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Taking Time to Breathe

Updated: May 4, 2023

It occurred to me this morning that I haven't written a blog post for a while. I went through my calendar since the last one, written on 17th March to see if I could establish the reason for this. So in the last 30 weekdays [28 excluding bank holidays or 20 if counting only term-time], to date I have been involved in:

  • 14 mentoring and coaching sessions

  • 9 sessions of direct casework

  • 17 training sessions I've undertaken

  • 3 training sessions I've delivered [the spring break meant no work in schools]

  • 5 hours writing new training

  • 12 networking events

  • 10 volunteering commitments

  • 3 online consultation meetings

  • 1 national keynote speech

  • 3 professionals meetings

  • 4 full days working on a creative project for schools

  • 1 newsletter [completed 3 days before the deadline - yay!!]

  • 2 hours of admin to submit a pitch for a potential collaboration

  • 40 minutes of individual thought-showering to plan a forthcoming fundraising event

  • 2 medical appointments

  • 2 coffee mornings [1 social and the other work-related]

Unfortunately I couldn't attend a conference in Manchester I had booked due to a severe migraine and I'm not even going to start on the number of emails and social media posts there have been!!

So, as I was about to begin writing this blog I had a conversation via WhatsApp messages with my lovely friend Amanda who was originally a neighbour of mine, but we kept in touch and I'm so lucky to have her in my life. I was sharing with her some of the events this week and, at the risk of seeming very strange, I'm going to share some of that exchange of messages with you:

Amanda: Wow. That is action packed ❤you deserve a rest 👍💗

Me: I think I do too!! 😴🥵🥱 xxx

Amanda: What does your boss say🤗❤🤣

Now before I proceed, I must make it very clear that I'm self-employed ... 😲🤔

Me: She's being okay at the moment, but she said I have to work on bank holiday Monday as a consequence of saying "yes" to too many things all at once. She can be a bit "off" sometimes, but I can see where she's coming from. However, I said "no" to another request this morning regarding a case that's already pro-bono; so I think I'm starting to learn from her burgeoning insight [just don't let her know I said that!!] 🤫 xxx

Amanda: Your secret is safe with me 😉and you have made me smile today as can almost see yourself having the conversation 🤗💗

I hope you're still with me so far ...

Me: It's funny but I was about to write a blog post about this very thing. I seem to have an alter ego who I'll call "Aluna" as a lot of work-related people initially think that's my name anyway. I've probably told you that I had a business before that I loved but I made no profit from it at all as I constantly gave away my [children's drama] classes for free. So 90% of the time I'm very much me: "Oh of course I can do that, no problem at all." But recently I've been trying to reign that in a little. A professional asked me to dedicate some time to something that's valid, but not what I've "contracted" to do with the parent [of a child I'm supporting], I genuinely told him about the stuff I'm working on and so don't have the availability to do it. I said if he wanted to commission some funding I'd be happy to help and would fit it into my future commitments. He understood and I felt quite pleased that I've accomplished this without any guilt and that's where "Aluna" comes in.

If you're confused, you might need to back up a little bit!! Anyway, for those of you still with me, I'll continue ...

Me: I'm going to track my journey as an "entrepreneur" setting out to "make a difference" in a slightly wider field - but not in a 'Devil Wears Prada' kind of way!! One of my inspiring statements at the moment is: "The goal is not to live forever. The goal is to create something that will." So that's my motivation to avoid "professional burn-out". Please excuse all the quotation marks, they're my punctuation of choice today, and if you're worried that my thumbs might fall off when I finish this message, I have WhatsApp on my laptop, so it's just like typing an email!! I had three hours sleep last night so if I'm coming across very oddly, that's why!! Who needs alcohol when you can have a sleep deprivation/migraine hangover?!? I love you even more than before for getting to the end of this message, well done!! ❤🤣💚 xxx

Amanda knows me very well, but there's still a possibility that she's blocking me via every possible channel!! However, there's a significant amount of truth in this process towards achieving my goal. I'm sure those of you who are also sole traders appreciate how driven we have to be to keep our businesses growing, but at the same time don't often have that critical friend or colleague who says: "That's enough now." Or perhaps we do, but don't take very much notice of them.

I have a business mentor and a business coach who have very differing mindsets, but from whom I get very valuable support in quite unique ways. One has no experience of the education sector or the concept of affecting behavioural change and views the world of business with no room for any middle ground. It's one or the other - and I really need this approach sometimes. The other appreciates the nuances of education and measures success in terms of financial remuneration. I struggle a little with this; but I'm gradually making progress ... 🐢 Honestly, this relationship resonates a little with my experiences of being an employee, which is occasionally triggering and sends shivers down my spine. By the way, both will read this blog and nothing I've written here will be news to them!!

In addition to the whole purpose of my business that I'm totally devoted to, I have some work that means a lot to me. Neither brings in money, but both are very dear to my heart. I volunteer with the fantastic charity The Children's Society for whom I'm a guest Speaker and

Community Ambassador. They are really proactive with issues such as school exclusions and I'm currently producing some resources for their school packs on Exploitation and Transition Support. I'm enjoying being creative again and I've given myself an achievable deadline to complete this work.

One of my other passions is the Ghana School Scholarship Fund and if you don't know about Nurudeen's story, you can read it here: I'd really like to be able to sustain his education and to set up a similar scholarship for a girl from Larabanga. I'm planning a fundraising event of which I have very little experience, so if you can help in any way please shout loudly. There might be scope for a hybrid event for those who are further afield and a male friend of mine who isn't sure how comfortably he'll fit in with the theme of Women and Children!! So far it will include:

  • Women's fashion - courtesy of Cabi

  • Links with organisations that support female empowerment - such as Smart Works

  • Lovely ethically produced skin and beauty products - thanks to my business-buddy Helen and the Tropics range

  • Hopefully another business-buddy Shovon will bring along her Inspire-A-Dolls

  • I made a shameless plug at an event by Unfold and Rise - I hope Rebbecca Hemmings, Su Lee and some of the other lovely ladies I met yesterday will be involved*

  • I'm sure my wonderful champions in the Women's Business Network will lend their support

  • Hopefully Nora will be her usual amazing self representing Brewers Education

  • Perhaps some awesome hosting by Cheryl from Talk Listen Create Ltd*

  • A raffle or auction of desirable donations*

  • A beautiful free venue*

  • A minimal entry fee in exchange for the offer to promote the business interests of the guests in attendance

  • The sale of children's books by published authors for a negotiable share of their profits from the event [maybe Arlene, Pamela, James and others could be tempted]*

  • I hope all of my contacts will bring all of their own contacts for a fabulous and worthy experience

  • And anything else that the supports the ethos of the event*

NB: Those marked * are currently at the cerebral stage only!!

Clearly, there's a lot going on at the moment but I'm still prioritising my business wherever necessary, widening my reach, setting new challenges and learning from everyone I meet - but mostly children, as has always been the case. I'm working towards the conversion to a CIC and looking forward to continued work with my current schools and Birmingham City University. There's interest in my Anti-Racism Practice in Education Training; I've had another request today from Wales and I'm delivering another keynote speech for the Westminster Education Forum. I'd like to develop Diverse Enterprise Hub and, hopefully, the Women and Children fundraising event will be a good springboard for that. I'll also be delivering some behaviour training for an international boarding schools organisation. In the long-term I'm really open to all possibilities that are congruent with the work that I'm doing and in the short-term my targets include:

  • Much more networking; I find the experience both enjoyable and enlightening

  • Stop chasing schools, but keep my radar up for collaboration opportunities

  • Balance my paid and unpaid work; my lovely business-buddy Wendy has recently reminded me of the necessity for additional income streams

  • Not failing to recognise my worth or to risk others exploiting it

  • Draft a new three-month, six-month, twelve-month plan

  • Continue to build my social media profile

  • Further explore the potential of my business and personal brand

  • Embrace the sheer joy I'm getting from doing the work I love - I'm not sure I've ever been so contented professionally

  • Celebrate the empowerment of women; those I know and those I have yet to meet

  • Give thanks for the inspiring and supportive people around me who motivate me every day in my endeavours to give children the lives they deserve -too many to list

  • Arrange a trip to Ghana

  • Allow Aluna to take the lead sometimes - she's not such a bad boss you know ... !!

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