Slow Business Experiments: An Introduction

The world is moving faster and faster. There's constant pressure to be online, all the time, everywhere, present on all the Social Media platforms and create content and blog and podcast and put Stories on Instagram - and I'm quite sure I'm not alone with this. 

For a long time, I was fueling this pressure - both in how I run my own businesses and in what I recommended in my coaching practice.

I thought you had to post three times a day on Instagram to even get seen (which, at some point in time, was indeed true), you had to have a newsletter and a blog and some form of video content and Patreon and produce super high quality content for all of them, you had to reply to comments and emails within 2 hours because that was the research-backed cut-off point for your customers to get really angry at you.

And then I was done. I was completely, utterly, done.

I dreaded pulling up Instagram because I knew it would make me feel small and weak and I would still not be able to pry myself from the screen for the next 37 minutes.

I feared the weeks when I had to record yet another Patreon video because it meant putting on make-up, writing a script, sitting in my 38°C hot living room trying to look not sweaty, editing for a few hours, waiting for Youtube to upload it, post it, and promote the heck out of it.

I longed for the weekend. I longed for vacation. I longed for the hours I could escape into a book and try to quieten my mind that was always telling me that there was more to do for my businesses, there was more to promote, there was more to think about, there needed to be more sales, there were problems to solve and emails to answer and production plans to write and numbers to crunch and pictures to like.

I thought something was wrong with me.

I started doubting myself. I started doubting that I would ever be able to "pull this off" (what does that even mean?), to make all three businesses profitable and sustainable, to catch up with my to do list. I was in deep. In deep, deep shit.

But over the course of a few months, of pointing to this here and there on Instagram, of starting to talk about this idea of a "slow business" online I realized I wasn't alone.

So many of the wonderful business owners I've met and become friends with over the last few years were yearning, like me, for a different way. For a more sustainable way. For something that didn't kill the joy in running their own businesses, for a way that didn't run them into the ground, for a way to still make a living from their businesses without jeopardizing their mental health, relationships or happiness by being constantly online and available.

Spoiler Alert: I haven't found that way.

But. I have found something that maybe, really, maybe, eventually might become a tiny path towards it. Something that might be the light in the dark, something that might have hints for us how to change our businesses and processes and expectations of ourselves to be a bit lighter, a bit happier, a bit less stressed and worried and a bit more present and less run-down.

This something is called "slow living".

How I found this is kind of bizarre: While I was getting more and more stressed about my businesses and about everything that I felt I had to do to keep them afloat and make them successful, I was on a mission to live more slowly in my non-work life. It started with cleaning out my closet, and then our entire apartment a few years ago and evolved into being extremely mindful and intentional about how I spend my free time, whom I choose to see and when, how often we go on vacation, which stuff we allow into our home. I got good at that. Really, really good.

I felt good about the way I was living the non-work part of my life, and yet, I didn't see that maybe trying to apply some of these principles to my work could be an option to relieve some of the stress and burn out I was feeling.

You see, "slow living" for me is nothing more and less than being very, very intentional about how to spend your time, energy, resources, you name it.

For me, it also means being aware of the fact that every yes is a no, of that everything that you let into your life - be it podcasts, books, Netflix, new friends, Instagram trolls - has an impact on you and your energy and your health. And last, but very certainly not least, being aware of what that does to you, your body, your mind.

Why I didn't see for such a long time that these principles could also be applied to business I have no idea. It's also water under the bridge. What I do know now is that I'm extremely curious to try different things to bring slow living into my businesses - hence the term "Slow Business".

The basic gist is this: I want to be mindful and intentional with where I spend my time on my businesses.

I want to preserve my mental health and my joy in being my own boss, in growing these companies and helping people and seeing others evolve. I want to wake up every morning and be excited to start my day, not dreading the inevitable afternoon slump that can only be fought with two gigantic cups of coffee. I want to feel comfortable in changing things around, in being flexible in what I do and how I do it within the companies I own and run. I want to know that the time I choose to spend on my businesses is spend in the most meaningful way possible.

I don't know how to get there. I do know, however, that the secret to getting somewhere is by taking small steps.

And this is why I decided I want to embark on a small series of what I call "Slow Business Experiments".

They're tiny projects that address bits and pieces of my businesses that feel decidedly non-slow to me (IG rabbit hole, anyone?). They're things I want to do for a month, regularly see how they change the way I see myself and my business, and figure out whether they're worth keeping around for longer.

The first of these experiments is going to start at the beginning of September, and I'd love to invite you to join me. I'm going to do the experiment no matter what, but it would be amazing to not be alone on this journey.

The core platform for the experiments is going to be Instagram. I'm going to be posting on my coaching account (@hannalisahaferkamp) with updates and little blurbs about how I'm feeling and doing in the experiment with the hashtag #slowbusinessexperiment. I'm also planning to share more "real-time" thoughts and feelings in my Stories, and maybe throw in a Live video every once in a while.

I'd love to share the stories and experiences of every one who decides to give the experiments a try, too. The best way for me to do that is Instagram Stories where I'm going to be sharing your posts and IG Stories. It would be amazing if you could tag me in those and use the hashtag #slowbusinessexperiment for anything that has to do with the experiment so that I can find your posts and Stories and make sure to add them to my own Stories.

I also plan to do a few supplementary blog posts over the course of the experiment. The first one will be coming out at the end of August or beginning of September with details about the first experiment. My current thought is that I'd like to write another post in the middle of the month and then a summary recap kind-of-thing at the end, but I'm not going to put too much pressure on me to really do that. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn't, I won't sweat it.

Now, what are the experiments, you might ask?

I've decided on three experiments - one for September, one for October, and one for November. If we like the experiments and want to continue with them, I'd likely host a survey / voting kind-of-thing in December to figure out interesting and exciting things to experiment with come January, but as December is half a vacation month for me, I'm not going to do a full-fledged experiment there.

  • September: Max. 30 min on Instagram per day
  • October: Only 3 to dos per day
  • November: Thinking time: 3 x 1 hour without inputs per week

I'll share more details about the experiments and thought process as the start of every month approaches, but let me say a few words on September's experiment:

One thing - THE thing - I'm struggling most with is how much time I spend on my phone every. single. day. Most of it is spent on Instagram, falling down a rabbit hole, or trying to get small things done - like emails - while I'm standing at the stove, making lunch.

I've been tracking my phone usage over the last few months and I did NOT like what I saw. I also tracked my mood and could see a pretty direct correlation between how much time I was spending on my phone and how bad my mood was. 

I'm very sure I'm not alone in that. When I first started talking about the soul-sucking effect Instagram has on me some days (on Instagram, of all places), you responded with so much kindness and love and "yep, me too". The reality is: A lot of us small business owners rely on Instagram for generating sales. At the same time, it's soul-sucking, often. So I'm really interested in exploring how a more sustainable way of interacting with this platform could look like, and that starts - for me - with cutting down on my usage time of it.

I'll share more details about it in the blog post for the September experiment! For now, let me leave you with the link to an excellent podcast should this be the first time you hear about slow living and you'd want to know more about it: The Slow Home Podcast by Brooke McAlary is hands down the best resource on slow that's out there.