Peaks and troughs and the upside of space

IMG_1054I’ve done a lot of public speaking over the years, but this is the first year I’ve been more disciplined about marketing myself and scheduling a certain number of speeches per month. In doing so, however, I have realized that “per month” is the wrong way to look at the rhythm of this line of work. The conference and event season is incredibly cyclical. March through early May, and then mid-September to early November, are going to be jam packed. This is when everyone wants a speaker. July? Not so much.

Other industries go through similar peaks and troughs. Accounting, for instance, is going to be rough in late winter and early spring, and in September and October. Other times, less so. Teaching can be lighter in the summer. Indeed, many industries go through a bit of a summer slowdown as people disappear on vacation. Despite the Fourth of July being on a Monday this year, I’m pretty sure that not much is getting done the latter half of this week, or through to about Wednesday of next week.

It raises the question of whether there is a good way to handle a summer slowdown. I think there are plenty of things one can do to make good use of slower seasons.

The first is to not panic. This advice goes more for free agents than others. Employees who have little booked for July and August still get paid, but not necessarily if you’re running your own show. It helps to look at your billings for the past few years and remember that yes, you were booked solid in October, to the point that you were turning away work. It might be worth reaching out to those clients and offering them a discount to move some work to slower times.

Next, think about what sort of work gets shoved aside when you’re busy. Maybe it’s revamping your website or marketing materials, or taking a good look at employees’ responsibilities and what should be changed. It could be reading professional journals or figuring out some new technology. These are all good things to do during a slow down.

You could also start a new initiative you’ve been meaning to do…but haven’t. You didn’t have time! Now you do. These projects might include a new interest group or book club at your employer, or organizing a spring conference (which needs a time management speaker, right?)

Finally, you can just enjoy the time. There is no reason to fill space just to fill space. I have been using the fact that I am not traveling much now to do more kid camp shuttling, and my three Mommy Days. And, of course, life tends to fill space that is open, at which point one can be glad that it is open. The photo accompanying this post is from our local ER, where I wound up this morning with my little dude. He was playing on the playground when he tripped and fell and gashed open his forehead. We are familiar with this ER — it is our fourth time there for a family member in 6 months! I had to move and cancel a few things this morning but at least I hadn’t been racing to get on a plane somewhere. He was very brave while getting his 7 stitches.


6 thoughts on “Peaks and troughs and the upside of space

  1. Oh, sweet boy! I wish him a speedy recovery, and I hope that your ER visits will decrease for the next 6 months!!!

  2. Oh no! He looks like such a little dude sitting there placidly sucking on his pacifier.

    Ruby, 5, broke her arm AGAIN yesterday. Keeping her out of trees is near impossible.

  3. Oof — sorry about the stitches, poor guy.

    All excellent points on the time. So much of time seems “lumpy” in my experience, and summer’s often been a slow time for me. This one isn’t, and I’m missing that!

  4. You are so right about trying to be disciplined about work and time even during quieter periods, otherwise I certainly find work has a terrible tendency to “expand to fill the time available”! I work far more efficiently when I am busy.

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