Having once birthed a baby and a business in the same month, Linda Tomb knows a thing or two about the unique challenges that women entrepreneurs and working moms face. After a decades-long business career, during which she helped to expand a chimney sweep service across three states, launched three high-tech companies, and secured several million dollars in venture funding for a dot-com startup, Tomb turned her attention to helping other women figure out how to balance life and motherhood with business ownership.
Today, as owner of Unleash Your Business, Tomb offers one-on-one and group coaching targeted at female entrepreneurs. Though she has come to the conclusion that "there's no magic pill—every working woman needs to arrive at her own tailored solution for achieving balance and flow," Tomb says there are some issues that trip up just about everyone. So she's devised a three-step free teleseminar to help. It's called "Time, Focus, Money: The Three Step Solution to Unleash Your Business." Starting with "time," in this first of a three-part series, Tomb shared with me her tips to help women entrepreneurs go from frazzled to focused in order to move their businesses forward.
1. Take time to be still. Many women wake up and start their day scrambling to tackle 3, 4, or 5 things they have to do at once. But Tomb says a practice that can keep your business on track is to take 2-10 minutes every morning to just sit still and visualize how you want the day to go. "It's counterintuitive, and it's hard to do when you think you can't afford even a minute to sit still, but that's when the clarity and decisions bubble up," she says. "A business is built with one intentional day after another. If you don't know where you're going, you're going to end up someplace you don't need to be."
Sitting still isn't about taking time to write your to-do list, read the newspaper, or check email, Tomb notes: "This is about stillness and silence and just being quiet. When you are noticing the busy thoughts, but not engaging them, clarity comes." It gets to be addictive, she promises.
2. Untie the electronic leash. Many of us check email all day long. Unless you're an oncologist or a day trader, it can probably wait, Tomb says. "We think constant contact makes us feel alive, but it has the opposite effect," she says. "Studies show it takes 20 minutes to get back on track after you've been interrupted."
Tomb warns women to be especially cognizant of email interruptions at the most productive times of their day. "If you're at your creative best at 9:00 am, that's when you should be strategizing on ways to move your business forward, not tethered to email," she says.
Easier said than done? Tomb recommends setting a timer to keep yourself focused on tasks and not checking email until time is up. Or, consider setting up an automated response email that lets your contacts know you won't reply immediately but will check and respond to emails at, say, noon and four every day. Then stick to that. Of course, this advice is for business owners who have the autonomy to make such choices. "If you're in the corporate world or answering to a boss, I can't help you," Tomb says.
She recommends scheduling phone calls the same way, to block your time with intention throughout the workweek. "You will never catch me on the phone just by calling me," Tomb says. "I take calls at certain times of the day and week, and I organize my days according to this schedule."
3. Take the "Big Rock" approach. Tomb offers a metaphor for prioritizing your task list: "If you need to fill a bucket level to the top with a pile of rocks, pebbles, and sand, you can't be haphazard about it. You have to put the big rocks in first and then the pebbles and then the sand."
She tells women to tackle the "big rocks" first—to make time for the projects and activities that are most likely to move their business forward. "Block time for the big things on your calendar so that time isn't eaten away by the small things," she says.
4. Release things. Everyone has tasks, or even relationships, that are taking time and energy away from higher priorities. Tomb suggests figuring out which ones you can let go of or designate someone else to handle. Can you hire an assistant to handle some of those things? Sometimes you need to act like a six-figure business owner before you are one in order to get there, Tomb says.
5. Cultivate an attitude of gratitude. Looking for the good in setbacks can make them feel less disruptive, Tomb says. When something unexpected or undesired happens, take a step back, find the silver lining, and regain control of your day to continue tapping into your energy to be successful. For instance, when your day is hijacked, it won't feel so overwhelming if you can find the gift in it: If your child is home from school sick, be grateful for the little lunch companion you don't usually have.
It's not too late to reserve a spot online in Linda Tomb's free May 24 Startup Secrets teleclass, "Time, Focus, Money: The 3-Step Solution to Unleash Your Business."