Magdalena Bak-Maier, entrepreneur and Grid creator, talks about how she came to start Make Time Count Ltd and the tools she created to achieve personal success.
Magdalena Bak-Maier: Entrepreneur and Grid Creator
“We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.”― Kurt Vonnegut
My journey as an entrepreneur began a few years ago when I started Make Time Count Ltd. My driving passion: helping people get more out of life. Here are some of the things I wished for:
1. Better work-life balance where I could enjoy more of the magic of life.
2. Time for creativity and learning.
3. Ability to close the gap between aspiration and current reality.
I have realized a good amount of personal success in this regard.
My Personal Success Examples as an Entrepreneur
- I run a successful private coaching consultancy helping people achieve results on healthy terms.
- To date, I’ve written three useful and well-received books that can reach people around the world. I’ve also been invited to contribute my tools to upcoming coaching skills and tools book in the company of the world’s best coaches.
- Along the way, I have developed a number of original and powerful approaches to boosting productivity, well-being, and facilitating healing. This includes the Get Productive Wheel, the Grid, and Heart and Mind integration. I now teach these methods to other practitioners worldwide.
- I lead a growing team of talented women and men, and we pride ourselves on enriching the people and organizations we work with, in a lasting way.
- And, while my life certainly has its challenges, it is also blessed with genuine and wholesome friendships and a growing family of people whose lives and paths were meant to cross mine. This includes my lovely partner and her daughter.
That said, and given all there is to juggle, I am not immune to intense work crunches and neglecting my own wellbeing at work.
Overwork can have a Negative Impact on Our Wellbeing
Here’s what happens if I fail to create healthy balance across my work and life.
- I get incredibly antsy! Stress and panic climb to levels that unleash my inner critic. This problematic character can really interfere with how I feel and what I can accomplish, not to mention, it can make me feel pretty miserable. Does this sound familiar? You might find my blog post on how to deal with your inner critic useful.
- As someone with diabetes, stress makes my sugar levels spike. My muscles ache with pain making it harder to exercise and work. This in turn creates a vicious stress loop cycle.
- I can’t enjoy lovely things like home-cooked meals or a hug from my family when I’m highjacked by the idea of needing to get things done. This creates an inner conflict and drains me as I find myself split inside. Part of me is desperate to enjoy those lovely things and another part feels guilty for not letting me enjoy them. Before too long, my critic gets in on the act and has a go at me. It tells me that I should do better. It’s a very bad cycle I have seen my clients get caught in and, I’m certainly no stranger to it myself.
- When I’m in this state, I feel on edge and end up wasting time being ineffective. For example, I end up struggling to finish things and needing to police myself to avoid snapping at someone without valid cause. Then, I may get tearful because I don’t want to feel this way.
- Even getting to the finish line feels bad, if I get there on these terms as deep down I know there is a better way.
This used to happen to me a lot and how I’ve come to create the Grid approach. As a neuroscientist, I believe our brains are here to be our allies. I simply knew there was a far smarter, more healthy, and compassionate way of achieving results and feeling a sense of personal success. To date, Grid is proving to be a true miracle for many people that have discovered it, and also for me.
I Created the Grid for My Own Wellbeing at Work
While there are many apps and tools out there to help us stay calm and focused, I must admit they have not worked for me, ever! Maybe it’s part of my generation but I find phone-based technologies interfering with my productivity, not aiding it. Instead, I’m a big fan of the old-school: pen and paper. Or in the case of my Grid method: pen, paper, and a highlighter.
I smile gently looking at our 20-year-old intern (and budding entrepreneur!) who glances over at her wall calendar to gauge what she can get done in our weekly catch-ups. She is very social media savvy but seems to have chosen the old-fashioned way to stay on top of her productivity. I’m not surprised.
Humans are highly visual and, when it comes to productivity, being able to see our progress in real-time helps. Dinky phone Apps or desktop productivity applications simply can’t compete. Digital productivity tools also tend to force us into structures and layouts that can’t accommodate human diversity and creativity. Not to mention, for most techie solutions to help us, we also need to put up with potential risks of distractions that disrupt focus.
The Grid Worked for Me from Day 1
When I first created the Grid I was most concerned about conditioning the habit of healthier balance and wellbeing. Grid forced me to ensure that I started to always consider what needed me across the four iconic Grid quadrants: personal life, self-care, work, and career. They all matter more than we realize and through unconscious habits, they can get easily out of balance.
Today, I Grid everything: tasks, projects, my MTC team to ensure I don’t let them down, and my family. I grid my books. I also grid during crunch times when there is so much to do, the sheer volume of work can easily overwhelm me.
I find Grid help me visualize what I’m up against, and what I want to achieve. It helps me see and document my progress. This is incredibly useful to keep stress at bay, free my mind for creative thinking, and allow my mind and body to switch off or do things that balance me out such as exercise, cooking for my family, or having a self-care treat. Without a Grid to hand, I would simply keep working and withdrawing from a healthy, balanced way of life.
The Magnetic Allure of Work
For example, my partner noticed a number of times how I can sit at my desk for hours on end without stretching on doing something else. Our daughter draws and it’s the same. With Covid around and most meetings happening on Zoom, staying glued to a computer screen all day is easy.
With a Day Grid to hand, I am presented with one or two activities in my self-care Grid quadrant that I decided are healthy and good for me. All that’s left is to work my daily agenda to ensure I act on them. With the Grid to hand, I always manage it. You may wonder whether this simply means I end up doing more each day. The short answer is that initially, this can be true. With practice however, Grid can be a path to a deep level of calm and serenity, as well as spirituality. This will be the topic of my next Grid book.
Grids help people do less and have more impact and/or ensure that work crunches do not derail healthy living. I also track larger projects with the Grid method. In this case, I draw Grids on flipchart size self-adhesive wall sheets. Our hallway is full of them. I have found this very helpful for staying on top of larger projects. It also ensures I don’t pass my stresses to the team. When we do make progress or reach an important milestone, I can see it and celebrate our achievements together.
Advice to Entrepreneurs
Entrepreneurs are often expected to be workaholics. If you’re working for yourself, I advise you to really consider these three things:
For me, working independently was never about becoming a millionaire. Rather, going independent was motivated by being able to:
- do work to my desired standards,
- choose the people I worked with,
- continue to learn and grow.
In the last five years, I have managed to achieve these objectives. According to well-being research, this way of working has a positive knock-on effect on health. This is to be seen still in my case given my chronic condition but I certainly sleep well.
A Word on Business Incubators
Since starting Make Time Count, I have also joined three business-building incubators. Sadly, two of them proved not to be a good fit. They focused too much on growth over everything else and glorified the burnout entrepreneurial lifestyle.
I felt uneasy in these communities and a service-led, people-based business did not make an easy fit there. Luckily, I also came across a business incubator in 2019 that was based on a very different set of principles. It welcomed and supported true independent and diverse enterprises from the ground up. This was dek at Goldsmiths University. Over the last year, dek support has helped me develop my business and strengthened my conviction that one can build a business on healthy terms.
If you’re an entrepreneur or solopreneur, my advice to you is to go at your own pace. Look for people who speak your language, get who you are and what matters to you. This may not happen right away but in the meantime, focus on doing the best job you can and boost your personal productivity and effectiveness. This is working for us.
There will always be someone cheaper than you, faster, and at times perhaps better. The goal is to keep your eyes and effort creating your unique path to success and serving the people whom you can help right now.
Help for the Overworked Entrepreneur
At Make Time Count, we can help you bridge your aspirations as an entrepreneur with practical results. Our tools can help you move forward without jeopardizing your health and happiness. You won’t have to put your life on hold or miss your child’s birthday or important wedding anniversary. Nor will you have to give up on what keeps you healthy and happy. This sort of productivity is toxic and short-lasting.
We can help you succeed as an entrepreneur in a different way. Here are three ways to get started:
- Explore our Grid productivity, well-being, and balance system. There are different ways to get started, all of which have been developed to fit different circumstances, budgets, and preferences for learning. You doing better with us is what counts.
- Try our 14-Day Habit Builder challenge. This online course has helped many people make important changes and flourish.
- Sign up for our 1-day personal development retreat. Whether you’re needing to address results with healthier balance or recover your drive and connection to your purpose, our unique retreat methodologies will help you do that.