It was half-term last week. And even though I had the luxury of having a husband at home to entertain the kids and time to work, I lost my mojo. In fact, I lost my desire to do anything other than put on my walking boots and walk as far away as possible.
And I did. I stomped around Malham Cove and Gordale Scar. I breathed the smell of woodsmoke hanging in the cold air and squelched through mud. I switched off. Getting some fresh air, headspace and most critically, escape from the internet, gave me a crashing moment of insight into why I had the blahs.
This isn't bullying from trolls. This is self-flagellation, something we do to ourselves. It's where we join social media, sign up to newsletters and join networking groups because we feel we need to. It's where we read inspirational quote after inspirational quote and useful tips to transform your business, your body, your life - repeatedly. It's the stream of filtered images and carefully crafted Facebook ads that drum home the message that you - and your business - are not enough.
This digital avalanche of information is done under the guise of being helpful - and yes, plenty of it is - but so much of it is poorly disguised advertising or has a hidden sub-text saying: 'You're doing it wrong. You should be doing more.' For small business owners, this can be crushing.
It's more than that.
It's the dumbing down of everything so that it fits into a moment. A life made up of bite-sized inspirational quotes, filtered images and top ten lists is a life lacking context or depth. It's like condensing an entire novel into a single paragraph to save the reader time. Except that you have to read 10,000 of these individual paragraphs. It makes your brain feel full and empty all at the same time.
Worst of all, it's addictive.
How often do you watch television and look at your phone or ipad at the same time? Go out to a restaurant. Look at the people around you. How many are on their phones checking out their feeds? Go to an event and watch the number of cameras snapping away, ready to share the moment with the world. They can't help themselves. We have forgotten how to just be instead of reaching for a device.
I am guilty. Of it all. I look at my phone when I shouldn't. I share those inspirational quotes and write up blog posts that are genuinely intended to be helpful, but may easily make someone else feel crappy about the fact that they perhaps haven't written a press release or entered an award. This post included.
And it was the realisation that, not only do I dislike this digital overwhelm, but that I am propagator of it, that made me lose my mojo. How can I be part of an industry that adds to this digital noise?
I know that the world has changed. For businesses - regardless of size - to survive, you need to promote yourself. You need to create content that will engage your readers and share information that will get more people following you. Social media, email marketing, blogging, PR - it all helps tell people about you. But it is exhausting - both for you the generator of the content and for the readers.
When I confessed this feeling with someone last week, they kindly said that if you share with authenticity and a genuine desire to help, it shows.
So this blog post I have no real tips to share. I don't even have any inspiration. I simply want to tell you that if you feel this way, it's ok. The irony of writing this blog post (which I will no doubt share with my email list and on my social media pages) isn't lost on me. But I just felt compelled to put it out there.
Because if there is one thing I have learnt, it's that if I feel strongly about something, I know there will be others out there who feel the same. This blog post is for you.
If you are after advice on how to handle this, this is all I've got:
Give yourself time away. Go outdoors. Put your phone down. Look up. Unsubscribe to some of the stuff you're getting. Turn off notifications. Read an actual book. Do something inspirational rather than reading about it. Switch off. Then start afresh.
That's what I'm doing today.