I sat next to a woman on my flight home last Sunday evening who I had the pleasure of a 2-hour conversation with on my way home from Austin. I had been away for about a week assisting a friend with a destination wedding and when I returned, I was fortunate enough to sit next to this woman who just so happened to be a fellow entrepreneur, and receive what felt like a free coaching session from this incredibly successful woman. Her name was Barbara.
As we chatted over the dull hum of air vents and the crinkle of airplane snacks, she told me about her many businesses, one of which was a coaching program where she teaches business owners how to experience more joy in their work, and in their lives. Her catchphrase for her business was “Accomplish your work, and enjoy your life.” The accomplish your work portion of the program has a lot to do with physical organization, and “decluttering” your life, literally, starting with pantries, kitchens, and desk drawers filled with paper. Like Marie Kondo, only this woman has been doing this for 43 years. At the wise age of 75, she has written 3 books, and hosts several virtual conferences per year teaching large audiences this very simple concept. I ate up everything she had to say.
As I got off the plane, I raced to jot down every clever line and tip she had shared with me that I could remember into my phone notes app before it left my memory forever.
But on the ride home that night, and as I woke up Monday and began my week, and even two days later, one thought continued to resonate.
“Accomplish your work, enjoy your life.”
It sounds so simple and self explanatory.
So why are these two things so hard for most of us to master? Why are they things that we all struggle with…so much, apparently, that we pack seats in lecture halls to learn exactly how to do these two things?
If the “we” we’re talking about is entrepreneurs, and this is something that occurred to me as I was thinking long and hard about this questions…Actually, it makes a lot of sense why we struggle with these two very things so much. As entrepreneurs, many of us are creatives. And often times creatives are not super organized, hence the heaps of clutter we often find ourselves in when we are knee deep in our element. And another trait most of entrepreneurs have in common is that we are achievers, and we are focused on achieving, even if that means sacrificing our health, joy, or well-being.
So, I haven’t taken Barbara’s program, nor do I know exactly what she teaches, but I am going to go out on my own limb and share with you what I believe to be the key to accomplishing this balance that we all desire. In order to really master the art of accomplishing our work and enjoying our life, we have to tap into the organization and systemization that for most of us doesn’t come naturally, then, since we are so goal-and-achievement-oriented as entrepreneurs, we have to make joy our objective.
So on this note, for today’s podcast, I want to share with you 3 important tips that I believe can help you accomplish your work more smoothly in order to ultimately make more space for joy – not just in your life, but in your work. We spend so much of our life working, so why not make our work enjoyable, and enjoyable for those who work with us and for us?
In my company, creating a fun and positive work environment is so important to me. When we all have fun at work, the result is better. The work we produce is more quality and most importantly, that positive energy overflows into the rest of our day. It’s difficult to compartmentalize negative feelings associated with work. I think that we’ve all experienced that stress, that overwhelm, that anxiety or negative energy that follows us home.
Since day 1, I’ve set out to create a career that I love. We all want that, right? The beautiful thing about entrepreneurship is that we get to pave our own path and dream up our own career that embodies everything we love and everything that we believe in. So let’s not forget to foster an environment in our workplace that sparks joy for us, and for those we hire to be a part of that dream.
1. Manage Your Intake
My first tip for creating a fun and positive work environment is to manage your intake. I believe the energy that flows throughout our business is a ripple effect that starts at the top with having intention and control with the jobs we choose to take on. I have watched teams shatter and fall apart, and it’s commonly due to the fact that the business took on more than it could handle and that pressure fell on the team and they reached their breaking point. That’s an extreme example of what can happen as a result of negative energy in a business that goes unnoticed for too long. Those of us entrepreneurs who are the achiever type, tend to chase after as many opportunities as possible. We go for it no matter what and think to ourselves, we’ll get the job and figure it out the rest. But there is a necessary balance to achieving success in our business while also maintaining a happy and positive working environment, and part of that balance is knowing our limits and just how much weight our business can handle before it breaks.
If you get an inquiry and you know that you are already at max capacity, but you take that one last job just so you can make that extra dollar… that’s a choice, but just know that if you do that, you are taking a risk that your team might be stressed and overworked, it might add more pressure that could cause them to snap, or cause negative energy to stir. So consider that with the amount of jobs you take on at any given time. If your goal and your priority is to foster a positive and fun working environment, you need to put your team first and part of that is not taking on more than you can comfortably handle. So if your tendency as an achiever is to take every event that comes your way no matter the cost, maybe try shifting your mindset to recognize a positive working environment as an achievement. Make that your goal and allow that to motivate you to keep a mindful balance of the work you take on. That way you can feel accomplished while also maintaining a reasonable workload that will allow space for everyone to perform their job to their fullest potential.
If you feel that you’re always busy but you can’t afford to take on less jobs, maybe that’s an indicator that you need to take another close look at your pricing so that you can take on fewer jobs at a greater pricepoint, making space in your business to make things more organized. Saying no to a job as an entrepreneur never feels natural, and it’s a hard decision to make. But sometimes when you’re being flooded with jobs and your team is overwhelmed, the only way to get back on the right track is to put the stopper on and allow yourself space to get back on track and to re-set and get organized to better support the jobs you take on in the future.
2. Be Proactive & Organized
My second tip for having more fun at work is to be proactive and stay ahead of schedule. Like I mentioned before, if these three steps act as ripples that flow out from one another, then this is not possible without step one. But if you are maintaining a good balance of intake and not consuming more jobs than you or your team can handle, this should allow you the time and space to be able to plan ahead for each job, because you won’t be constantly behind due to your workload and playing catchup.
Not being stressed or rushed allows for more time to have fun and enjoy the process.
Being proactive means being over-prepared, so that you don’t have to be re-active during event production week. Reactive patterns take up time in production. It takes up head space. Whereas if you can manage staying one step ahead of things and be over-prepared, you can plan out and organize your production schedule so that everyone knows what needs to be done and can tackle it in an organized and stress-free way. You can plan ahead for things like staffing – making sure you have a large enough team in place to comfortably handle the workload so that everyone can work at a comfortable pace and in a reasonable number of hours, you can plan out meals if you need to for a busy event week, plan in breaks, and make sure you have all of the supplies you need to limit running around. Staying proactive and always being one step ahead of the events coming down the pipeline will allow you to be more organized, and being more organized will allow you to have more fun and enjoy your work.
I think one great example of how being organized can allow for a more enjoyable and stress-free work environment is when I did my own florals for my wedding. I knew that I wanted to do my own flowers, but I also wanted to have a stress-free week and be able to enjoy my wedding day. And I also didn’t want my team to be stressed. So I made sure to over-prepare and strategize the work week, printed out a proposal and recipes for all of the arrangements, pre-ordered all of the flowers based on exact stem counts, and made sure to clearly communicate with my entire team what was expected. I created visual diagrams and put them in a binder so that on the wedding day, everyone could find the answers to anything they needed about the design, just in case I wasn’t going to be available on the event day to answer questions. My team and I processed all of the flowers and prepped all of the hard goods on Thursday, left at a reasonable hour to get a good night’s sleep, then on Friday I came in early at 7am and worked until 11am, spent that time wisely sticking to only the most important tasks, and left my team to handle the rest. No one worked past 5pm and on the wedding day, everything went smooth as glass and no one was stressed.
This week we have a really tough wedding, but today I had a team of 6 girls and we came in at 9am and we had a pre-made list of all of the hardgoods that needed to be pulled and cleaned and all of the containers that needed to be prepped, and we had all of that completed by noon and were able to spend the last two hours of the day processing flowers and left by 2pm.
For large weddings and busier weeks, sometimes it’s better to break up the tasks over multiple days and complete pieces of the event in bite size pieces, perhaps working shorter days at the beginning of the week and building to 8-hour days, so that no one gets tired out before the big push on Friday and Saturday.
One of the lessons that I learned quite late into my career was just how much can be accomplished in such a short time with a few extra sets of hands. A team of 6 is three times as powerful as a team of two if there is organized leadership and the tasks are efficiently delegated. If I can, for larger events I always try to be available to oversee the team, making sure that I know what task is next for each group or individual team member so that once they finish a task, they can be onto the next one without a beat. When you can support your team by always being ready for them with the next task, you take away the stress of them having to think about what’s next. And I really believe that people work better when they have a reasonably-sized task in front of them, and know exactly what is expected to be complete before they leave that day.
If you can organize your production schedule in this way, your entire team will feel much more at ease, they will know what is expected of them, they will know they have the support of enojugh people to complete everything that needs to get done, no one will be exhausted, overwhelmed or stressed, but instead you will have a team of people who are confident, rested, and supported, and that will make all the difference in their experience.
3. Set the Tone
The third and final tip is to set a tone for whatever work environment you want to create. As the business owner and as the leader of your team, all eyes are on you and it’s you who sets the tone and the pace that others will follow. Depending on your mood and the energy you project, the tone of the room has the ability to be positive, negative, chaotic, anxious, laid back, productive, energetic, fun, or anything else. So it’s important that you set an intention for the day and make sure that you serve as an example to your team of the way you want the day to go.
If you want people to feel relaxed and have fun while working, encourage joy by playing music, making lighthearted jokes, or encouraging conversation to make people feel more relaxed.
If you want the energy to be positive, focus on positivity, and be careful about limiting gossip, or topics that may bring down the mood.
If you want your team to work quickly, communicate expectations like a timeframe to complete each project.
If you want to set a tone of teamwork, be a voice of encouragement, and use positive reinforcement to boost confidence and morale. Use language like “us” and “we.” Say things like, let’s each get 4 more centerpieces done before lunch. A little positive encouragement can go a long way with a team that’s working hard. “Okay team, it’s the home stretch, we’re almost there. You guys are crushing it.”
If you want your team to give their best, give them your best in return. Take care of your people. Feed them. Give them breaks if they need it. Be respectful of their time. Be appreciative. Say thank you. And mean it.
I think it’s easy to get caught up in the tasks before us and just not be able to find the time or space to even think about what is being projected onto our team.
That’s why we have to accomplish the first part – getting organized – in order to allow for the second part – so that we can allow ourselves the space and the control to set the tone of our work environment. It’s hard to set a positive tone and enjoy ourselves when we are feeling bogged down with everything on our plate, and a workload we cannot keep up with. That overwhelm will cause stress and that stress will produce negative energy that will inevitably overflow into our workspace and onto our team.
Sometimes there are outside factors that add challenges and affect our ability to enjoy ourselves and get the job done. We might face challenges with our order. Some of our product didn’t come in. Maybe the client has been giving you difficulty. Sometimes on site we are faced with curveballs – unexpected weather …things that make our job extra hard. But you are never a victim of those circumstances. You still have the ability to take control of the situation and so much of everyone’s experience at the end of the day comes down to your attitude.
Fun and Productivity in Unison
There is something else I want to note here – You don’t have to exchange fun for productivity. And vice versa. You don’t have to trade in productivity in order to have fun. It may seem like in order to have fun, you can’t be so focused on work. Think of a floral studio where everyone is chatting and because they are having such a nice catch up sesh, the work is lagging, and not getting done at a swift pace. To create an environment where work is the priority, and set a tone for productivity, it’s important to set the pace that you expect.
This week we have a large scale wedding and we are working out of our wholesaler’s warehouse. They have very strict hours on when we can work and when we need to be out so their staff doesn’t go into overtime. So earlier today, we were there processing flowers, and as we were nearing closing time, there was still quite a bit to get done to put us in a good position for tomorrow. So with only 6 minutes left on the clock, I told my team, we have 6 minutes left – everyone grab a case of hydrangea and let’s each process a whole box before the 6 minutes are up. And with that, we all grabbed a box and between we had 6 more cases unboxed and in water in under 6 minutes. And we were laughing through and through. The warehouse owner joked, did you guys all do some crack before you came here? Because I think in under an hour we had completed processing almost two pallets of flowers. A task that can easily eat up half a day for a team that is not focused. That’s why setting a standard and a pace is so important.
If you set a tone of productivity, it’s possible to get work done efficiently and still enjoy and have a good time while working. You don’t have to exchange fun for productivity. And you don’t have to trade in productivity in order to have fun. With a little bit of creativity, you can achieve both at the same time.
“Accomplish Your Work. Enjoy Your Life. “
There is a calmness to both of these phrases. A simplicity. I think on the plane when I heard Barbara speak these words, they entranced me because in our work, rarely is it calm. And rarely is it simple. But I felt what she was saying. That with a few shifts in our process, they can be. And I believe this is true because I have seen evidence of it in my own business.
By being mindful of the jobs we consume, by getting organized, shifting our mindset to creating a joyful work environment, and prioritizing our team as they are often our most precious resource, accomplishment and joy can go hand in hand. I hope you take some piece of this with you today and put it into practice, and I hope you find that it relieves some of the weight that we all can tend to feel. Because we are in a tough business. But it started with joy. And it should end with joy too. That’s my wish for you. So go out there and be a positive light. Have a fantastic rest of your week, and I will talk to you soon.