We’ve all experienced the long days, the late nights, and the work-filled weekends that come with any small business. When I first started my business, every weekend was consumed with work. I couldn’t go anywhere without my laptop (and I seriously mean anywhere). Being away from the computer for longer than an hour gave me anxiety because I was so worried I would take too long to get back to a client. I worked late all of the time and always felt behind and had to meet certain deadlines. This frequently caused so much stress that caused me to constantly oversleep in the morning (I could not drag myself out of bed no matter how hard I tried), which would then result in another long night of finishing my work.
It’s exhausting just reading that mess, but it’s completely true. It was an awful cycle that I couldn’t pull myself out of, and it hurt me in so many ways. My body was physically tired all of the time, and I had a difficult time focusing on work. It not only took a physical and mental toll on me, but it took a toll on my personal relationships as well. After enduring this pattern for several months, I finally realized that I was missing balance in my business.
Why is balance so important?
Finding the right balance in your business is one of the most important things you can do for yourself when you’re an entrepreneur. So often, especially when we’re just starting out, we get so caught up in the idea that we have to constantly “hustle” in order to make it somewhere that we frequently forget to take care of ourselves along the way. I finally reached a point where I couldn’t do it anymore, and I needed a change. I decided to set office hours and tried to stick to those hours to get work done, answer emails, and post on social media. Once 5:00 rolls around, I shut down the computer and leave my office. I can cook dinner and enjoy an evening with my husband without having to stress about deadlines. I also let myself have my weekends back. One of the reasons I decided to give up photography and pursue editing is because I didn’t want to constantly be working on weekends — that is time I’d rather be spending with my family and traveling. It was a micro change that produced a macro result, and it gave me my life back.
After I made this change, I started to see a huge difference in how I was operating my business. Because I didn’t feel tired and overwhelmed all of the time, I was more productive during my office hours, and I was able to get through catalogs faster and more efficiently. I quickly realized that clients are JUST FINE if you take 24-48 hours to respond to an email. Trust me – THEY UNDERSTAND! I don’t expect people to answer my emails within the hour, so why did I think everyone expected this of me? Your business isn’t going to fail because you didn’t answer that email the second you got it, and you don’t have to get a catalog back to someone that day if you’ve explained the expectation should be 3-5. You have to make sure you’re taking care of yourself, or you will burn out really quickly.
So if you find you’re struggling with the same fatigue I was plagued with early on in my business, try finding the right balance for you. It could mean taking on fewer weddings a year, or it could be as simple as setting strict office hours. Listen to your body – is it telling you that you need more sleep? Also, listen to your friends and family. If you’re giving up your entire life to your business and sacrificing time with your support group, it’s probably time to make a change. Like Mary Marantz says, “I didn’t quite a 9-5 to work a 24/7.” Figuring out what you need in order to have a more productive workweek will put you in the right direction for healthy success.