One of the dirty little not-so-secrets of being self-employed is that while it's fun and freeing, at times it's also incredibly challenging and stressful.
For the first two years of working for myself, I really bought into the idea that working for yourself had to mean working all the time. For me that meant working crazy hours and making lots of sacrifices to feel like I was “earning” my new-found freedom and could make ends meet every month. While making a living is always going to involve some hustle, that hustle doesn't have to hurt.
Buying into the idea that you have to exhaust yourself to earn your dream life invites the crazy in.
When you're working tired it's hard to take the time to set boundaries, to estimate how much time it will take to get projects done (doesn't everything feel like it will take for-ev-er when you're worn out?) or to inspire and excite the people around you into action. And without fail, having weak boundaries and being run down always comes with a side order of clients who I'm not a good match for, miscommunication in all parts of my life and general overwhelm.
It's crazy to keep living that way, at least!
For me, it finally clicked that I couldn't power through to being inspired & happy when I hadn't taken a weekend off in over a year. And more than that, if I'm grinning & bearing it through most of my days I might as well have kept working at the 9 to 5 marketing job that wasn't right for me!
This year I've finally started to believe that before I can take care of business, I absolutely have to take care of myself.
When I starting believing that I could work in a different way (even if I didn't know what that looked like yet) and started making decisions that lined up with that possibility, my life started to change.
How I Transformed My Small Business
Centered Life From Stressed To Sane
On Tuesdays for the next five weeks I'm going to share the first steps I've taken to get from overwhelmed and stressed to seeing a new way of working that's positive, productive and doesn't rule my life. These are practical and simple things that have helped me ramp down my stress and get centered so I can be better at my business and be more fun in my down time.
Sounds pretty good right? So let's get going!
Step One: Unplug during downtime… with this baby step
Constantly having notifications popping up on your phone at all hours can really make you feel important and in the know. The dark side of constant interruptions is that when you're “off the clock” they take you out of the moment and disconnect you from the perfectly amazing time that you would have otherwise been having.
That's play time that you need and earned!
Here's the thing: no matter how important your work is, when emergencies happen they're likely few and far between. And in a worst case scenario where one happens, if you empower people to phone you when there's a Real Emergency (and you're firm on what that is!) you'll likely find out about urgent situations faster and be more quick & effective at solving them than if you tried to mash out an action plan on that tiny keyboard.
Still, while it can make all the sense in the world, turning off your email notifications is a scary step to take.
My “baby steps” workaround was finding a mail app that let me set a time window when I would receive notifications. Once I could set notifications to end at 8pm and wake up to find that my house hadn't burned down, I could start to slowly walk that end time back until I turned notifications off completely.
The result is that I'm less stressed, more present at work and at home, and am much happier. If you're having trouble finding an app that has this feature, I use iGmail on my iPhone and I love it.
This is the first of five steps in a series that I'll be sharing on Tuesdays over the next five weeks, so be sure to check back next week!