As a solo entrepreneur, my to-do lists tasks often outnumber the hours in a day them. (Ask me about the time I started keeping a planner for my top three tasks of the day, only to cover it in a smattering of Post-It notes because I couldn’t possibly limit myself to only three vital tasks a day.) As entrepreneurs, it’s easy for work to spill over into every part of our days. How many times have you promised yourself—or your loved ones—you’re just going to send “one more” email and emerged hours later, having missed out on dinner, movie night, or myriad other household happenings? I can raise my hand on that one.
The tendency toward productivity at the expense of free time and wellbeing is deep-seated in our achievement-oriented culture. In that light, self-care can seem like a frivolous indulgence made for other people. You don’t have time for hygge; you’re trying to hustle!
Here’s what I’ve learned from seven years of self-employment as a freelance writer and the owner of a second small business: Self-care isn’t an indulgence. It’s a necessity. While running two businesses, I often worked from 5 a.m. to well after 10 p.m., seven days a week. For years. Even while taking the occasional “break,” to have dinner with friends or family, I would still be tethered to my phone checking texts and emails, and working myself into a froth whenever something, as it always did, went wrong.
Overworking can lead to burn out, which has formidable signs and side effects from forgetfulness and difficulty concentrating, to insomnia, chronic fatigue, and depression. I experienced many of these symptoms as I battled overwhelm. It took years for me to realize that if I want to be at the top of my game, I have to maintain my physical, emotional, and professional health. I hope you’ll learn my lesson without doing it the hard way.
Great companies are lauded when they earn a spot in “The Best Places to Work” listings. You and I have the power to make our own creative businesses a “best place to work.” So, I'm going to be sharing a few tips and tricks I've learned over the years for making my entrepreneurial journey sustainable, productive, and worthwhile.
Many of us became entrepreneurs because we wanted to break away from the 9 to 5. But as entrepreneurs, we soon discovered that working for ourselves can mean working longer and harder than ever.
I know; it’s tempting to check your emails first thing in the morning or to respond to that client inquiry right before you fall asleep at night. But letting work dictate your life 24/7 means you’re never off the clock and you never have time to recover. You might be thinking to yourself, “But I’m superwoman! I’m bullet proof and can work longer and harder than anybody!” I believed this lie for a long time.
Over time, I found that I was showing up with less than my best. The kryptonite of burnout was slowly sapping my power. It took me far too long to learn that I need to set a work schedule and stick to it. One of the beauties of working for yourself is often that you can set a schedule and work when you want.
Worried you’re going to miss something if you digitally disconnect for a few hours a day? I did, too. I started to let colleagues and clients know when I’m available so they know when they can reach me—and when they can’t. Setting expectations helped me preserve the relationship while allowing myself to be away from my phone for a few hours.
If you need a reason beyond self-preservation to stick to your workday, consider this: You may not be at your best first thing in the morning (read: before your caffeine jolt or meditation session) and late at night. Whenever I fire off emails or tasks first thing in the morning or as I’m falling asleep, they don’t reflect my best self. When I avoid the pressure to be available constantly and respond only during my work hours, my clients and colleagues get the version of me that’s centered, thoughtful, and professional. Chances are, the same applies to you. Setting boundaries isn’t just a gift to yourself; it’s one for everyone you work with.
Have you found a work-day schedule to be helpful in your entrepreneurial journey?