Ep. 198 Why you need structure


In this week’s episode, Anna looks at why you need structure in your business.

The main drive to escape the 9 to 5 is to create more freedom and flexibility. And yet as appealing as that is, you can’t go straight to freedom! You need structure in place in your business and in your schedule in order to get that freedom that you crave.

*Resources mentioned during the episode*

The Outsiders Business Incubator – A year-long business incubator for experienced corporate professionals who want to translate their skills and passions into a profitable and fulfilling business. onestepoutside.com/9to5

You need structure

Welcome back to a super sexy topic today, which is all-around structure. Now, the controversial nature of this topic is that, in my experience, at least we all rebel against structure as we escaped the nine to five. That’s the whole point, right? We’re rebelling against reacting to decades of an educational system that had us in school Monday to Friday, certain hours following the timetable of our teachers, and our parents not to mention and then University similar story. And then work has been the same. We’re rebelling against that we’re trying to dismantle that. And in fact, I’ve been talking about questioning and challenging that whole assumption of the nine to five, right? So structure or don’t want it. And when I first quit my job, which was many years ago, now 2013 2014, I didn’t want to set an alarm, which I still don’t, but I have young kids who wake me up. And I didn’t like. And I certainly didn’t take the time to set clear priorities and plan out my week and get super specific about these are my financial targets. And these are my goals. And these are the actions I’m going to take and so on. The tendency of those of us who are rebelling then if we can call it rebelling. And this probably sounds familiar to you, is to reject any form of structure, and to want to go with the flow. And in particular, I have creative clients creatives. And perhaps to some extent, we’re all creative, who say, Oh, no, this looks awful when I give them kind of a structure to follow, and I just want to go with my energy. And I want to go with the flow. And Oh, that feels really limiting. And so and I totally get it, and I’ve been there, I still resist, right?

However, today’s episode is on why you need that super sexy structure, in order to have the very freedom that you crave.

So let’s look at a few different scenarios. The first one is if you’re still in your corporate job, let’s say, then you have very limited time. And let’s face it, all of us have very limited time. But if you’re working, let’s say Monday through Friday, nine to five, probably longer hours. On top of that you have your exercise, your hobbies, your family, whatever that looks like and so on. And now you’re trying to build a business that ultimately is intended to replace that whole job, then, you know, where are you going to find that time? If you block some time in your calendar? If you say, yeah, yeah, and I have clients saying, you know, well, Fridays, I work from home, so I can do this, or evenings or commutes or lunch, fine. But what happens when you sit down even if you’ve locked in your calendar, you go work on business on Friday, okay, sit down, ah, what do I do. And then one day, you might play around with, you know, I’ll do a website and I’ll start writing this and I’ll create, you know, create an Instagram profile or start mapping out this or that. And then the next week, you forget about that you go in a different direction. And at the beginning, there is a real energy and, and also, I guess, impact to be had from exploring and trying different things, and following your curiosity and so on. However, there comes a point, if you want results, where you really have to follow a certain strategy, you have to be clear, this is what I’m trying to do, these are the steps I need to take. And it’s never going to be quite that clear cut that we know exactly these five inputs will lead to those three outputs, right. But we do have a general understanding. And if we work with mentors, coaches, and experts who can tell us generally what we need to do to achieve something or if we work it out ourselves, then there are certain things we need to do consistently in order to get a particular result.

So while we’re still our job, if we want to make time and space to develop a business idea, first of all, design that business model and then start implementing it, building our audience building and building out our service offering, beginning to have those calls and creating client pipeline, building credibility, all those things, we better make sure that we have that structure. Now it needs to be quite ambitious, because depending on the timeline, we want to actually move forwards relatively efficiently. I usually talk about a year being realistic when you’re in a job from sort of when you start to when you’re ready to potentially quit, if that’s what you want to do. So having that timeline, having the sense of urgency, you need to be quite ambitious, but you need to also be realistic. And that’s again, where we have the full year because people have been in my business incubator in the past. And in fact, it started out being a six month program which I found on realistic people always keen to do it faster. I will do in three minutes. I’ll do it in less. But actually life happens and inevitably calls get postponed and we don’t make as much progress and each week it’s or some weeks at least, it’s Oh, I didn’t do as much as I’d wanted to and that’s fine that’s built into my business incubator for example. But we need that balance of ambition with realism and pragmatism recognizing that sometimes we will be ill sometimes kids will be ill sometimes we want to go on holiday sometimes work will get super busy.

And in the short term, when work is still paying the bills that is still the priority, right?

So that’s the first scenario when clearly you need structure, you need clear time blocks, clear priorities, clear action steps to take when you’re still in your job and you’re trying to design and build a business, then let’s assume we’ve quit, suddenly, and maybe you quit without much of a plan as I did you quit with a plan. But suddenly, there’s too much freedom. And I know that sounds really odd. You may not resonate with this at all. And you’ll you’ll find out you’ll see, when you have too much freedom, everything is open. If you don’t have a structure, if you haven’t already got the business model in place your strategies planning out your week as to how you want to be spending your time. And let me be clear, when you first quit, you should be taking proper time off, right. And that’s one thing that’s intentional holiday, that’s one thing, but then when you’re supposed to be making progress on your business, if you just as I did allow yourself to kind of Oh, I feel like doing this, I might write a blog post on that, and so on. Just bear in mind that you’re going to have to accept a much slower pace. Because you’re not going to get to where you want to be even if you even know where you want to get to right because you haven’t done that due diligence. So when we first quit, let’s say we’ve got no business yet, we’ve certainly got no clients, very few clients, we’ve got the day just stretching out ahead of us so dangerous, that we started getting worried, oh, my goodness, we don’t have money coming in. What am I supposed to be doing, we throw money at the problem by you know, doing some course or we go back to the job boards and websites and apply willy nilly to some random jobs because you feel like we needed an employment again, and so on, right. So too much freedom, when you’ve quit, is also really dangerous, it will lead you to either not make progress in your business, or perhaps even seek your way back to to a full time job. And then finally, let’s assume you’ve got past those stages and you’re running your business longer term. As you know, I’ve been a business for many years now, I need to stay focused on the right things ongoing. I have done many times I have many times dropped the ball. And that’s usable energy to on several things, right, forgetting the very things that were working before, in the sort of shiny object syndrome or getting excited about a new strategy. Forget, hang on a second. And in fact, this happened, I’ll be totally transparent with my business incubator because it was my most lucrative, most proven long standing program. And I kind of round it down for my maternity. And then I didn’t really bring it back, I was kind of channeling people into my one on one and I felt you know, why don’t have a group. So I can’t really sell the group, which is all manner of wrong in so many ways. And that’s why I’ve been bringing that back.

Now, because it’s my best program. It’s amazing content I’ve updated it made it more robust, more structure, accountability, based on everything I’ve learned over the last few years.

And that’s going to be my focus, right. So you can forget that you need to be talking to prospects sometimes, because you’re so busy with your clients that you don’t think of I don’t need any other work, I’ve got all these clients, and then suddenly your contracts will finish your programs finish. And you’ve got no clients because you haven’t been doing business development. And this is all work priorities. We also have to think about exercise. And I mentioned, I hope, often enough that I put exercise in the diary first thing in the morning, right? I have to make that priority. By the end of the day, I’m too tired, I’m not going to do it. Unless it’s like a tennis or yoga that’s booked in where I’ve paid for it and I have to go and even then it’s really difficult. So to make your lifestyle business work in the long term, you need an element of flexible structure. And that’s it right loose structure, flexible structure, we can absolutely be agile and responsive and adaptive. And we should be adaptable. But we need a bit of a framework for I mean, me, again, you’ve probably heard me say this before, I’ve got three days a week when the kids are at nursery. So that’s already an element of structure. I’ve got the nursery drop off and pick up on certain days that I fit in my exercise, then I usually have webinars, you know, at one o’clock on Mondays, Wednesdays, I tried to keep those day free. So I can work on my book. But sometimes I have tomorrow I happened to have a client call because she’s a new client and because of holidays and so on, that was the best date we could find. And that’s okay, it’s one call, it’s a one off. And that’s an exception I’m willing to make. But having that loose structure really helps. So whether you’re still in your job trying to escape, or you’re just quitting, and you know the whole day, week, month, year or stretching it ahead of you all, you’re in business, longer term, structure is so so important. It’s not sexy, but it is, in my experience, what actually gives you the freedom that you want. If you go for freedom directly. I really think that you’re going to drop the ball. Again, I’m using that metaphor on really important things, whether it’s your exercise, actually or family things, or your hobbies and whatever or specific things within the business as well. And I think in particular, are those two extremes of when you’re still in your job and you’ve got a full calendar, but also the other extreme when you first quit and you’ve got nothing in your calendar. Both of those scenarios, really importantly, need that structure and what is structure?

Well, I took about the ideal week where we look at the whole week and look at our priorities.

I’ve got a list of you know, 10 things and five categories that need To be on your calendar every week for your business, I’ve got the five L’s, which balance you know your own health and well being with your relationships and so on, there are different tools we can use to plan out to block. I’m sure you’ve heard of time blocking to block your week, right? I’m getting super clear on those priorities, planning those out in a week, and setting clear start and finish times. Now, obviously, if I’m then knackered in the afternoon, or if I’ve made a lot of progress, and I want a break, you know, I might choose to finish earlier or if something unexpected happens, I’ll that’s the whole point, right. So if I make a different decision, if I have some spare time, suddenly, or vice versa, the kids are not around or whatever, your family is busy and you feel really inspired to work in your business, you can absolutely do that. If you have a bit of time, or energy or inclination. So it’s a flexible, loose structure. You may want to ignore everything I’ve said and learn this the hard way. But if you do want to, and if you resonate with what I’m saying and can see what I’m talking about, then I’d really encourage you to sort of let go of that rebellion against any kind of structure and be open to putting in place at least the guardrails we call them, you know, or when you’re playing when you’re bowling, evidently I don’t ball very much, but you the kids get those kind of side rails that block the gutter, is that what it’s called, which I’d quite like to use to I don’t think I’d do very well otherwise, my ball would end up in the sides every time. But that keeps you where then you still have the freedom to throw the ball, roll the ball, whatever it’s called, wherever you want to ball, the ball, maybe. But you’ve got those kinds of guardrails guides to keep you within the right space, so you don’t go completely off piste and go crashing off into the gutter. So, again, I hope that resonates I hope you can see the importance of the structure. And then of course, we can get into more detail as to what that structure looks like. But have a think about how you can start blocking your time getting super clear on your priorities. And of course, if you’re stuck with that, then I’m here to help. But thanks so much, and I’ll see you next week. Bye for now


Let us help you design a business and a life that gives you freedom from the 9 to 5. There are several options for how you can work with us. Choose the programme that’s right for you.

The Outsiders Business Incubator

A year-long business incubator for experienced corporate professionals who want to translate their skills and passions into a profitable and fulfilling business. onestepoutside.com/9to5

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An ongoing mastermind for service-based business owners, freelancers and online entrepreneurs who are ready to achieve success on their own terms. onestepoutside.com/accelerate

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A self-paced course for you to work through in your own time, to learn – and implement – the foundations of building a profitable business that lets you escape the 9 to 5. onestepoutside.com/course

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If you’re looking for one-to-one support to help you achieve your specific life and business goals, Anna has a limited number of spots for individual coaching and mentoring. onestepoutside.com/coaching

The Outsiders Business Incubator

A mentoring programme focused on implementation support and accountability to help you grow your expert business faster – without sacrificing your personal life to do so.


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