Three Unexpected Business Lessons I Learned While Making The Most of Summer

Posted on: September 1st, 2016 by Amy Laski


It’s hard to believe that it’s September and nearly the end of summer.

Leading up to this summer was an especially busy time for Felicity. We organized  our second annual [Wo]Man Cave brand experience lounge featuring nearly 25 brands and attracting more than 75 media and creators, hosted our 4th annual team urban retreat, and launched  our new Content Collective signature offering, at the cornerstone of our new website.

Fellow entrepreneurs will be able to identify with the fact that there is always something you can be working on when you have your own business; there is never really the sense and satisfaction of total completion. Adjusting to this constant improvement to-do list is not easy, especially for a recovering perfectionist like me.

But this summer, for the first time, I feel as though I turned the corner in terms of having built, and then re-built the foundation of Felicity with our new Content Collective. Now, our amazing team of seasoned pros is in place as well as our core processes, and we operate for the most part like a well-oiled machine. So, I made the decision this summer not to take my foot off the gas pedal entirely, but rather to be more conscious of how hard I was pressing and in which direction I was driving.  And also, I carved out a small amount of a third category of time-spending: adding “me time” to the mix, in between “work” and “family.”

Summer brought with it a host of fun experiences, offering opportunities to step out of my usual element, to add greater clarity and focus to aspects of my work and life. As we prepare to welcome fall, I thought I’d share a few of these learnings with you:

Make music while multi-tasking: A highlight of our summer is our annual visit to a family resort in Muskoka. And, a highlight of that trip is always an evening with Jamie Williams. This performer is nothing short of incredible. With 10 acoustic guitars, a banjo, two mandolins, an electric violin, piano/keyboard, saxophone, full percussion setup, and harmonicas on stage with him, he’s the epitome of the one-man band. While performing a set of much-loved songs, Jamie will play any number of instruments at the same time, creating the sound of a five-piece band. As I sat back and enjoyed Jamie’s concert this summer, it struck me that like him, I often try to play all the “instruments” or juggle many things at once—with the hope that I too will create beautiful music, or at least complete all the tasks without missing a beat. I’ve read the stats on multi-tasking that indicate it’s almost always better to focus on one task at a time, but despite what the experts say, I think it is possible to learn from Jamie’s multi-tasking mastery. It’s obvious from the quality of his performances that Jamie doesn’t perform on a whim. He quite obviously practices a lot. He never tries to play all of his instruments at once. And, he uses pre-recorded background tracks to accompany what he’s playing. It’s evident he’s got a good solid plan in place about which instruments he’ll play for which songs.  What I took away from Jamie, is that while it may not be optimal for me to rely on multitasking all the time, it can, at times, be done right. To make your own “music out of multitasking,” consider setting up your own “background track” by automating “set it and forget it” type tasks like paying bills and  scheduling meetings. This helps you reserve your focus for tasks that must be done in the moment. Select carefully which tasks can be done together, and practice combining tasks until you get it right. Just like all songs do not lend themselves well to a five piece band, not all tasks lend themselves well to multitasking, so know when it’s time to focus on just one thing.

Conserve your battery: While at the same resort, I was fortunate to be able to detach, almost completely, from work and home responsibilities. I left my phone in the cabin and only checked it once or twice a day. I was surprised every time I looked at the phone at the end of the day to see that my battery-life was still at 90 percent. Now I recognize I was on vacation and that regular life and work have a tendency to drain my phone (and personal) battery a great deal. But, there is something to be said for not “checking in” as often as I find myself doing in day-to-day life. While I’d normally follow or engage in conversations via email as they unfold, I was pleasantly surprised that many of the conversations came to a natural resolution by the time I’d checked my phone. I found myself deleting whole email chains, considering them resolved, without really having to do anything. And, as you can imagine, I slept much better at the end of the day, having given myself proper time to recharge my own batteries, and conserving energy for where it could have the most impact.

Take a phased approach: During one of my allotted “me time” outings, I visited the Wildly Delicious Fine Foods store in Toronto’s Distillery District on the day it opened. Let me back up to provide some context here: Wildly Delicious is where my passion for PR was first ignited, while working as a summer intern during business school. I worked closely with president Michelle Muscat and her business partner Austin as they sought to grow this fledgling business. Fast forward to this summer, when Michelle and her team opened their first permanent retail store, featuring a stunning cafe, cooking studio, custom-made harvest table, and more. On the pivotal day I visited, Michelle said that she was taking, in her mind,  a “phased approach” to opening the store, starting with the retail portion, followed by the cafe, and eventually inviting special culinary guests to whet shoppers’ appetites. It had been a monumental undertaking for her and her team, considering, until then, they were primarily a wholesale business. This new retail store meant they were entering an entirely new line of business. Her “phased approach” really resonated with me. As an entrepreneur, I often have to remind myself to be patient, that it takes time to build a business, and that working 24/7 can actually diminish returns instead of driving them. Breaking big initiatives up into phases, even informally, can provide a sense of completion, even if a project is not done in its entirety.

I will leave you with one final thought before I go, a quote by Henry David Thoreau: “One must maintain a little bit of summer, even in the middle of winter.” As the weather cools and the days become shorter, I hope you will join me in being selective about multi-tasking, conserving your energy, and breaking up big projects into smaller phases.
Did you learn anything interesting this summer? We’d love to hear about it.