Act in Optimism | Plan in Pessimism

Sep 12, 2022
Setting yourself up for success



Hello, my friends. Today, I want to talk about when things don’t go to plan.
Life has given me a masterclass on this for the past month. I have once again been reminded of the importance of learning how to prepare to be unprepared. What does this look like in my life?
What might it look like in yours? Let me tell you about the weeks I’ve had recently, and how you can make sure you’re setting yourself up for success in spite of life’s uncertainty.



Act in Optimism, Plan in Pessimism

If you walk away with one line from this, I want you to think this: act in optimism, but plan in pessimism.
We want to act as if everything's going to work and it's all going to be the absolute best-case scenario, but that's not how life works. That’s not what setting yourself up for success is. And if that’s not how life works, it's not how business is going to work either.
For years, I ran this business with the kids at home little babies, and that was very all-consuming. But life has only gotten busier since then; back then, I didn't have this outside obligation that I needed to keep up with. For instance, I had Nora's birthday at school last week. Never had to deal with school with babies. But anyway, they have a little ceremony that they do at the school. I had to print pictures. I had to make sure that I had a cake. I had to have her birthday party going. And this week, I had sick kids. So for me this week, things are definitely going against the plan. But here’s what you need to realize while talking about setting yourself up for success: this was still a normal week. These are the normal hurdles that come up in life.
Of course, this is not an exclusive thing to me. This is something that everybody goes through, but I may have a recipe that you might not have for setting yourself up for success.
Or, maybe you're in a season of setting yourself up for success where you're not here yet with the business, so you don't have as much autonomy over your life, your schedule, and what you've committed to.
If you are not yet at the business stage of setting yourself up for success, maybe you have a client or two. Maybe you're working at a job or looking to bring in income to solve problems that you're experiencing right now, like adding additional income or replacing the job, because the job is such a source of frustration and you're romanticizing what business ownership will be like. What I want to give you is the cold, hard truth, while also saying you have some element of control in this, depending on how you approach setting yourself up for success.
Here’s what I want to peel the curtain back on: everything that I say about bookkeeping is true. It can be simple. It can be scalable. You can have autonomy over your schedule. You can say yes to things that you want. You can say no to things that you don't want. You can build a team and systems to support you. You can surpass your income. You can do all of those things while setting yourself up for success. The work that you do can be simple and scalable…and you will still have challenges and frustrations. You will still have moments where you had a plan and it didn't go that way, because you can't control everything. No matter how well you’re setting yourself up for success, you will still encounter trials.
Want an example? Let me tell you how August went for me.

Not a Plan in Sight

This all started out when I lost my sitter, who I had for about two years. She typically worked two days a week for me, and that was when I got everything done. But she just moved across the country at the beginning of this month. Now, I knew that was happening for two months leading up to it, but I am still in a state of assessing what I want and need and, candidly, emotionally mourning that loss of relationship. She was such a blessing in my home and for my kids, and things are just gonna be different with her gone. So I didn't want to think about replacing her until after she was gone.
I'm saying all of that to say I haven't had a sitter in weeks. So last week, my sister-in-law and I started a baby swap where I take her son one day a week and she takes my daughter the next day. So the cousins get to be together for two days, and we each get one day to work.
Thanks to this process, Tuesday is my day off. I was supposed to have childcare and like an entire day to really focus on the business.
I had all of these plans for that day. I was going to batch these podcasts. I was going to write a nurture sequence for bookkeepers. I paid somebody to review a nurture sequence for me, and I already pushed the deadline back once. The new deadline is tomorrow for me to come up with this nurture sequence, but I really only want to create in the right energy. So I'm right up to the deadline, where I hate to be. I was supposed to have all day Tuesday to be able to knock that whole thing out, record podcasts, catch up on to-dos, and just tackle everything I had to do. But that's not how this week went.
Monday, my daughter started getting sick. And my son woke up in the morning saying that his throat was sore. My daughter's birthday was the day before, so I was ready to send them back to school. I had my daughter’s party on Sunday, and I was ready to send the big ones off to school. When I just have my three-year-old, it's totally doable for me to get some work done with her here. But instead, my son woke up on Monday saying his throat hurt. So I keep him home, and he's honestly mostly fine on Monday, but in the afternoon, my three-year-old started having a coughing fit. I ended up taking her to the doctor, where she got diagnosed with a sinus infection and was put on antibiotics. That's a pretty good scenario for me. It’s nothing worse, it’s diagnosable, it's treatable. But that consumed my Monday.
Now, when this kind of thing happens, I have to remind myself that when I started out, that was the goal. When setting yourself up for success, you have to know that the expectation is that life was going to happen. I knew that, and when it did, I wanted a business that allowed me to drop everything and take my daughter to the pediatrician and handle all that stuff.
And sometimes it's easy to kind of lose sight of that in the moment when you’re working on setting yourself up for success and things are challenging because it is challenging. Nobody wants to have a sick kid and be rushing them to the doctor and having their plans for the day derailed. It’ll make you feel like your attempts at setting yourself up for success have failed. But I think it’s important when you’re setting yourself up for success to hold this perspective: we knew life would happen, but when this was the case before we had a business built to allow for it, this was even more stressful. Setting yourself up for success does pay off; it’s all a matter of perspective.
Anyway, that was Monday. Then Tuesday comes along and I was supposed to be baby-swapping, but if my daughter isn’t feeling well, I'm not going to put her around my little nephew. So now I don't have childcare again and I've got a sick one. Still, that day was going okay. I was pretty sure that I was going to be able to put her down for a nap and at least get something done.
Then I got a call from my son's school. I sent him back on Tuesday because he was doing okay, but in the afternoon, they called me to tell me he had achy knees, a sore throat, and all of this stuff. So I had to go get him, but I hadn't put my daughter down for her nap yet. So she's dozing off in the car. Every mom knows that’s the naptime nightmare, right?
So that chaos took up all of the capacity that I had in my head to maybe get in the flow and write a nurture sequence. I can't do that when I'm worrying about the health of my child. All the setting yourself up for success in the world won’t help when kids are sick. I didn't have the clarity to sit down and write a nurture sequence that was going to go out into the world, evergreen and untouched for a while. I wasn’t in the right headspace.
So there goes Tuesday. And of course, if the school calls me out and he has a fever on Tuesday, I'm not sending him on Wednesday. So he was here all day, but all I had to get done were a couple of emails and the podcast that was due.
I expected to have time to work during naptime. (Expectations, another enemy of setting yourself up for success.) My littlest fell asleep on the couch. I got my son settled; my daughter should have slept for maybe another hour.
Nope. She woke up forty minutes into it. So right when I'm about to get ready to record, she's up, and now she's had a bad nap, so she's needy.
The lesson here is that stuff is going to happen. This is not abnormal; your circumstances might be different, but life happens. Maybe it's you who gets sick often, maybe it's a client that pulls you in. Maybe you have an emotional thing going on in your life that you could get triggered with, and all of a sudden you don't have the bandwidth to do bookkeeping if bookkeeping is what you're doing. Setting yourself up for success means acknowledging that things will go wrong. But you can still do your best to make it a smooth process…


Six Tips for Setting Yourself Up For Success

Here are six tips to help yourself manage this idea of planning in pessimism and acting in optimism while setting yourself up for success:
  1. Understand that it's normal and expected for things to go against plan.
  2. Give yourself time buffers and financial buffers. if you are looking at something and you think it’ll take you five hours, plan for seven. By that same token, quote for a seven-hour job, not a five-hour one. Make sure you’ll feel good about it if it takes longer than you think.
  3. Never quote on a best-case scenario. Setting yourself up for success means leaving room for things to take longer, and for things to be more difficult than you thought.
  4. Help out Future You with systems and teams. Make things simpler. Wherever you can make those tasks trainable or systematized, do it. Also, get yourself some support, even if it's just one team member.
  5. Never operate at max capacity, or even close to it. This one is so hard to do. And it's really a funny thing, because we say that we want freedom, but so many of us tend to be really uncomfortable with freedom. Fight that feeling. Be very careful overloading your plate, because when life happens, there won’t be wiggle room.
  6. Don't push deadlines. You should be nowhere near deadlines. Deadlines are there as the buffer. My team and I promise our clients a turnaround on reports by the 15th. So instead, we try to aim for the 10th. That way, we never miss the 15th.



That’s All For Now…

There you have it, friends. Life happens. Make sure you leave room because if you don’t, it will make room for itself. The only difference is that you will be so much more stressed if you don’t have fail safes in place to make sure you’re setting yourself up for success.
If you're looking for more tips for bookkeeping, insight on how to become a bookkeeper, and how to say hello to a more confident business model, enroll in Become A Bookkeeper (BABs). 
Or to learn more about growing your bookkeeping business and hiring a team, enroll in Life By The Books™ (Libby).
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