Entrepreneurship brings about a unique stress to those who embark on this path less taken. In turn, we seek actively and engaging methods of stress relief and relaxation: meditate, exercise, do yoga, take active breaks, recharge in nature, etc. While these strategies certainly have benefits, they add to-do items to the seemingly endless lists that women already find too overwhelming. We are constantly prioritizing, multi-tasking, juggling, and problem solving every day and adding to our list may increase guilt or a sense of being under accomplished -- even if the goal is to help promote balance and well-being.
Often strategies to help us de-stress require attention-shifts, leaving work, making appointments, and carving out time during the day for additional tasks. In a nutshell, they make us feel like we need to do MORE. At The TouchPoint Solution, we incorporate many strategies to promote calm balance, and we also recognize the need for solutions that don’t take time away from the tasks at hand. Promoting stress-relief in real time without taking away from our work productivity is paramount as we are constantly shifting priorities and keeping pace with the ever present demands of being a tech start up. As a co-founder, I employ these methods myself and also encourage our employees to use these methods. After all, what good is it to be a neuropsychologist who has created a stress-relieving device and then not use it? I prefer to practice what I preach outside of the clinic and boardroom.
Here are two tips that can help boost productivity and de-stress women entrepreneurs that we find incredibly valuable in our organization.
1. Push-Pull Information Management
Before I co-founded TouchPoint, I had no real presence on social media. The necessity in my start-up created the need for me to dive in and I quickly found myself bombarded with notifications and distractions that almost immediately had me feeling busier, but with a drop in productivity. The seduction of scrolling through posts mindlessly quickly turned into a major distraction during my day. I quickly learned that managing this kind of information was key in balancing what I really needed to attend to online vs. the lure of extraneous information.
Social media notifications and news alerts from twitter, text, Facebook, etc. are examples of push information. Most of it is unnecessary and costly to you regarding attention shifts and distractions. Unless it’s an emergency, you don’t need to orient your attention to each distraction. This constant shifting alone can raise stress levels because you can maintain the feeling of being extremely busy, but in reality, your productivity is lower because of the constant distractions. Some push notifications such as news stories about global terrorism invoke negative feelings as well, which you then need to contain and compartmentalize during your workday. In contrast, when you “pull” information, you are actively deciding what is important and needs to be considered at the moment. This is deliberate and focused. Most of us have a push/pull ratio that is too push heavy, which results in wasted time and an increase in stress.
2. Use Bi-lateral Alternating Stimulation Tactile (BLAST) Technology
The TouchPoint Solution's first product, Buzzies, is based on a successful component of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) treatment that I isolated and determined could be used to reduce stress by 74 percent in just 30 seconds. The stress of co-founding a start-up became a source of irony because I had created a product to reduce anxiety and stress, so I quickly increased my daily use Buzzies to help me manage the stress of the increasing demands that I was working hard to juggle. To de-stress and keep me in an optimal performance zone, I use this technology when I'm having a stressful conversation, doing media interviews, speaking publicly, and if I have trouble going to sleep because my mind isn’t calm. Our CEO, Vicki Mayo, uses our technology every morning when she is preparing for her day. Both of us help ourselves out by using these on our children to help them go to sleep and ease fears.
Being able to calm down without interrupting what we are doing and in a way that is not detectable by others (Buzzies are 20 percent less noisy than an iPhone buzz) is important for us to be able to reap the benefits of what we’ve created in real time and real world situations.
Yes, I still exercise, take deep breaths, and engage in multiple strategies for overall lifestyle balance and health. However, I find that managing the push/pull ratio and using applied neuroscience in Buzzies during the day are two underused strategies that can help women entrepreneurs improve productivity and increase their chances of success.
"Steal the mesh underwear you get from the hospital," a friend said upon learning I was pregnant with my first daughter.
It was the single best piece of advice I received before giving birth in December 2013. My best friend delivered her daughter eight months previously, and she was the first to pass along this shared code among new moms: you'll need mesh underwear for your at-home postpartum recovery, and you can't find them anywhere for purchase. End result: steal them. And tell your friends.
My delivery and subsequent recovery were not easy. To my unexpected surprise, after almost 24 hours of labor, I had an emergency C-section. Thankfully, my daughter was healthy; however, my recovery was quite a journey. The shock to my system caused my bloated and swollen body to need weeks of recovery time. Luckily, I had trusted my friend and followed her instructions: I had stolen some mesh underwear from the hospital to bring home with me.
Unfortunately, I needed those disposable underwear for much longer than I anticipated and quickly ran out. As I still wasn't quite mobile, my mother went to the store to find more underwear for me. Unfortunately, she couldn't find them anywhere and ended up buying me oversized granny panties. Sure, they were big enough, but I had to cut the waistband for comfort.
I eventually recovered from my C-section, survived those first few sleepless months, and returned to work. At the time, I was working for a Fortune 100 company and happily contributing to the corporate world. But becoming a new mom brought with it an internal struggle and search for something “more" out of my life--a desire to have a bigger impact. A flashback to my friend's golden piece of advice got me thinking: Why aren't mesh underwear readily available for women in recovery? What if I could make the magical mesh underwear available to new moms everywhere? Did I know much about designing, selling, or marketing clothing? Not really. But I also didn't know much about motherhood when I started that journey, either, and that seemed to be working out well. And so, Brief Transitions was born.
My quest began. With my manufacturing and engineering background I naively thought, It's one product. How hard could it be? While it may not have been “hard," it definitely took a lot of work. I slowly started to do some research on the possibilities. What would it take to start a company and bring these underwear to market? How are they made and what type of manufacturer do I need? With each step forward I learned a little more--I spoke with suppliers, researched materials, and experimented with packaging. I started to really believe that I was meant to bring these underwear to other moms in need.
Then I realized that I needed to learn more about the online business and ecommerce world as well. Google was my new best friend. On my one hour commute (each way), I listened to a lot of podcasts to learn about topics I wasn't familiar with--how to setup a website, social media platforms, email marketing, etc. I worked in the evenings and inbetween business trips to plan what I called Execution Phase. In 2016, I had a website with a Shopify cart up and running. I also delivered my second daughter via C-section (and handily also supplied myself with all the mesh underwear I needed).
They say, “If you build it, they will come." But I've learned that the saying should really go more like this: “If you build it, and tell everyone about it, they might come." I had a 3-month-old, an almost 3 year old and my business was up and running. I had an occasional sale; however, my processes were extremely manual and having a day job while trying to ship product out proved to be challenging. I was manually processing and filling orders and then going to the post office on Saturday mornings to ship to customers. I eventually decided to go where the moms shop...hello, Amazon Prime! I started to research what I needed to do to list products with Amazon and the benefits of Amazon fulfillment (hint: they take care of it for you).
Fast forward to 2018...
While I started to build this side business and saw a potential for it to grow way beyond my expectations, my corporate job became more demanding with respect to travel and time away from home. I was on the road 70% of the time during first quarter 2018. My normally “go with the flow" 4-year-old started to cry every time I left for a trip and asked why I wasn't home for bedtime. That was a low point for me and even though bedtime with young kids has its own challenges, I realized I didn't want to miss out on this time in their lives. My desire for more scheduling flexibility and less corporate travel time pushed me to work the nights and weekends needed to build and scale my side hustle to a full-time business. If anyone tries to tell you it's “easy" to build “passive" income, don't believe them. Starting and building a business takes a lot of grit, hustle and hard work. After months of agonizing, changing my mind, and wondering if I should really leave my job (and a steady paycheck!), I ultimately left my corporate job in April 2018 to pursue Brief Transitions full-time.
In building Brief Transitions, I reached out to like-minded women to see if they were experiencing similar challenges to my own--balancing creating and building a business while raising children--and I realized that many women are on the quest for flexible, meaningful work. I realized that we can advance the movement of female entrepreneurs by leveraging community to inspire, empower, and connect these trailblazers. For that reason, I recently launched a new project, The Transitions Collective, a platform for connecting community-driven women entrepreneurs.
As is the case with many entrepreneurs, I find myself working on multiple projects at a time. I am now working on a members-only community for The Transitions Collective that will provide access to experts and resources for women who want to leave corporate and work in their business full-time. Connecting and supporting women in this movement makes us a force in the future of work. At the same time, I had my most profitable sales quarter to date and best of all, I am able to drop my daughter off at school in the morning.
Mesh underwear started me on a journey much bigger than I ever imagined. They sparked an idea, ignited a passion, and drove me to find fulfillment in a different type of work. That stolen underwear was just the beginning.