teach you virtually anything. An e-reader is the perfect business Christmas gift because you can take it anywhere and learn on the go. There’s also the fact that no-one can see the cover so you could look completely professional on a train while reading the latest chick lit.

If you already have a Kindle and would like something to read that will help you get your blog writing on track you can buy my eBook ’50 blog post ideas for your business’ here.

2. Stationery

Stationery addiction is real and occasionally necessary. I get through notebooks and pens at a ridiculous rate so tend to shop at the budget end of the market. (Anyone else longing for the days when we could go to expos and get them for free?) However, one of my favourite gifts was the beautiful (boxed) pen and
pencil set that sits on my desk and gets used every day. It’s such a huge part of my working day that I had a small (OK big) panic when I mislaid the pen the other day.

It’s a small thing that makes life better. You could opt for lovely pens or a classic Moleskine notebook. You can even get fab digital notebooks if you prefer.

3. Some business support

No-one can buy time, but if you’re struggling you can buy help.  If you want to work with a particular VA/graphic designer/writer but can’t afford it, you can drop some heavy hints. Like sharing this post on Facebook and say ‘if anyone wants to buy me a Christmas present, Kirsty does gift vouchers for her blogging packages [or other service of your choice]’.

It might sound like a bit of an odd present, but by buying you help for Christmas they’ll get to spend stress free time with you, so everyone wins.

4. Useful gadgets

When it comes to gadgets, the world is your lobster. They’re often the easiest business Christmas gifts to buy because they’re more in the realm of traditional presents. If you’re thinking of buying tech for a business owner, think about what they’ll actually use. Maybe they need a portable charger because their phone is always running out of juice. Perhaps a coffee maker will help them get going in the morning. If they work in cafes or a co-working space a pair of noise cancelling headphones could be just the ticket.

5. Time off

I started my business because I wanted to work flexibly around my children. In practice this often means shoehorning everything in, or being unable to switch off at night because my brain is always ‘on’. Some business owners subscribe to the hustle culture where you don’t take any time off until you’ve ‘made it’. To me, that’s a recipe for burnout. If you feel as if you haven’t had a proper conversation with your partner recently, or if your interactions with your kids consist of homework and shouting, ask for a present that helps you to change that.  A voucher for a meal, a family ticket for a day out or even a couple of hours free babysitting could all help.

What do you want to ask for this Christmas? Leave a comment and let me (or your family) know!

Further reading

For more specific ideas, have a look at this post from B Plans

Or, to get your 2021 marketing off to a flying start, sign up to my mailing list and receive your free guide to getting your business seen online.

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5 business Christmas gifts that will feed your entrepreneurial spirit

Business Christmas gift

Have you made a Christmas list? When you run a business,
Christmas gifts can start to shift towards practicality, or even become completely
intangible. For most of the small business owners I know, the list goes
something like this:

  1. More sleep.
  2. Even more sleep.
  3. Snacks.
  4. Financial security.
  5. Wine.

Does that look familiar? Now obviously that list is only
useful if you’re happy to drown in snacks and wine. Actually, now I write it
down that doesn’t sound too bad. But what if your loved ones would like to get
you something that will really help your business? I promise that business Christmas
gifts don’t have to be boring. So, if you’re being asked for suggestions (or if
you’re reading this looking for ideas for the business owner in your life),
here are my top 5 ideas.

1. A Kindle

I resisted getting one of these
for years, mainly because I love actual books. Then when my husband suggested a
Kindle for my birthday I remembered how many times I’ve run out of books on
holiday and jumped at the chance. In business there is always something new to
learn and loads of business books to teach you virtually anything. An e-reader
is the perfect business Christmas gift because you can take it anywhere and
learn on the go.

2. Stationery

Stationery addiction is real and
occasionally necessary. I get through notebooks and pens at a ridiculous rate
so tend to shop at the budget end of the market. (Or go to expos and get them
for free.) However, one of my favourite gifts was the beautiful (boxed) pen and
pencil set that sits on my desk and gets used every day. It’s a small thing
that makes life better. You could opt for lovely pens or a classic Moleskine
notebook. You can even get fab digital notebooks if you prefer.

3. Some business support

No-one can buy time, but if you’re
struggling you can buy help.  If you want
to work with a particular VA/graphic designer/writer but can’t afford it, you
can drop some heavy hints. Like sharing this post on Facebook and say ‘if
anyone wants to buy me a Christmas present, Kirsty does gift vouchers for her
blogging packages [or other service of your choice]’.

It might sound like a bit of an
odd present, but by buying you help for Christmas they’ll get to spend stress
free time with you, so everyone wins.

4. Useful gadgets

When it comes to gadgets, the
world is your lobster. They’re often the easiest business Christmas gifts to
buy because they’re more in the realm of traditional presents. If you’re
thinking of buying tech for a business owner, think about what they’ll actually
use. Maybe they need a portable phone charger because their phone is always
running out of juice. Perhaps a coffee maker will help them get going in the
morning. If they work in cafes or a co-working space a pair of noise cancelling
headphones could be just the ticket.

5. Time off

I started my business because I wanted
to work flexibly around my children. In practice this often means shoehorning
everything in, or being unable to switch off at night because my brain is always
‘on’. Some business owners subscribe to the hustle culture where you don’t take
any time off until you’ve ‘made it’. To me, that’s a recipe for burnout. If you
feel as if you haven’t had a proper conversation with your partner recently, or
if your interactions with your kids consist of homework and shouting, ask for a
present that helps you to change that.  A
voucher for a meal, a family ticket for a day out or even a couple of hours
free babysitting could all help.

What do you want to ask for this Christmas? Leave a comment and let me (or your family) know!

Further reading

For more specific ideas, have a look at this post from B Plans

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What are you doing for Christmas?

What are you doing for Christmas?

At the risk of sounding like Joey from Friends, how are you doing? Stressed out, frazzled, wondering how you’re going to fit it all in? Gliding into the festive season like a graceful swan (but paddling like mad underneath)? Or are you actually serene about the whole thing? However you feel about Christmas, remember this. In a month’s time it will be Boxing Day, which is a whisker away from it all being over.

As I write this I’ve done some Christmas shopping and we’ve had a half-hearted discussion about where we’re spending The Day Itself. I’m currently leaning towards doing what we’ve done for the last few years. Stay put and welcome whatever assortment of relatives want to come for Christmas dinner. So what are you doing for Christmas? Why am I even asking? The reason is that whilst I haven’t found the secret of a totally Zen Christmas, these days it doesn’t stress me out like it used to. In case the very idea of Christmas is turning you grey, here are a few of my stories of Christmases past that should help…

The one where we ate Boxing Day pizza

I used to put a whole heap of pressure on myself about Christmas dinner. While my husband used to do most of the cooking I was the one who did the shopping. I’d stress out about whether I’d ordered enough food. When it actually arrived I felt like a doomsday prepper.

One year we were seeing my Mum on Christmas Day then catching up with the rest of the family over the next few days. It was the first Christmas after a family bereavement so it was always going to be tough. My husband’s family were coming for Boxing Day and no-one could face cooking for a second day. So we went for pizza. It was relaxed, stress free and everyone was happy. Now we do it every year.

The one with nine people

Last Christmas we had more people for Christmas Day than I have ever cooked for. (I imagine some of you think I’m an amateur – you’re probably right.) It was only the second time I’d ever cooked Christmas dinner and we had four extra people, one of them vegan. Then I remembered that a turkey crown is designed to feed an army and my usual vegetarian main was also vegan. Once I learned how to make vegan crumble* all was well.

The main challenge with nine people isn’t feeding them or even getting them round the table. You just have to tuck your elbows in. It’s making sure that different generations aren’t falling over each other all day. Speaking of which…

The one where we went for a walk

I married a man who finds it impossible to do nothing. Admittedly, I’m also a fidget but give me a good book and I can remain stationery for hours. As the kids are also much nicer to be around when they’ve had fresh air, we spent one Christmas morning climbing a hill.

I packed sausage rolls, cheese straws and sweets to keep the kids going and off we went. We ambled up the hill, chatted to the dog walkers and enjoyed the fresh air. (And before you vomit at how idyllic it all sounds, it rained on the way back.) Still, the picnic tasted just as good in the car.

Why am I telling you this? It’s because these are some of the best Christmas memories I have and two of them came from loss. We changed things because we wanted new memories to distract us from the ones we missed. If Christmas is stressing you out, whether it’s because something is different or because it’s more of the same, try changing it.

*Use soya margarine. Yeah, that was a tough one.

More help

For the cooks among you, here’s BBC Good Food’s 2017 guide to a stress free Christmas with some handy hints. Of course, you could go out if taking your children to a restaurant isn’t stress inducing too.

Of course, you could just run away…