8 years ago I found myself with a newborn baby, a toddler, a startup and all the overwhelm that comes from this.  My biggest stress was that whatever I was doing I always felt I should be doing something else.  When I was with my baby I was struggling to be truly present because I was worried about not being available to my clients.   My business was only 2 years old so my clients were used to me being available at the drop of a hat.

I was also tired.  Nothing to be ashamed of here.  Show me any mother, business or not, who doesn’t wake up in the morning feeling like they need another year’s worth of sleep.  It just wasn’t overly satisfying feeling tired and panicked all the time even though I loved all of the elements of my life.  Ultimately my day was at the mercy of others and I wasn’t in control.

So I implemented a very simple ritual into my life that gave me back my control.  It is super easy and takes only 10 seconds!   So easy that I have done this 6 days a week every week for the last 8 years!  True story.

WHAT IS IT? I hear you cry!

I change my phone voice message every morning (except for Sundays).  In my voice message I state my name and business (pretty standard) and then the day and date, and then I set the expectation for my caller.  This is how it goes…

‘Hi, thank you for calling Sue-Ellen Watts from wattsnext and Scrappi.  It is Thursday the 22nd November.  I’m sorry I’ve missed your call at this time.  I will be in meetings for the majority of the day so if your matter is urgent please send me an email/call headoffice/text or note that I will not be able to return your call until tomorrow.  Thanks for your call and have a GREAT day!’

I tell the caller where else they may be able to contact me or when I will get back to them.  If I am available that day I simply ask them to leave a message and let them know I will be back in touch today.  On a Saturday I say it is the weekend of whatever dates so I can have a day off on Sunday!

It really is that simple.  So why was it so effective at that time of my life and continues to be today?

  1. I am no longer worried about what people need from me when I am not available to them. I have clearly set the expectations so I won’t let anyone down.  I must say that these days I get a lot less calls from clients or anyone who needs a response from me urgently but it still makes me feel calm that I have set the expectations.
  2. It sets the tone for my day. The first thing I have to do in the morning is put on a happy and fresh voice!  Nothing worse than a tired and grumpy voice message.  By doing this it gets me into an upbeat mood which is a great way to start the day.
  3. It creates a habit of discipline. I would be horrified to think that someone called me and received yesterday’s message!  (It has only happened twice in 8 years which is pretty good) so I have to be disciplined to change it every morning. This has helped me create other disciplines in my life.
  4. It has created a great opportunity for my friends to make fun when they call and leave a message that they just needed to know what day it is!!! Ha ha!

I have so many people comment on this small ritual I perform everyday.  It most definitely presents a professional and in control perception, which ultimately is not just a perception, it is reality because it actually did help me get back in control of my life!

It really is the little things that can make all the difference. A 10 second task every day is certainly little but it has had a BIG impact on my life!  Why not give it a go?

Author: Sel Watts
Sel, the Founder of wattsnext Group, is a visionary and inspiring business leader. With a deep passion for small to medium business (SMB), Sel brings gutsy honesty and commercial realism to the table. A true entrepreneur, Sel is committed to disrupting the way business owners utilise HR and increase performance and engagement. She is also curious about technology and the future of work, using her business as an experimental lab of forward-thinking methodologies to help her clients achieve peak performance. Sel is also the Co-Founder of multiple businesses and spends time coaching other business owners, keeping it real with her vast tactical experience of growing businesses. She also has a pretty interesting life story which you can check out at her personal website sue-ellenwatts.com.