January 24, 2018
After reading Tim Ferriss’ book The 4-Hour Workweek, I fell in love with the idea of limiting my schedule as a business owner by delegating tasks to others, working from the road, and not being tied down to the normal 9-5 life everyone else has. And I still love it.
But I’ve also started to come to terms with the fact that his book provides a more extreme example of cutting back on work time — and that I can still borrow ideas from it without having to follow his model to a T. I’ve realized that what may work for him doesn’t necessarily work for me . . . and that’s okay.
The key (for me, and maybe for others out there like me) isn’t working as little as possible, but making the most out of my days doing what I enjoy without feeling overworked and passionless. It’s not always about the least amount of work; instead, it’s about being efficient, doing what you love, and having the power to take breaks when you need to — without ever having to ask for permission from someone else.
Entrepreneurship Can Be an Obsession
I have always struggled with turning “off” at the end of the day. My husband thinks this is because I’m still young and haven’t had enough time to feel comfortable enough to subconsciously “let go” of the stresses once the day is over. Although I think he has a point, I’m starting to believe that maybe this is just who I am, that it’s in my genetic makeup.
Even when I worked for other people in the past, I’d still mentally bring my work home with me: thinking about the day’s meetings on the drive home, coming up with new strategies and ideas during dinner, and preparing for the next day as I struggled to fall asleep at night. Being a business owner isn’t really any different.
In fact, sometimes it’s worse, because I feel the freedom to work on a more unique wavelength, letting my creativity run my schedule when it stirs up. And when this happens for weeks on end, it does become an obsession I have a hard time turning off.
Balance Is Bullshit, But Breaks Are Worth It
A friend once told me about a book called Balance is Bull$h!t. I still haven’t read it, but when I do eventually get around to it, I’m sure I’ll agree. Because the truth is that everyone’s idea of “balance” can be drastically unique. What I may consider a balance in my life may not work for yours.
But if there’s anything I’ve learned about being an entrepreneur, it’s that self-care is vitally important. It’s half the reason I started a business in the first place. To go on a hike in the middle of the day, to get more sleep when I need it, to eat less junk food on lunch breaks.
Most people have a hard enough time taking sick days when they’re physically ill; it’s even harder for us to intentionally take a mental health day, even though it’s just as important.
Yesterday I woke up already completely drained and I didn’t understand why. I had slept a full night, but the entire morning I felt groggy and depleted of energy. So, I forced myself to go back to sleep another hour, eased my way into the day, and ended up getting in a few productive hours of work done in the afternoon.
Ways to Practice Self-Care as an Entrepreneur
I won’t pretend to be an expert in this arena, since I’m still learning it myself, but here are some ways I’ve found to be helpful in being better at self-care:
- Taking the Dog for Longer Walks – Since my work is primarily done from home, I’ve started using the daily walk with my dog in the afternoon to refresh my thoughts. Instead of feeling like I should rush back inside for various projects I’m working on, I’m working on staying outside a little longer each day, which is good for both physical and mental health.
- Adjusting the Schedule – I have a tendency to overbook myself with events and meetings, which often leaves me stressed that I don’t have enough time to complete the work for my clients. It also doesn’t leave much wiggle room for breaks and down time. Now, I’m getting better at scheduling meetings farther apart on my calendar so I can have more time to be productive and relaxed.
- Reading – Although I still spend a lot of time reading about business, reading for pleasure helps me to temporarily suspend my “work mind” and escape to a different reality.
- Schedule Days Off – And not just for vacations or trips out of town. If you’re like me and have a hard time “taking a break”, add it to your calendar and have the day to get a massage, meet friends for lunch or lounge around the house. You need it more than you think you do.
- Avoiding Email and Phone Calls – It doesn’t have to be for hours on end, but even limiting email and phone time to a few set hours during the day can open up a lot of time and energy elsewhere.
Taking Care of Yourself Is Just as Crucial as Taking Care of Business
One of my previous co-workers used to occasionally remind me of the directions we hear every time we’re preparing for take-off on a plane: “Put on your own oxygen mask first, before you help others.”
It’s a valuable reminder that we need to take care of ourselves before we’re able to be the best help for others — in any situation. In order for me to be my best self for my clients, self-care is the essential first step. By taking breaks like I did yesterday morning, I was able to be more productive in the afternoon and today.
Being an entrepreneur (and playing the role of 10 or more people in a typical day) can leave me feeling more pressured than ever to be on top of everything all the time. But it also means I can set aside time to recoup my creative energy and get back to business on my own schedule. And I’ll be eternally grateful for it.