I love this wistful quote: “There are years that ask questions and years that answer.” (Zora Neale Hurston)

And perhaps I haven’t found them yet, but my experience that it isn’t necessarily years, but days, weeks, months. Sometimes it’s even hours that ask and hours that answer.

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This idea of cycles, of moving through different periods of busy-ness, is an important one when you’re self-employed. It’s an idea to embrace, rather than be fearful of. It’s an idea to make work for you.

Because we all go through cycles. The creative process is cyclical. The world is bound by seasons. So are sales and customers. We move in peaks and troughs in all aspects of our lives. We get hungry, we eat, we’re full, we wait until we’re hungry again.

Once you accept that it’s going to happen, you can start to make it work for you.

For me, right now, I feel like I’m gathering. Ideas, questions, energy – it’s all about asking, sitting with it, but waiting for the answer. This is part of my creative process. I have to allow ideas and thoughts to germinate and take seed. I have to uncover a bit more about who I am and what I want to do. And while I’m doing that, it’s hard to answer questions clearly. So I don’t. I simply ask.

I have a client who is pregnant, and we’ve been working on a business plan that’s going to allow her to take time off, but we’ve also been working on the concept that this is the year to slow down the growth. If any year’s going to be slow, if any year’s going to be steady, it’s going to be this year. It needs to be this year.

I had a conversation with another client this week, who finds that pull at the end of her creative cycle – once she’s designed, prototyped, made, photographed, launched products, it’s not long until she’s bored with them and onto the next thing. This is fairly typical for creative people, and that energy for the next thing is certainly valuable. But we’ve also talked about slowing down the end of that cycle, so that she gets to reap the rewards of all that creativity.

We can’t always control the seasonality of our businesses. Sometimes things are busier, sometimes they slow down. There are those external cycles, as well as our internal ones.

And while it can be frustrating to have inconsistent and unpredictable sales patterns, or extremely high peaks and low troughs, there is a level of acceptance, I think, that’s necessary.

(That’s not to say you can’t work to increase low-season sales, or increase your baseline – that’s possible too.)

Here’s the thing

Cycles work best when we work with them, not against them.

It’s easier when we allow ourselves to ask the questions, without immediately hunting out for the answer. It’s clearer when we allow the idea to become fully developed.

Balance is an ideal so many of us aspire to, and I certainly look for it on a day to day basis. But it’s found in cycles. It’s found in being busy, and then resting. In having an idea, allowing it to grow, and then working towards the launch.

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Are you asking or answering today?

Are there parts that need answering, and others that need asking?

Where are you out of balance? Perhaps there’s something you need to focus on as you cycle through the high summer?

I would love to hear where you are in your own personal cycle. And I’d love to hear how you find the commercial cycle of your business.