8 years ago when I started my stationery company She’s Got Papers I had just given birth to my daughter Jada, I had a 13-year-old son Brandon and I was working a full-time job as well. To say that I was overwhelmed would not be giving each and every crease in my Superwoman cape its proper due. However, I had a few great things working for me. There was James, my super supportive other half, a pretty clear vision (or so I thought), a steady paycheck, and a few key players on my team who remain with me today. Seemingly I had it all in the bag. . . except I didn’t.
So what was my problem? Why couldn’t I seem to move an inch on the needle no matter how much I planned, made copious notes in a planner that became thicker than the King James version of the Bible, and gave what I felt were really clear directives to my team? I mean, something was definitely missing. I cannot tell you how many pints of Prailines n’ Cream ice cream I devoured while wearing comfy pajamas and a silk head scarf tied way too tight pondering this very question. Enter my big sister Chermia, known in our immediate circle as “The Brain”.
Putting aside her MBA & my Ph.D. in Anything is Possible, the major difference between us is that my Sister thinks of everything in black & white and I tend to gravitate more toward pantone colors. And in light of that fact, she has always been my voice of reason. Gently guiding me, pointing out my mistakes, and helping me to see the bigger picture. And right there at her kitchen table while passively sipping on her latte she hit me with it between the eyes:
“Tanea, you’re scattered. Narrow your focus”. Boom.
There it was. The truth of the matter. I lacked Focus. Not, a little bit, but a whole lot. You see, anything can be changed but first, you gotta face it. And once she put it on the table it forced me to face the music.
Look at it this way. The act of having a dream, the guts to go after it, and being able to call yourself an entrepreneur has a sexiness to it. There’s a thrill that one gets from being able to declare that you own something. True? However, there comes a time when you will have a “come to Goddess moment” because the truth is always in the math. Some say details, but I like figures myself!
The scariest part of all? In the early days, I was able to convince myself that I was making progress because checking items off a list is the most effective way to feed one’s own delusions. In case you were looking for one, there you have it.
It wasn’t until my sister put a word in my ear and I listened that I was able to collect myself & recalibrate. The truth is your side hustle will never become your main business if you lack focus. And what exactly does that look like?
- Prioritize – Break down your goals in terms of importance, then again, and then once more for the road. 3 times is usually the charm. We’re looking for the nitty gritty here, the absolutes. You have the best muffins in town and they’re selling like hotcakes. You can barely keep up with the demand, but somehow you’ve convinced yourself that building your Instagram following is of the utmost importance. Like, right now! Umm, shut down that app and into your kitchen! Less sexy, more substance. Okay? Okay.
- Get checked – Get an accountability partner. Your Aunt Geraldine doesn’t qualify for this gig. This person needs to be another business owner who can act as a mentor – no emotion, just facts. The key here is to trust that their advice is solid and really follow it. They’ll be instrumental in keeping the car from going off the road when you’re so busy driving that you blow straight through the stop light.
- Unplug – You have to do it. Don’t try, do. You must. Why? Because many side hustles never get on the highway to becoming full-time businesses because folks get burned out. To do one thing well can be supremely exhausting but to add a side hustle to your already busy life and to try to perform at maximum capacity all of the time simply doesn’t work. You don’t stand a chance without balance. Walk away from the computer, turn off your iPhone, and just breathe for a while. It helps, I promise.
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