Happy Birthday to Me. On Giving Yourself the Gift of Time
Hi there folks. Rather than talking about content marketing this month, I wanted to veer off subject slightly and take more of an entrepreneurial and work/life balance slant this post. I want to talk about the importance of giving yourself the gift of time.
My birthday is in two days. I’ll be 41 (shout out to my editor, Sian, who also celebrated a birthday this month! We’re a bunch of Libras!). I won’t be working on my birthday because: BIRTHDAY! And the best gift I’m giving myself is that gift of time.
I think I’m a bit unusual in how much time I take for myself as an entrepreneur. I know far too many people who work in the evenings and weekends because they feel like it makes them more productive. I’d argue the opposite. Working just to feel busy without rest and relaxation actually makes you less capable of doing your job.
What Working Too Much Does For You
But Susan, you whine, I can’t afford to take time off. My clients need me! I have too much to do!
I hear this a lot, and I used to feel that way. Then when I was crafting my autoresponder for the period I planned a vacation, I found myself writing, “If you have a content marketing emergency, please contact X.”
I wondered: what in the world would constitute a content marketing emergency?
I’d let my key clients know I’d be out of the office. I’d finished up the work that would have been due while I was away early. They were fine with that. So why did I feel so guilty leaving them alone?
Maybe it’s a female thing…we tend to be the ones who feel more guilty when it comes to doing anything for ourselves above the welfare of our families, so maybe that same guilt applies to our businesses.
When you work too much, you suffer burnout. You know exactly what I’m talking about. You start to dread going to work every day. Each decision you have to make is just too. damn. hard. to. make. You become less efficient at tasks that you could do in your sleep up until now.
And when you work too much without a break, it becomes harder to think strategically and come up with innovative solutions. How do I know? Because whenever I have a conundrum to figure out, I leave the office. I might go for a walk, go to lunch, take a nap, or go shopping. And then something magical happens.
As soon as I stop thinking about the problem, a solution appears out of thin air.
How to Step Away From Your Business
I know you like to feel important. You are the CEO of your business (and also maybe the only employee)! You like to feel like the world would utterly fall apart if you took even a day off.
But I’m going to tell you something, and I don’t want you to get mad at me. M’kay?
The world will not fall apart. Frankly, your clients might not even notice you’re gone.
It’s all in how you manage the situation.
If you’re like me and have project-based work, get the work that would be due while you’re out done early. Clients love that. If you run something like an ecommerce business, automate what you can. Hire someone to help temporarily if you don’t have employees. If you run a brick-and-mortar business and have no other option, put the Gone Fishin’ sign on the door.
If you absolutely cannot disconnect from your work entirely, limit the time you spend checking email. Seriously. Like you get one hour a day. ONE!
Start small. Take a Friday afternoon off (come to think of it, I’m writing this at 3:44 pm on a Friday. Why the heck am I still working??). Take a long lunch or a long weekend. Once you see that things kept going without you, work your way up to a week off.
Then do like me, and take an entire month off and go hike the Dolomites in Italy. Or whatever.
Just realize: you’re an entrepreneur because it brings you passion and joy (or should). You can’t be happy if you’re working all the time. You need your personal life to be balanced too. Make room for the other parts of you that you’ve crowded out in favor of running your business. Write poetry. Get a massage. Drink coffee on your porch and read a book.
Your business will be there waiting for you when you come back refreshed. I promise.