Fashion Business Owner Musings: The Productivity Pendulum

How are you doing with your idea of productivity?

I was recently chatting with a designer who is a member of StartUp FASHION and we were discussing the productivity pendulum.

You know, that occurrence when during some periods of time (days, weeks, months) that pendulum swings all the way to one side and you’re go-go-go to the point of exhaustion, stress, and anxiety over everything you need to do in your business. And then how during other periods of time (days, weeks, months) it swings all the way to the other side and you’re sitting on your couch with zero motivation and a complete lack of enthusiasm for your business.

Sound familiar?

This is so common.

This state of swinging from one side to the other, not sure how to settle somewhere in the middle, is something so many of us have experienced.

Many entrepreneurs hang in this space for years, swinging drastically from one side to the other.

And it’s dangerous.

Because you know what both of these have in common?


Option A is so fast-paced and anxiety-ridden that you will absolutely burn out and can never do your best work.

Option B is so disconnected that it’s clear you have already burned out and now can’t seem to care about anything.

So what now? How do you manage to get yourself hanging in that middle ground?

First, acknowledge that it requires active work to find this equilibrium.

You have to listen to your body, your mind, and your energy levels. You need to take a step back and STOP when you are swinging hard in option A. You cannot just have tunnel vision on the to-do list. And you cannot just remain sitting on the couch in Option B. You have to take action to remind yourself of your goals and your “why” so that the enthusiasm for your work starts to re-emerge.

So let’s start with Option A…

Something I hear from my very best friends (who are fellow business owners) is that they are impressed and inspired by my ability to take downtime while still running a successful business. While that is super flattering, it took real work to get here. I was a stressed-out entrepreneur with an eye twitch and an addiction to my to-do list for many years. It wasn’t until I realized that this would not change without deliberate action, that I started to get better.

Here’s what I did.

I dabbled in mediation. Honestly, I find meditation boring. So I decided to dabble by simply making time to take long breaths in and out while counting to 5 in each direction.

Next, I worked on creating the kind of small habits that eventually make a big difference. So, I would take breaks for 5 minutes, rather than an hour lunch. Or I would take a 10-minute walk around the block, rather than a 45-minute walk around the neighborhood. And then worked my way up.

Then, I forced myself to stop working on the weekends by scheduling fun things on those days until it became a habit not to work on weekends. Can’t stop working weekends? I get it. But maybe you can stop working all weekend. Maybe you take the small habit approach and stop work an hour earlier on the weekends.

Another thing I did was started using a planner that requires I add something “fun” to my task list. I loved this because it satisfied my list-loving self and tricked me into thinking of this as a required task that I couldn’t possibly leave unchecked.

Lastly, I started reminding myself that productivity is not linked to time. The amount of time something takes does not mean it’s a productive task. Instead, I started to look at productivity as impact. How much impact on my business does this task have? That’s what matters.

OK, now let’s look at Option B…

You hit a stress wall, stop working completely, plop on our couch, and wonder what the hell you were thinking starting this business. You feel nothing for the business, no excitement, no enthusiasm, no creativity. Blah.

When that happened to me, I knew it was time to sit, close my eyes, and think about my goals. What am I trying to build? Why am I trying to build it? Who do I want to serve? Why do I want to serve them? What do I want my life to be in 6 months, 1 year, 3 years? You need to ask yourself all of thee questions and enjoy the answers. This becomes motivation and fuel for getting back in the game.

I also would talk to someone about my ideas. The things I wanted to do in the business would bring excitement back in the picture. And when I shared that with someone, their enthusiasm became contagious.

When you find yourself in the all-too-common productivity pendulum, taking action (with these ideas or others) will help you get back to where you need to be. The sweet, sweet middle ground where you can hang out feeling focused, impactful, and excited for what’s to come.

Remember, this is it. This is your life and your work. It will always be challenging and packed with tasks to complete. It’s your job to make it fulfilling, enjoyable, and aligned.

You can do it.

Lots of love and encouragement,

Nicole Giordano

Nicole is the founder of StartUp FASHION, an online resource and community supporting for independent designers around the world with building their businesses. A deep love for the craft of fashion paired with an adamant belief that success is defined by the individual, led her to found StartUp FASHION, where she helps independent designers and makers screw the traditional fashion business rules, create their own paths, and build businesses they truly love. More than anything else, she’s in the business of encouragement and works every day to remind makers and designers that they have something special to offer the world and that they can, in fact, do this thing!