Picture one of the following scenarios where you’re completely out of steam:
You’ve been grinding out content for days. Maybe weeks.
Or, you just performed your first live webinar, and it went off without a hitch.
Or, you landed that client you’ve been chasing for months, and now the only thing you have to do is wait for them to pay the deposit and sign the contract.
Or, you sent off an email, and you think you’ll get a pretty good reply, but you’re at a loss for what to do while you wait.
Or, simply, it’s 11 am and you are out of steam.
What do you do then?
Listen, we’ve all been there.
All of us.
Here are 5 things you can do for your business when you’re out of steam.
1. Take a break
If you’re anything like all the other entrepreneurs out here, you put a lot of things above “taking a break” on your to-do list, but it’s the best way to reset, especially if you’re waiting for someone to reply and you can’t stop hitting the refresh button on your inbox.
You know that’s not productive, and you know that’s not going to make the person respond any faster than they would have already.
So, take a break!
Take anywhere from five minutes to two hours to an entire day, and get off your butt.
Here are a few ideas on how to take a break in a way that will increase (not decrease) your productivity:
- Do NOT Netflix and chill. Take the time away from your computer and actually remove yourself from all screens.
- Get out of the house, if possible. Go outside. Get your feet in the grass. If your backyard is as close to communing with nature as your schedule permits, do that. Without your phone. Notice the air. Listen for the ambient noise (which will vary considerably depending on where in the world you live). If you notice that the lawn needs mowing, go do that.
- If you can escape farther than your backyard, go! Take yourself on an urban hike or a real hike. Walk through your neighborhood. Again, no phone. Podcasts are inspiring, but you don’t need noise when you’re out of steam. You need to get somewhere quiet.
- Mediate. Take an hour, plug in your headphones (this time you can have your phone!), and stream binaural beats on YouTube. This is a “cheater way” to meditate using frequencies that adjust your brainwaves and get you into a meditative state immediately. It works by sending the same sound (separated by a small amount of frequency) to each earphone, which means you really do need headphones to make this work. Pick a song and listen to it with your eyes closed and your mind open. Let thoughts flow through your brain like water. Don’t hang onto any.
- Eat a snack. Or hey, look at the clock: how long has it been since you’ve had a decent meal? Standing at the kitchen sink wolfing down oatmeal doesn’t count. Take yourself out to lunch. Or better yet, take a business friend to lunch. Eat slowly. Enjoy your food. Enjoy your companion, if you found one. Connecting with other humans helps beat loneliness as well as helping you gain steam again.
2. Read one of the business books on your shelf
I often ask friends and colleagues for book recommendations, and I always follow-through on them.
I should say, “I always follow through on buying them” because if you took a look at my shelf, you’d see a lot of books that have that “never been opened” look to them.
And I don’t have to tell you, buying books is not the same as reading the books and absorbing the information.
In a recent attempt to declutter my office, I decided to start reading the books everyone has been recommending.
I’ve read, and re-read, The E-Myth Revisited a number of times. It’s excellent. Start with that one if you’re looking for a recommendation. It goes through a parable — which is one of the oldest teaching mechanisms in print — and discusses the importance of creating systems in your business. Learning how to make yourself replaceable is not only valuable, but it’s necessary if you want to grow your business and, I don’t know, maybe take a vacation one day.
If, for some reason, you don’t have any business books on your shelf, get your butt to the library and pick up some titles that resonate with you.
Warning about business books: sometimes they’re simply a long-winded business card
Sometimes a person writes a book simply to have written a book. Writing a book gets you more publicity, more airtime, and more clout than not having written a book. So keep that in mind when you’re looking. This is another reason to ask your friends about the business books they have read and loved.
And if you need permission to put down a book that is nothing more than a 140-page business card, consider it granted.
There’s another side to this warning, too, and it’s the reason you should be reading business books.
Business books are the cheapest way to get the knowledge of a high-performer
Take Ryan Levesque, for example. His book, Ask , runs about $15, and it goes through his methodology of surveying your audience, figuring out exactly what they want (by asking them, hence the name), then giving it to them.
It’s well laid-out, approachable, and a blueprint for how to implement his methods.
Now, let’s say he hadn’t written this book, and your only way to learn how he’s built a massive business is to enroll in one of his very high-end courses. You’re going to shell out significantly more money on that course than you would from simply buying his book.
And although I’ve never taken any of his courses, my guess is that the knowledge — not the action, but the raw knowledge — isn’t any more useful in his courses than in his book.
The same can be said for a lot of high performers.
Why would they basically “give away” their secret sauce?
Easy! Because they know that ideas are cheap. Execution is expensive.
These experts are boosting their status by publishing a book (just like the people who published long business cards!), but unlike the group I warned you about, they’re really giving away excellent information.
How to make the most out of the books you’re reading: write yourself a book report
All right, here’s how to take learning from business books to the next level: get out your notebook (or a note-taking app — we use Notejoy to share notes internally) and start taking notes.
My notes always start in my notebook, but that’s because part of business reading is getting away from my computer. Sometimes to somewhere lovely, but often just to the coziest chair in the house. I’ll take my notebook, my fountain pen, and my book of the moment, and I’ll jot down all the notes that come up when I’m reading something inspiring.
I’m not a book destroyer. If you are, go ahead and underline/highlight, write in the margins. I don’t do that because I know I won’t go back to a book and flip through until I’ve found the passage I seek.
I will definitely go through old notes, though.
So, I write up a book report based on the things I found valuable from each business book I’ve read. Some are action items. Some are stats. Some are simply inspiration.
They’re all useful, and somehow, writing a book report makes “reading a business book” feel more like work than like leisure.
3. Publish content about one of your struggles
Because we’re in an era where we’re all trying to curate our lives in a specific way, the struggles that are universal to our existence get swept under the rug.
If you’re out of steam, talk about why.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re publishing a blog post, recording a podcast, or recording yourself on a video — talking about your struggles makes you instantly more relatable to your audience.
Now, you can ignore this piece of advice if you don’t ever struggle with anything.
If all aspects of your life are in perfect order, move along.
But if you’re struggling through something, or you recently made it through a dark period of your life and you’re ready to talk about how you made it through, do that.
Your audience will thank you for being so transparent.
They’ll connect with you on a personal level.
They’ll give advice. Some of it might even be helpful.
But the primary reason to publish content about one of your struggles is to simply get on the other side of it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt like I was out of steam, then wrote it out, published it (or, if it was too personal, kept it safely unpublished), and somehow gained my steam back.
So try this one. Grab your phone and record yourself discussing your struggles. Write it down if you’re more of a writer type (I definitely am!).
You’ll be amazed at how cathartic this exercise can be.
4. Switch gears completely
What were you doing when you ran out of steam?
With that in mind, do the opposite.
Instead of writing blog posts, finish your content map. Come up with your content strategy. Will you switch gears quarterly? Will each month have a theme? Will your blog posts correspond with your marketing campaigns? (Say yes to that last one!)
Map it out.
5. Fill your Buffer queue
There are a lot of different social sharing tools, but we use Buffer, so I’m going to discuss how I use this one to fuel my creativity and find interesting things to share with my audience.
Remember, social media is just like real life: if you talk only about yourself all the time, you’ll never have any friends. Or followers. But if you position yourself as someone who shares interesting content (including some things you’ve written yourself!) people will not only continue to follow you, but they’ll click on your content as well.
Plus, sharing excellent content does two things:
- Makes you an excellent curator that people want to follow
- Inspires you — because you’re going to actually read the things you share across your social channels
How to curate content effectively: Feedly + Buffer
“Back in my day,” old-lady Kathleen starts, “we’d use Google Reader and call it good.”
But Google Reader hasn’t existed for years.
So it’s time to stop sounding like an old fuddy-duddy and actually figure out how to curate.
It’s the platform that Google Reader wanted to be when it grew up.
Get an account, and start adding blogs to it. You can start with DabbleMedia.com, I won’t mind.
I really like Entrepreneur and Seth Godin’s blog, to name just a couple.
Now, when you’re out of steam, go to Feedly and browse through it.
Right-click to open any articles with headlines that pique your interest.
Oh, and install the Buffer Chrome Extension. You’ll need it for this next part.
After you have about a billion tabs open, close Feedly and start reading the posts you’re considering sharing.
Don’t share all of them.
If you didn’t find value in something you read, skip it. That’s the curation part of this!
But when a passage jumps out at you, highlight it and hit ctrl/cmd C. That’s a shortcut for copying the passage for when you share it.
Don’t skip this part — don’t just share the titles. That’s not going to bring engagement the same way as pulling your favorite quote will.
Why actually hit “copy” instead of just highlighting it? I thought Buffer was smart enough to pick up the parts I highlighted?
Good question. Buffer is smart enough, but in order for it to “play nice” with Facebook, it’s not allowed to automatically pull a quote for Facebook, so you’ll have to paste it there.
Attribute all you want, but note: if you’re attributing something from Entrepreneur, do your best to find the person who actually wrote the article. They have a tiny byline at the top of the article, and most people who write on Entrepreneur are doing so for exposure. Boost theirs.
You’ll find that when you’re out of steam, scheduling social content to share goes a long way toward lighting your fire.
Plus, closing tabs and seeing your Buffer schedule fill are two very satisfying activities.
Listen to your body and your mind when they’re completely out of steam.
Don’t try to just grind it out. You’ll find that taking a break, reading a book, discussing your struggles, switching gears, and scheduling your social media will renew you in ways that simply attempting to work harder never will.
And remember, you’re not in this alone.