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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Our Bed and Breakfast Takes Off! Stamp Sales a Bit Quieter in June and A New Direction

After two extremely busy months, things began to slow down to the level they were at a few months ago. Stamp sales just passed $2,800 with 10 days to go this month. So it hasn't been a bad month by any means, but it hasn't been quite as busy. In actual fact, part of the reason why the total sales for June has been lower is that we didn't have any large want lists this month, whereas we did have some very large orders in April and May. In terms of day to day sales, repeat business and new customer growth, the business continues to move in the right direction. An added positive is that after just 3 weeks of being open to guests, our Bed and Breakfast has had 10 bookings. The guests so far have all been delighted with their stays and have left glowing feedback. This has been Steph's baby from the beginning and she has worked very hard to make it a success. I am very proud of what she has managed to accomplish in such a short time. So between her business and the stamp business, I think we should have no problem generating $5,000 this month - still a very respectable month. 

But despite all this, I have been struggling with my own inability to see reality objectively. As someone on the Autistic Spectrum I am prone to getting into very rigid patterns of thinking. For the business, this rigidity has manifested itself in the belief that I have to get all my inventory listed for sale within a 2 year window. This has caused me to work 16 hour days without breaks for months and to feel guilty inside for taking any amount of time off. It has also caused me to neglect aspects of my relationship with Steph as well as aspects of the business that did not have to do with getting stuff listed. My greatest strength is also my greatest weakness. I am blessed on the one hand to have the ability to work like this, with this much unwavering focus. But on the other hand, I have always been very bad at gauging when I am getting tired, when my productivity is falling off, and when I am not seeing the results of my work objectively. One of the tell-tale signs that I have learned to watch for is when I start to feel down or like the business is not a success, despite so many objective signs that it is doing quite well. This is usually an indication that I am pushing it too hard, and my usual response is to push myself even harder.

But this week, I decided that I needed to take a step back for the good of myself and the good of my relationship with Steph. I decided that it was time to come up with a schedule that I could follow that contained scheduled rest breaks and time with Steph. So what I am trying for now, just to see how it works is to divide my day into 7 2 hour time slots and to devote each one to a different task. My first block is to start at 9am and my last one ends at 2am. I have scheduled 1 hour breaks from 1-2pm, 6-7pm, and 9-10 pm so that I ensure that I eat regularly and that Steph and I have plenty of time together to stay connected. It is still a very demanding schedule, but I think it is doable, as I can function quite well on 6 hours of sleep. 

To determine how to fill the blocks I made a list of all the things that need to get done each week for the business:

1. Filling orders.
2. Complying with E-bay changes.
3. Customer want lists and procuring material for customers.
4. Developing my stand-alone website.
5. Developing additional marketing materials.
6. Accounting and bookkeping.
7. Writing and maintaining the blogs, including indexing old posts and updating old posts.
8. Listing (lotting) material in the store.

The last item was problematic, as I have been dealing with listing all the material for each area to the exclusion of all others. This was causing me to feel like I am never going to get through it all, and I don't believe that my customers have been getting a wide enough range of material this way. I had invested a considerable amount of time last month getting it all organized so that I could work on any area in small chunks. So what I decided to do was make a list of all the boxes in my inventory and to schedule some time spent working on each box. There were too many to get through them all in one week. However, I found that if I adopt a 2 week lotting cycle that I can get through a little bit of every box in 2 weeks. So this is what I have come up with. 

I tried it out yesterday and today and I am very excited about it. I feel a much greater sense of control and I can see my accomplishment more clearly. I also find that with the breaks and change of tasks that I am working much more productively. I think with this method I am also going to see sales increase, as there will be a better range of material listed. 

This weekend we have friends coming to stay with us, which will be a nice break. However I am predicting that we will be fully booked over the next week. We can only hope!