A year of pandemic life has taken its toll on all of us. At February’s Pandemic Office Hours, our virtual room full of self-employed professionals described feeling stressed, or even immobilized, about marketing their businesses. Since then, I’ve been noticing reports everywhere about how much this past year of stress, uncertainty, and grief has sapped our collective focus and motivation.
In Ellen Cushing’s Atlantic piece Late-Stage Pandemic Is Messing with Your Brain, she quotes a neuroscientist who declares: “We’re all walking around with some mild cognitive impairment.”
Christine Koh, in her Washington Post article Why working moms deserve a tantrum, says, “I have heard so many people — especially moms — talk about how they are hitting the most massive of walls right now.”
At the best of times, marketing your business may not be your favorite thing to do. But right now, with your mushy, overloaded pandemic brain, it may seem impossibly hard.
Meanwhile, you know that recovery is on the way. Vaccines are getting into arms; case numbers are dropping in most areas. It’s surely time to emerge from your pandemic/recession cave and ramp up your sales and marketing to take advantage of all the pent-up demand that economists assure us exists.
But how can you do that when even putting on shoes feels like a lot of effort, and you can’t remember how to invite someone for coffee? Here are five suggestions for easing yourself back into a marketing state of mind.
1. Validate how you’re feeling. Start by reading one of the articles I cited above. Or this one: 20 relatable tweets for anyone struggling with pandemic brain. Or this one: How the pandemic killed your motivation. See, it’s not just you.
Don’t waste your precious energy beating yourself up for not being a ball of fire at the moment. You’re doing great just to be thinking about marketing your business. Tell yourself that for a while before expecting yourself to do anything about it.
2. Get back in touch with why you want to be in business. You may have forgotten all about this, along with other pre-COVID memories like where you put your business cards. If you ever created a vision or mission statement, read it over. What does your website say about who you serve and how you help them?
Revisiting how the energized, forward-looking you felt about your business before you found yourself trapped in the year from hell will help you recapture your earlier zeal.
3. Find sources that energize you. Like a motorcycle that sits in the garage for a while, your marketing engine may need a kickstart. What are some books, videos, music, people, or experiences that have infused you with positive energy in the past? Design a re-energization program for yourself that includes some of these.
For example, you might decide to spend 15 minutes per day reading a book or watching a video that makes marketing seem do-able. Then schedule a phone call or a walk-and-talk (not a Zoom session — you’ve done enough of those) with a friend or colleague who always leaves you feeling a sense of possibility. Or, consider taking part in a group experience focused on vision-building, goal-setting, or reinvention to boost your enthusiasm.
4. Call on outside support. As I suggested last month, don’t try to do it alone. There are countless other self-employed professionals, freelancers, and small business owners struggling with the same set of issues as you are. Partner up with a business buddy, join an action group or mastermind group, take part in co-working sessions, or enroll in a group learning or coaching program.
5. Be kind to yourself. When you’re already stretched and have difficult tasks to accomplish, gentle coaxing can work better than stern discipline. If you’ve ever dealt with a worn-out toddler, you know what I mean.
Try tackling your marketing tasks while watching a favorite old movie, rocking out to upbeat music, or taking breaks for cookies and ice cream. Sure, you may not be working at peak efficiency, but you will be making progress.
Then reward yourself generously for every bit of headway you make. Curl up in a sunny spot with a pet and a cup of your favorite hot beverage. Take a candlelit bubble bath. Or nibble on upscale chocolate. (Hey, what’s a little more pandemic weight gain at this point?)
It may not feel like it today, but if you begin taking steps in the right direction, your brainpower will return. Your motivation will come back. You’ll be able to focus long enough to write a sales email or have a networking conversation. And building your business will seem possible again.