How to Run a Business when you have SEN

I can hear you all now! “Why would anyone who has special educational needs even consider becoming self-employed? It’s hard enough to run a business without throwing SEND* into the mix!”

*SEND – Special Educational Needs and Disabilities – A learning difficulty and/or disability which means someone needs special health and education support

For me, the decision to embark on the journey towards self-employment came after a long period of drifting in and out of temporary contracts, in the middle of which was 3 years spent in food manufacturing – basically because it was the only job I could practically walk into off the street and start straight away.

Unfortunately, because of my physical issues – I was diagnosed with hydrocephalus at birth, which causes difficulties with balance, spatial awareness, short term memory and hand/eye coordination – food manufacturing wasn’t a career I was suited to at all. I woke up one morning and decided I just couldn’t do it any longer. I rang the absence line and called in sick, then went to the doctor and blurted everything out. They diagnosed me with anxiety and depression, and gave me a prescription. I was signed off for a couple of weeks, but somewhere inside me I knew that I couldn’t go back there. I ended up leaving the factory after I handed my last sick note in two days late.

Administration and customer service have always been my passions. One of my favourite contracts as an agency worker was working in Environmental Health, where among other tasks I was responsible for collating evidence for court cases.

So, starting a virtual assistant business seems like the ideal thing to do. I can focus on offering the services that I love, to clients who hate having their muse distracted by boring administrative tasks, and I can set my own shifts (I don’t miss those 5:30am starts!).

I won’t lie; it is hard. The best description of anxiety and depression that I’ve seen is “one moment I’m facing a cycle of racing, urgent thoughts and emotions, and the next, I’m facing a vast void of nothingness” (Olivia LaBarre, quoted in How it Feels to Have Anxiety and Depression at the Same Time). That’s where coping strategies come in. Chief among them being writing everything down.

I first discovered the ‘Bullet Journal’ a couple of years ago. It’s the invention of an American called Ryder Carroll, who devised it when he was at college in the 1990s. Having been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder (ADD) as a child, he couldn’t find a system to help him overcome his learning difficulties. By the time he’d graduated, The Bullet Journal Method was born.

So what is Bullet Journalling?

Rapid Logging is the foundation on which Bullet Journalling is laid – capturing information as bulleted lists.

Bullets are short-form phrases beginning with symbols that visually categorize your entries into: Tasks, Events, or Notes.

Tasks – represented by a simple dot “•”. We use a dot instead of a checkbox because it’s fast, clean, and can easily be transformed to reflect the status of the Task. 

Events – represented by an open circle “o”.

Notes – represented with a dash “–”. Notes include: facts, ideas, thoughts, and observations. They’re used to capture information or data you don’t want to forget. This Bullet works well for meeting, lecture, or classroom notes.

The simplest of Bullet Journals is a Daily Log – jot down events due to happen at the beginning of every day, add other events or notes as your day progresses, review at the end of the day to note anything you missed. If there’s anything that was on your to-do list that day that didn’t get done, you can migrate it into the future. Simply turn the “•” into “>” to indicate that you need to move that Task forward onto the next month, week or day. 

It may seem like a lot of effort to have to rewrite all these things, but that’s intentional. This process makes you pause and consider each item. If an entry isn’t even worth the effort to rewrite it, then it’s probably not that important. Get rid of it.

I’ll be running a series about Bullet Journalling on my own blog, starting at the beginning of April – please come show me some love!