Alyson Schafer is the best-selling author of 3 books on parenting and is a psychotherapist. She has spoken internationally and more recently at TEDxKids in Brussels. Alyson regularly appears in the media and is very active in social media.
Alyson, let’s start off by finding what you actually do as a psychotherapist and parenting expert?
Yes, I am a therapist by training, but I don’t see clients any more. Most of my work is educational in nature. I do workshops, speak or media appearances discussing parenting and discipline issues. I help parents understand how to manage behaviours without being punitive or using rewards. Its hard to know how to be effective without being mean, or being a door mat.
I am motivated because I have mission – not a career, otherwise I would have packed it in long ago.
The image of someone working in therapy and parenting is generally quite conservative. You’re a very active speaker and are involved in social media, why did you choose this approach?
I don’t think I am conservative! I have been an early adopter to technology and since most people know how important “word of mouth” “relationships” and “connections” are for business is just made sense to do that even more extensively on line.
How have speaking and the use of social media affected your career? Any tangible results?
I think my true gift is as a speaker. I love to entertain while giving people ah ha moments. When you speak its an IRL experience that helps “build my tribe”. But – I am limited by time and space IRL. Social media allows me to connect virtually with people and stay connected build my tribe with out limits and boundaries. Social media also allows me to point people to all my blogs, my registration pages, point them to a tweet chat I am hosting, links to other resources etc… I can’t imagine how my business would work without it, frankly.
What was the most difficult challenge you faced in building your business and how did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge for me was time. As an entrepreneur you have to be willing to work long hours and be willing to have patience to succeed. This is my 12th year in business, but the first 5 to 10 years were as much work with less recognition and remuneration. I am motivated because I have mission – not a career, otherwise I would have packed it in long ago.
You’ve received a significant amount of media coverage. For people that want to attract media attention to their own business or organization, what would be your number 1 tip for them?
For the uninitiated, start with the media outlets that are desperate for content. The small regional / local daily lifestyle shows have to come up with something every day. They don’t expect guests to be seasoned. Learn to write up an engaging chat sheet for the interviewer and submit it as part of your pitch. That will get you experience and experience helps you get bigger media venues eventually.
Social media allows me to connect virtually with people and stay connected build my tribe with out limits and boundaries.
How do you approach productivity? What challenges do you have in this area? How are you overcoming them? Any tips for others?
I just hired an assistant. Like many other self-employed people, I waited too long before having the nerve to do it. Keep asking yourself, “am I doing the activities that are the most fruitful to move my business to where I want it to go?” I just wrote up a business plan with goals for each quarter. It helps me focus so I don’t say “yes” to side projects that are “fun” but actually a distraction from the real direction I have. I just can’t squander my time anymore.
Do you have a good work-life balance? If no, why? If yes, how do you achieve it? What are you beliefs around this?
As a therapist I feel I have to walk to the talk. I wake early and I don’t watch TV at night. That’s how I make it work. Everybody has a lot more time than they think if they would just turn off the TV! Each morning I read for half an hour for my mind, and then do something for half an hour for my body; work out, run, yoga meditate – depends on the day. In the evenings when I am not speaking I do something creative. I take guitar lessons and I sketch. Parenting work comes to an abrupt halt from May to September, so for all the long hours and travel in the winter, I get the summer almost entirely off so I head to our cottage and also do an annual camping trip with my girls where I am off the grid all together.
Keep asking yourself, “am I doing the activities that are the most fruitful to move my business to where I want it to go?”
What is your favourite quote of all time?
“I am mistaking my way to success”
What is one thing that your coworkers, clients or friends may not know about you?
Boy, I tell everybody everything! I doubt I have any secrets. My latest personal ambition in to learn French. Not many people know that. C’est bon?