I was visiting some friends and they introduced me to their new cat. My friend explained that even though this new family member has her own bed, toys and special scratching post, she still scratches the couch! This smart cat has decided that since she sleeps on the couch, it is her personal territory and so is scratching to mark it as her space in the house.
You may be wondering why I’m telling you this story! Listening to my friend describe the cat’s behavior, I had a big ‘aha’ moment. I was fascinated that this cat knew exactly what to do to claim her space when I have worked with so many solo entrepreneurs who struggle to do just this!
In this blog, I’m going to explain why it is so important to own your space at home – whether that’s your own desk, your own office or even your own computer – and how you can do it in a way that won’t add more stress to your family or living situation and won’t scratch your couch.
This blog article is a summary of the related podcast episode.
Working with solo entrepreneurs, I have noticed that for women, finding a space at home for themselves is a recurring challenge. This is a problem for women starting out on their entrepreneurial journey and for those who have been running a business for a while. This is a topic that I could rant about but I know that it is also a sensitive subject for so many of you. However, if a cat can do it, so can you!
Before I get into the mindset shift that needs to happen for you to be able to do this, I want to acknowledge that during the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns, a lot of families have struggled with everyone being at home all the time, and particularly with having to find ways to make a partner working from home and homeschooling work. I know that for some of you, this may not be the right time to be able to find space just for yourself. While the pandemic has made this problem worse, it was certainly an issue before lockdown and that is one of the reasons that it is an issue that we really need to tackle.
Changing your mindset
Having your own space at home might seem like a small detail but it is about more than just the physical space. It also about having the time and support you need to focus on achieving your goals and dreams. If you can’t own your space at home, you won’t be able to own your space in your business or in your industry! If you want to have a successful business, you need to commit to making it a priority, and that includes making it a priority to have the right environment to grow your business. I truly believe that if you work on all the mindset shift you need to make for that to happen, then you will also learn how to make yourself a priority in your industry, in your market and in your business and how to show up as a strong leader. You will be just like my friend’s cat, marking your territory inside your home and outside it too!
I want to be clear that this is not just about having the space for your own office. I understand that not everyone has that space available. This is about helping you make the shift to a situation where everyone at home knows your boundaries and your non-negotiables in terms of the space you need to be able to work, whether it’s the corner of a table, a computer, the hours where you need to have your alone time or the hours when you need to use the computer, as well as the stricter rules about what to do and not do on the computer to make sure it doesn’t mess up your work! I understand that financially you may not be able to afford your own desk, office or even computer – this is all about mindset and how we communicate our own needs and how we ask for our family’s support. It is all about creating the right environment with the resources that you have.
Creating the right environment
Creating the right environment is not just about space. It is also about the activities that happen in a shared household that should be shared between partners and sometimes children as well. This is something that I have had to work on too. I was educated in a certain way, so I always considered that as a woman that I needed to take care of everything that has to do with running the household. Although I was committed to my business, I had to be the one available if the plumber or the repairman or even the movers were coming! I would be the one to cancel my client appointments to show up to take care of these things for our home. One day, I had my ‘aha’ moment and asked myself why I should cancel my appointment. When would my business be as important as the work of my partner? I know that this was much more a mindset shift that I needed to make in my own head, rather than a change my husband needed to make. When I asked him to come and show up at the appointment and be at home because I was working, he did it gladly. I know that’s not possible for everyone due to their partner’s working situation, but it is important to not make the assumption that because you work from home, you’re the one who has to take care of everything to do with the home. If you do this, you will never have time to do any work.
My key message here is that for you to be able to own your space and create the right environment for success, you need to start with your own mindset and your own beliefs.
You need to convince yourself first that you need to make yourself a priority in your household before you even think about trying to change the rules or ask for help. Once you have made this shift, you need some things to change so that you can focus on your business and make it a priority. This is when you can look at the beliefs in your household that you need to tackle, ask for the help you need and maybe even ask to be taken seriously. This is almost another blog topic but I know women who are running their business from home and are considered to be working on a hobby. This is a real business, it is not a hobby! You need to make it clear at home that it is a business and be strict and clear about the rules and boundaries. It doesn’t matter how much money you make or even whether you are making money yet! No matter how much your partner makes, your business needs to be taken seriously.
Reflect on what needs to change
Once you have made your own mindset shift, it is time to think about what might need to change at home for you to be able to make your business a priority. It can be hard to change habits that have built up over years and as much as you may want to be determined and fierce about pushing for change, you may need a more subtle approach! I am not a life or family coach or counselor but I can share a couple of tips that could help you figure out how to make yourself a priority, own your own space and communicate your needs to your family. I have seen so many of my clients struggle to implement the strategies we have been working on together in their business because they think they need to figure out how to make it all work on their own!
To begin to change things, you need to think about what is happening in your home right now. What is working and what is not working for you? Where are you frustrated every day? Where are you stuck? Where do you see yourself losing or wasting time every day because of things that are not in your control but that you might need to change to be able to make yourself a priority? Take at least 20 minutes, sit down with a paper and pen and list all the things that are not working right now and where you want to see a change.
Once you’ve done that, then reflect on what the solutions might be. What is it feasible to change? Ask yourself the question – what do I need to make it work? Then write all the options down. Once you’ve done that, then look at your current support system and whether there is anyone there who can help you make a change.
Then you might want to look at whether you need outside support. For example, I have a client who is solo parenting. Her partner lives in another country and commutes back home every couple of months. Obviously, she cannot ask her husband to help her with cleaning every week, although she was getting her kids involved in helping out around the house. However, the cleaning was taking so much energy and time away from her business and distracting her from focusing on her goals. She realized it was time to invest in a cleaning lady. So, if there isn’t anyone in your immediate friends and family network who can help you, ask yourself what you can invest in to give you some more time and space for your business.
It is only once you’ve done this reflection and worked out what needs to change and how you can change it, what external support and investment you might need to change things, that you can go and discuss it with your partner, your family and your friends and ask for help. I remember having a conversation with an interviewer on a South Korea radio show about how sometimes we want people to just know what we need. We expect them to be able to guess but this is not how it works. You can listen to me discuss this issue here:
So don’t make that mistake – don’t expect your partner to guess what you need. You need to be very, very clear about what you need and you need to make the ask clearly. I love the non-violent communication method when I am making an ask like this. It can be really difficult to ask your partner or a family member to make a big change to how things are working at home. You need to know how to communicate in a way that helps them see how important it is for them to support you. Here’s an example of how you could use non-violent communication to help with that. Let’s say you need your partner to pick the kids up from school sometimes.
- Start by with an observation – ‘I’m observing that I’m struggling to make my deadlines’.
- Then express your feelings – ‘This makes me feel very stressed and anxious because I am not able to reach my revenue goals because I don’t have time to be able to make work a priority.’
- Then comes the third part, which is what you need. This is where you ask for exactly what you need in a very, very specific way – ‘I would really need two more hours per day where I can focus on my work.’
- And then finally, the request – ‘It would be so helpful if you could help me and go pick up the kids at least three times a week.’
This is just a rough example but please check out these resources on non-violent communication to learn more about how to use it.
Here is another method that I learned from a friend and entrepreneur who also works with expats. Alix Carnot is the Managing Partner of Expat Communication, a huge French platform for expats worldwide and the author of “Chéri(e), on s’expatrie!: Guide de survie à l’usage des couples aventuriers.” She has a particular method of creating space to talk to her partner about their needs and asks. This is so important because it is so easy to get caught up in day-to-day life and it can be hard to create the space to have difficult conversations about a big change in the family routine or an important investment or to express disappointment about something so creating space for these conversations is important for your relationship.
So once a week, Alix and her husband have a date night and for at least part of that night, they do this:
Each of them in turn shares something they are sorry about. This is the time to acknowledge the areas where you are aware you want to improve or made a mistake that might have heard the other.
2. Thank you
Then they say something that they are thankful for about each other – this is the opportunity to show your partner love and appreciation. Take this opportunity to show gratitude for your partner – there is no such things as too much gratitude for our loved ones and our partners! Then after ‘sorry’, and ‘thank you’, is ‘I please need…’.
This is when you can express what you need from your partner. If you are going to try this method, don’t forget that it is also important to make spending time together part of your routine.
Even if it is not a big conversation, it will be helpful in stopping tensions from building up and creating opportunities for you to feel heard. And it is a great example of being intentional and conscious of how you use your time as a solo entrepreneur because time management is such a huge factor in becoming successful. You can learn more about how Alix uses this method in this podcast episode:
I hope you have shifted your mindset to behave more like a cat and mark your territory at home! You need to make yourself a priority so that other people can take you seriously. This is so important if you want to succeed in business. Even if you are already in business and feeling so overwhelmed that you want to quit, it might be because you don’t have the right environment and support system for you. I hope that this blog has given you the tools and inspiration you need to make the right decisions, whether it is buying your own computer, creating your own space at home or simply asking for the support you need.
Finally, if you would like more help with building the foundations of a successful portable business so you can generate revenue and make an impact, check out my free 3C™ System workbook. This workbook will take you through the approach I use in my own business and with all my clients and is full of practical exercises and templates to help you set up and grow your business.