I blinked at that stupid cursor on a blank word document and that stupid cursor blinked right back at me.
That battle went on for a little while. The cursor won.
Never had writer’s block hit so hard. I was at an impasse. As someone who writes for a living, this couldn’t go on much longer.
It wasn’t because I was lazy. It wasn’t because I didn’t know what to write about.
Jeff and I had a list a mile long of plausible blog posts to start on.
The truth was that something had happened to me recently and it was all I could think about. It was stopping me from being productive at work entirely.
Day and night. Night and day. I couldn’t move past it.
I wanted to shake someone who had hurt me. I wanted to thank them for the good times we had together. I wanted to use my blog to reach someone when nothing else was working…and it was in that seemingly endless moment of not being able to get started that I realized just how large of an impact this event was having beyond just my personal life.
And so rather than start on that mile-long list of possible blog posts I needed to work on, I decided to share my recent experience with other entrepreneurs, bloggers or business owners who may be dealing with similar personal problems.
That they can learn from it.
That in every seemingly bad situation there is always some good.
So it Goes
And so again I plopped in front of my desktop to get it all out- and then it happened all over again…
Nothing. Nothing happened.
I’d stare at the screen for twenty minutes and give up. I’d refresh my email, read ESPN for a bit (I’m a stats and numbers kind of guy), and scroll down my Facebook feed for a few minutes to see if anything interesting had popped up. Okay, back to work.
This went on for days.
I bet it does.
As a personal finance blogger – someone whose lifestyle and encompassing business literally depends on my ability to write – I began to worry about when I would get even the simplest of tasks done.
Total lack of focus: 1
Addressing the Problem
So what could I do? This was a huge problem.
I was getting nothing done when getting nothing done wasn’t an option.
I absolutely had to get through it. And not soon. Right then.
So for a few minutes I sat and thought about all the other times in my life that I had experienced something like this and what I did to get through it.
I decided to talk to Jeff about it. First as a friend- then as a coworker. And then we came up with a list. A list of personal problems that inevitably cause work woes (Jeff actually chimes in a little further down as well).
Things so inevitable that it was only a matter of time till we dealt with them…or dealt with them again.
We wanted to confront the undeniable facts of life that stunt our ability to be productive.
Confront them so that rather than avoid my issue, and find ways to mask my problem, we could tackle it head on…for once.
For once I didn’t want to let time dictate when things got better.
And although time will still play a role, I wanted to take productive steps to bettering things on my own. I wanted to see the silver lining in an otherwise lame situation. I wanted to draw attention to the fact that our personal problems can impact our work lives. That as business owners its our responsibility to ourselves, and those around us, that we deal with our problems appropriately.
If you’re struggling with any of the problems below then it may be of some comfort to you that you’re not alone. How you choose to overcome them can go a long way in minimizing the affect that major life events have on your business and/or work life.
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Overcoming Personal Problems
1) Coping with Death
Losing someone close to you can be agonizing. Never is that pit in your stomach feeling more prominent.
For days you play over every single memory you’ve ever had or shared with that person. The time you spent together. Things you regret not ever getting around to doing.
Making it through even the most mundane of tasks seems impossible.
Even if the two of you were not incredibly close it still makes you sad because their death reminds you on the finite reality of life.
The thought of them envelops your every waking moment- and you get absolutely nothing done.
And that’s okay. It is okay to grieve.
But the truth remains that death is inevitable and it often occurs when we least expect it. And while there is no universally agreed upon correct way to grieve, there are things that we can do help promote a feeling of normalcy. A feeling of normalcy that allows us to return to work. A feeling of normalcy that allows us to conquer personal problems and resume business as usual.
It is okay to acknowledge that things have changed, but a healthy part of grieving is being able to take care of ourselves during tumultuous times. The American Psychological Association (APA) suggests trying the following in order to help start moving on:
- talking to people helps: even if the conversation is emotionally charged. Bottling your feelings or isolating yourself to avoid the situation tends to extend the grieving process and also frustrates your support system.
- take care of yourself: too often people lose focus on the things that naturally help you feel better. Socializing, eating healthy, exercise and getting adequate sleep are all incredibly important factors in feeling like yourself again.
a. Don’t resort to unhealthy coping mechanisms (such as smoking, drinking and/or recreational drug use) if you had purged them from your life in the past; the associated regret with resuming said activities is likely to compound the grief you are feeling.
- reach out and help others who have experienced loss: helping others often has the added benefit of making you feel better as well. Sharing helps everyone cope.
- celebrate their lives: as impossible as it may seem at the time, honoring someone’s life in a unique way helps you focus on the positive in an otherwise hopeless situation.
As a blogger/business owner, sharing through writing may also be an appropriate way to honor someone or help you move on from loss. No matter what your niche is, you can brainstorm a tribute/value oriented piece that will help you move on but also bring recognition to someone who was important to you.
2) Money Issues
Note: Ben asked me (Jeff) to write this section, since I have first hand experience in dealing with this.
I left my safe, well paying full time job to start a business from scratch.
And when I say from scratch, I mean it. We were pulling in zero profit. We also had zero revenue…
I thought I was being smart by saving up a year’s worth of expenses before I took the leap into entrepreneurship. What I didn’t anticipate was the sheer stress that comes with seeing your bank account dwindle away with each passing month.
Even though I knew we wouldn’t be making money right away, watching my safety net quickly fray really affected my ability to focus on my work.
Besides the tangible effects running out of money (eating Ramen daily, never going out with friends, etc), the stress was destroying me mentally.
I remember one day I needed to put air in one of my car tires that was running low, and I had an internal meltdown over spending the $1 for air at the gas station. I will never forget that day or that feeling.
I’m not even kidding when I say this- it got to the point where every single dollar I spent actually made me question my own self worth. And I mean it. Every single dollar.
I was actually beginning to feel worthless, in a very literal sense.
About 8 months into my 12 months of saved up cash, I knew I was in trouble. I knew I wasn’t going to make it financially.
So that’s when I did the really practical and unglamorous thing that you don’t hear many entrepreneurs talk about: I went back and got a job.
It didn’t mean I was giving up on our business. Quite the opposite, actually.
Since the new job I got paid less than half of what I was making at my previous job, I felt like I had a chip on my shoulder. I felt like I needed to prove to everyone that I was going to make it. I didn’t want people to think I had failed.
It motivated me to work as hard as I possibly could when I wasn’t at the “day job”.
And it’s funny how things ended up working out- once I had my bills covered from my new job, I was in a much better place mentally. I could finally focus on building and growing the business- and not stress over everyday expenses. And that’s when Ben and I started making huge progress with our business.
My advice to entrepreneurs facing money issues is this: Do whatever is practical in order for you to make it. Be willing to swallow your pride and take a job you may be overqualified for. Be willing to do anything you can to make it work.
**handing the mic back over to Ben now**
3) Substance Abuse
While death, money problems, and relationship issues may all cause temporary turmoil, substance abuse can cause years of grief that may result in you being jobless altogether.
Substance abuse issues are directly linked several poor health outcomes including depression, memory loss, and inability to concentrate.
You know, all things you need in order function on the job.
As someone who also works on the front lines of the healthcare industry (in EMS and as a RN) I see firsthand the devastating stories of people struggling with addiction. And its not just the patients…employees too struggle with substance abuse- and it’s spilling over into their work-life now more than ever.
It’s terribly sad and it ruins lives.
Since I have never personally dealt with addiction it is hard for me to speak from a position of empathy.
But as a healthcare provider it is my job to get people in contact with those that can help. If you’re struggling in this area but you don’t feel like you’re ready to speak to someone on the subject yet then I’d recommend checking out this article:
A Guide to Overcoming Addiction and Staying Sober by Helpguide.org
It’s a Harvard Med Collaborative on Drug addiction but its a good primer for dealing with any sort of substance abuse problem.
4) Relationship Issues
As you may have guessed by now the premise for this blog post is, of course, a breakup.
Part of me starting to get over a recent relationship was me needing to address it head on. Talking to Jeff helped but I had to do more. To know that this story didn’t just end with me wallowing in self pity. I acknowledged the negative impact the situation was having on my productivity and I wanted to do something about it.
I figured out that I needed to choose my own silver lining and make it happen. No waiting around to see if something good came of it- I was going to make good happen.
Part of my fear with ever starting this post was simply offending the other person involved in the story.
I know she may read this one day and that’s okay.
My silver lining is that this particular person was always supportive of Jeff and I in pursuing our business ventures. My silver lining is that this person would smile knowing they inspired a piece of writing even though things never worked out and we went our separate ways.
Regardless of whether or not my silver lining makes sense to her, I’m owning it. My silver lining is just that. It’s mine. It my vision of some semblance of good that I can take from the situation and run with. That I could possibly inspire others who are suffering with similar (or worse) problems.
If you’re struggling with an issue and it is spilling over into your professional life then I suggest taking a similar approach. When things aren’t going your way then try and find a way to provide for others.
Volunteer at a clinic. Work in a soup kitchen. Mow an elderly neighbors yard. Write a blog post of substance. Serve someone else.
There is no better feeling in the world than helping someone who is worse off than you. You will feel better.
Something I really took away from this experience is that as a guy, I tend to let things get bottled up inside (I’m sure girls have never done this).
Guys aren’t supposed to be vulnerable. Guys don’t show emotion. And so we let things eat at us…and for far too long.
I made that mistake before and it took nearly two years before I was ready to see someone else. I promised myself I’d never make that mistake again (and I haven’t).
If you’re struggling to deal with personal problems and it’s beginning to affect your work-life balance then devote all of your focus to nipping it in the butt. No more hiding from your problems.
Address them head on.
As hard as it may seem at the time, it truly is the first step in moving on.
When you work from home, or own your own small business, you often don’t have the luxury of simply taking off additional time that you hadn’t planned for. Taking a reduced paycheck isn’t an option when you have to take care of yourself or others.
Don’t avoid things and try to be optimistic. It may not feel like it right now but there is always a way to put a positive twist on even the worst of situations.
Set goals and demolish them. Write to inspire. Provide value for others. You’ll be back to normal soon.
If you’d like to share something that has helped you move on from personal problems in the past (and get you or your business back on track) then please do share in the comments below.
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