So I have a question for you. Why did you decide to go into business for yourself?
If you are like most female entrepreneurs, at some point you probably recognized that you have a talent or skill that is making money for someone else, and you could be making that money for yourself. Perhaps it was a passion that you weren’t expressing at your current job, and a burning desire to do so. Or maybe you just wanted to be your own boss, in charge of your own schedule, making your own decisions. In any case, you took the leap and set out to create the business and lifestyle of your dreams.
How’s it going? Are you still feeling the same excitement and drive you felt when you first hung your shingle? Are you living that dream lifestyle?
When I attend networking meetings or speak to business groups, I am often struck by the number of entrepreneurs struggling to maintain the focus, energy and productivity needed on a daily basis to run a business. I see women who are either overwhelmed, exhausted, burnt out, stressed out, out of shape, overweight, or all of the above.
It’s not because these women aren’t bright, creative, industrious and ambitious. It’s because somewhere along the journey of building a business, the boundaries between personal life and work got blurry. In the never ending quest to do all that is needed to run a successful business, while meeting the demands of home, family, and friends, self-care got pushed to the bottom of the daily “to-do” list.
Do you hear yourself saying, “When my business is where I want it to be, I’ll slow down and start taking better care of myself.”? Or, “If I stay up just a few more hours, I can get this task done.” How about, “I’ll work all day Saturday, and next week will be less stressful.”
It doesn’t seem like that approach is much of a problem. After all, it’s hard to get an entrepreneurial business running smoothly and making money without a huge amount of time and attention. It probably didn’t take you long to figure out that owning a business is not just about using your skill, talent or passion.
There’s marketing, PR, social media, networking, bookkeeping, contact management, and technology to learn and apply. It’s constantly changing, and we need to keep up to date. We find ourselves wearing many different hats, and needing to be an expert at all of them. No matter how organized we are, there always seems to be too much to do, and not enough time. Where in the world can we find the hours to get it all done? Way too often, our personal needs and desires get cut out first.
If you are thinking “self-care” is a luxury or even selfish when you’ve so much else to do, I want to explain why this isn’t so. Self-care is made up of the activities that allow you to function at peak performance. Included are exercise and movement, eating healthy, getting sufficient sleep, taking time off for leisure activities, hobbies, and downtime, and spending quality time with our family and friends
Our bodies and minds were designed to do purposeful work, and when we are doing so, we are feeling well and happy. However, we only have limited resources, so rest and rejuvenation are just as important as work. When we deprive ourselves of rest and don’t take the time to refuel, we burn out.
Burnout takes it’s toll physically and emotionally. We don’t have the energy to stay alert, focused and productive. This leads to stress and overwhelm. Fatigue, exhaustion, and disillusionment set in. We are just too tired to be efficient. We begin to slow down, make mistakes, become irritable, and unhappy. In the worst case scenario, we become sick. This is a recipe for disaster for the business owner. If we fall apart, so does the business…because we are the business!
In my quest for life/work balance, and through the work I do with hundreds of clients, I have come up with six habits that lead to a healthier, happier, and calmer life. Incorporate these ideas into your day, and you will notice an increase in your energy, focus, and productivity every day.
Elevate self-care to the highest priority. If I’ve made my point so far, you should have a good understanding of why this is so important. The saddest thing would be to close your business not because it wasn’t a viable idea, but because you burn out and feel that you can no longer keep up the pace you’ve set. Jim Loehr is the founder of the Human Performance Institute in Orlando, Florida. His team works with CEOs and top executives from Fortune 500 companies, teaching the principles of self-care to increase productivity and engagement. He repeatedly states, “Taking care of your body is taking care of business.” Should we do any less for our own businesses? Self-care is not a luxury; it is a necessity. Self-care is not selfish; it is essential.
Develop clear boundaries between home life and work life. Modern technology allows us to be available 24/7, and rather than work 9-5, we often work 5-9! This is even more challenging for the entrepreneur who works from a home office. Our minds flick back and forth between job responsibilities and home responsibilities. When we are with the kids, half our minds are thinking about what still needs to be done for the business, and when we are attempting to focus on work, we feel guilty that we are neglecting what’s going on at home. As a result, nothing gets our full attention, and nothing gets done efficiently and effectively. Rather than feeling fulfilled and satisfied, we end up confused and empty. Create “rules” and “rituals” to separate home and work. Don’t answer business calls during dinner or when in conversation with family or friends. Shut down the computer by 8 PM, or whatever makes the most sense for you. Declare one day of each weekend technology and work free. Stop multitasking the things that are important, especially your relationships. It’s one thing to watch TV while folding laundry. It’s a whole other problem when attempting to answer emails while having a meaningful conversation with one of your kids.
Create a support team, learn to delegate and drop the perfectionist attitude. With the myriad of task necessary to run a business, you can’t possibly do it all alone. Spend a couple of days keeping track of your time, and how you are spending it. Are the tasks you devote the most time to ones that you are skilled at, enjoy doing and income producing? If not, it is well worth eliminating them or hiring others to do them for you. I’m an excellent coach, but technology is not my thing. My virtual assistance handles many of my technical jobs in way less time than it would take me, and for a very reasonable amount. Think outside the box; your college neighbor might be able to drive car pool or do your social media for an modest fee. Everyone from household help, babysitters, web designers and your spouse should be part of your team. Keep the lines of communication open, be clear about what you need help with and when, and then let it go. Not all things need to be perfect. Sometimes good enough is just that, good enough.
Establish a consistent, systematic approach to planning your week. Whether it’s marketing, handling clients, scheduling programs, or getting exercise into your day, failure to plan is planning to fail! This goes way beyond a daily “to-do” list. If you don’t have a consistent way to plan out your week, you’ll find yourself reacting to daily urgencies, rather than focusing on what’s important. There are loads of books, articles or productivity coaches that can teach you the skills of planning.
Embrace the following healthy lifestyle habits, and schedule them into your daily calendar first.
Include a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise or movement into your schedule at least five days a week. If you are currently not exercising at all, this probably seems impossible. However, this small amount of time will pay you back tenfold in terms of energy, health, and stress management. Three ten-minute bouts of exercise have been shown to produce the same benefits as 30 continuous minutes. Try 10-minute walking breaks in the late afternoon or after dinner. Walk to pick up lunch rather than drive. Go bowling or skating on weekends with your friends or kids. Investing in your health is investing in your business.
Strive for 7-8 hours of sleep every night. Although you may think staying up late to finish work is productive, your efficiency will decrease dramatically following sleep deprivation. A chronic sleep-restricted state leads to fatigue, decreases in reaction time, increases in errors, declining productivity, and escalating stress, anxiety, and irritability. Exhaustion is not a client magnet!
Eat often and eat light. Always eat breakfast, never skip meals, and go no more than four hours without a light meal or snack. This is the best way to keep your blood sugar even, which is your fuel for mental energy. You can’t possibly think sharply and stay alert if you run out of fuel.
Never work more than 60-90 minutes without taking a break. Just as interval exercise has been shown to net a greater amount of work than sustained duration, working in spurts gets more done. It is too challenging for the mind or body to sustain attention for longer periods. If need be, set the alarm on your computer to take breaks. Perfect time for a healthy snack, a walk around the block, or a quick chat with your best friend. You’ll come back to the task refreshed and more creative than before. You’ll also avoid the muscular fatigue that accompanies sitting in the same position for too long.
Have something fun and energizing on your calendar at least once a week. Do you live to work, or work to live? You created your business because you believed it would make your life better, not take over your life. Build in the time to do the things you love. Whether it’s meeting a friend for dinner, going to the theatre, or crawling up in bed with a great book, schedule “me” time into your calendar and enjoy it guilt free.
We’ve all been told that people want to do business with those they know, like and trust. We like and trust those that are happy, calm, confident, healthy and self-assured. The best way to achieve those attributes is to make sure self-care is on your daily “to-do” list. There is absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t thrive both professionally and personally.
Identity Magazine is all about empowering women to get all A’s in the game of life – Accept. Appreciate. Achieve.™ Every contributor and expert answer the Identity 5 questions in keeping with our theme. Their answers can be random and in the moment or they can be aligned with the above article. As a team, we hope to inspire and motivate ourselves and inspire you to get all A’s.
What have you accepted within your life, physically and/or mentally? What are you still working on accepting?
I have had to learn that the world we live in today is moving at rapid speed, and most individuals are dealing with multiple distractions all day long. This has often made it challenging to have meaningful and focused conversations with friends, family and colleagues. Cell phones ringing, text messages and emails coming in 24/7 pulls attention away from the conversation. When others’ attention wavers, I’ve learned to accept that this is not personal. No one is deliberately being rude or disrespectful to me. It’s just really hard to turn off the constant noise and delay the immediate gratification of looking to see who else is wanting their attention. I am still working on accepting this, and learning to be calm and patient when interrupted.
What have you learn to appreciate about yourself and/or within your life, physically and mentally? What are you still working on to appreciate?
I truly appreciate my ability to focus and be fully engaged when with others. I can shut down my electronics when in conversation, turn away from my computer when on the phone, and ignore rings and beeps while working.
In the mean time, I am still working on appreciating all the benefits of the new form of communicating, and learning to use it to my advantage rather than detriment.
What is one of your most rewarding achievements in life? What makes YOU most proud? What goals and dreams do you still have?
When I am able to help clients learn, practice and embrace the power of full engagement, it is incredibly rewarding. If a client shares an experience where they had a deep and meaningful conversation and were able to fully attend without distraction, it brings me great satisfaction. What makes me most proud is when my daughters ignore their texts or FB updates while we are together, or when I call and they quickly say, “Mom, I’m with my friend right now. Is everything alright? Can I call you later?”
We all have imperfections, so we think. The truth—we are all perfectly imperfect. What are your not-so-perfect ways? What imperfections and quirks create who you are—your Identity?
I am “not so perfectly” patient. I do admit, I feel myself get pissed off when someone I am with is multi-tasking me! I try hard not to, but feel myself get annoyed when friends answer a text message when we are together, or my husband reads the newspaper when I am trying to talk with him. So sometimes I imperfectly make my feelings known and come out sounding a bit snotty, rather than just calmly stating my emotions. I do keep trying, but I guess I will just continue to be the technology police.
“I Love My…” is an outlet for you to express and appreciate all the positive traits that make you…well… YOU! Sharing what you love about yourself will make you smile, feel empowered, and uplift your spirit and soul. (we assure you!) Identity challenges you to complete the phrase “I Love My…?
I love my ability to listen well!