When you're in business for yourself, whether you own a large private company or working solely as a freelancer, it can be difficult to switch off. There are exciting projects to work on, clients to get back to, deadlines to meet, enquiries to answer, emails to respond to, invoices to pay, reports to review, products to deliver and marketing results to analyse.
When I left my hometown of Melbourne last year to pursue organic farming in the Gympie region, it didn't occur to me it would take years to make any real money from it. Realising that the farm business would take several years to come to fruition, I began working as a freelance digital writer whilst simultaneously growing Eco Warrior Princess. As demand for my skills grew, I realised that both businesses would need to evolve past my one woman show. So I decided to take it to the next level and combine my efforts. I officially launched The Social Copywriter. That was five months ago.
It some ways it's gone by quickly. In other ways, it's been a very long five months.
I have a newfound respect for people who run their own businesses. Before starting my own ethical digital agency, I never would have imagined just how all-consuming it actually is. But it really is.
It is ridiculously full on.
Furthermore, trying to juggle a growing digital content business with the editorial and social media needs of an established eco fashion and lifestyle blog such as Eco Warrior Princess is a lot to handle. And that's not including the demands of helping out on a large farm property and being a part of online communities, including a Facebook group I administer called Mindful Boss Ladies.
I'm going to let you in on a secret: I'm not that great a juggler. Something had to give and indeed it did: My health and relationship.
While I haven't gotten seriously ill enough to take any real time off, lack of sleep is still a health issue for me because I generally don't perform at my best when sleep deprived. The mistake that people, including myself, make when pursuing their dreams is to go full steam ahead, sacrificing good health to achieve their goals. This is delusional thinking because our greatest asset is our health. Good health is the pre-requisite to optimal work performance and living the best life you can live.
I am a writer and to write well I need sleep.
Now burning the candle at both ends and grinding up to 14 hour days is enough to break a person down, and that's exactly what was happening to me. Add a fiance to the mix and you've got a recipe for personal disaster. Supreme exhaustion brings out grumpy, abrasive, short-tempered and belligerent Jennifer. I am not a nice person to be around when I'm tired. Ask Ben. I am the b word with a capital B.
I consider myself lucky that Ben understands the pressure I'm under but he has expressed concern at my lack of balance and temperamental behaviour.
I know he has a point.
After returning from a trip back to my hometown for a friends wedding and getting a much needed respite from all things business, I realised that I needed to do things differently. Continuing to clock the same amount of hours and expecting different results is silly and yet business owners like myself do this day-in and day-out.
No wonder why our relationships and health break down. It's completely unsustainable.
Practicing meditation and yoga has helped me find balance, however in a fast-paced business like mine, I need to find other ways to be more efficient. While I'm still clocking long hours, I'm mindful of going over the 12 hour threshold. So here's what I'm currently doing to optimise my time and achieve some life balance:
- Bedtime ritual - Before I go to bed, I write out my daily to do list and and mark out my top 5 business tasks for the following day as well as separate list for personal tasks to be completed.
- Implement systems - I'm prioritising the creation of efficient systems and processes so that the business doesn't rely on my working 14 hour days to grow. This includes a rigorous recruitment process that I'm working to execute on.
- Prioritising work and learning to say no - I have a habit of wanting to help people but this is to my own detriment because the little time I have should be spent on self-care and on my relationships. After getting advice from a fellow business owner, I realised that I was taking on too much and not prioritising. So I've decided to put me first and avoid the guilt trap of doing so.
- Automate - I've purchased software that helps automate tasks and despite costs, frees up time to work on my business and is money well spent.
- Controlling emails - Instead of spending 2 hours a day just on emails, I've schedule time twice a day to read and respond to emails. I've implemented a spam filter and have a system for urgent emails and non-urgent emails. I'm also no longer checking emails on my phone as it distracts me from my work.
- Hire and delegate - I've already hired three experienced digital writers and a social media manager that create content for my websites and social media platforms. This means I can completely focus on my clients.
- Fresh air - I take time out every couple of hours to go for a walk around the gardens. These mental breaks help to refocus my energy, encourages calm reflection and kickstarts creative thinking.
Despite a shaky start, I'm happy with the progress made to find a balance between my personal and work life. While it's not perfect and I doubt it ever will be, I'm better-adjusted and happier and that's all that matters. I'm no longer responsible for doing absolutely everything, I feel more organised, I have a wonderful team who is on board with the business vision, and I'm prioritising my health and relationship.
Knock on sustainably grown wood it remains this way.
Now over to you: Are you a sustainable or ethical business owner? What are some of the challenges you face and how are you addressing them? Would love to hear about your business journey so feel free to leave a comment.