Self care for the self employed.
“Sometimes the most productive thing you can do is relax.”
When you run your own business, it’s all too easy to end up working all of the time. Believe me, I’ve been there working on a weekend, telling myself “whatever you get done now, is one less thing you’ll have to do this week”. But that’s a vicious cycle, which leaves zero time to relax and recuperate, and most importantly in a creative business, no time to be inspired. I often feel guilty when I’m not doing something related to work, which isn’t exactly healthy is it? A few weeks ago, that ended up with me reaching burnout point… feeling completely overwhelmed, overworked, flooded with a winter cold, and forced to take some days off.
In a small business, perhaps a company of one, if you’re not looking after yourself, how can you look after your business in the best way? There’s so much hustle culture out there, and productivity shaming that creates an unachievable ideal in people’s minds. You can’t be firing at all cylinders, working 17 hours a day, 7 days a week, and expect everything to keep going swimmingly, can you?
So, I’m making some promises to myself for what I’m going to be doing from this point forward to reduce the chances of burnout happening again. I hope they serve as permission for you too.
NB: I’m not a coach or a therapist, although I do speak from experience. Take what works, and leave what doesn’t.
Make time for joy.
What lights you up? What do you love? What feeds your soul? What do you enjoy that helps you think about something other than work? What do you wish you could do more of? Make time for it. Make it part of your week, and prioritise it.
For me, this is music. Listening to music, and playing the piano helps me to detach from the busy-ness of business, and switch off from the outside world. What is it that does that for you? Try and make it part of your daily schedule.
Have boundaries. Stick to them.
Set clear expectations and boundaries for yourself with clients, friends and family. Don’t want to work all weekend? Then don’t. Can’t pick up the call from your friend when you’re in the middle of some deep and focused work? Don’t. Equally, this isn’t permission to go AWOL and take forever to respond to things, rather to be respectful of both yourself and others.
Recently, I’ve been trying to focus all business communication through email and scheduled calls. If you’re not careful, you can have communications spread over WhatsApp, Instagram, text messages, Facebook… it’s a lot to handle isn’t it? Focusing your communication through less channels will allow you to be more efficient and consistent in your approach. In order to stay in the flow of my creative work, I’ve started leaving my phone in a different room, only checking emails periodically throughout the day, and bringing structure to my working day… all of which has helped me to be more productive and intentional with how I spend my time.
Unsubscribe from bullshit.
F*ck “the hustle”. It doesn’t have to be that way. You are not your business. You are not your productivity. You can’t be working every hour of every day, so unsubscribe from anything and anyone that tells you otherwise.
Reduce your screen time.
Your apps don’t need to be grabbing your attention with notifications every two minutes, so turn off the non-essential notifications. A lot of apps use notifications to keep luring you back to the app, in order to generate more advertising revenue. Do you really need to see every Facebook/Instagram/Twitter/Email notification popping up on your phone as it comes through, distracting you from the task at hand? Probably not.
Be aware of how much you’re using your phone using the built in screen time features, and be more intentional with how you’re using your digital devices. It’s easier said than done I know, but awareness is the first step to change isn’t it?
Escape the busy-ness of business, and give your mind a break. Even if it’s just for ten minutes a day, notice how much more calm and centred you are. Be less distracted and reactive, and focus on the things that matter most to you. I use the Headspace app, and highly recommend it.
Switch up your routine.
Try different workflows, try new ways of working, get out of your routine a little bit, set some working hours, work when you feel like it. See what works best for you. not feeling your current task? I always find a short walk, cup of tea, stroke of the dog, or a day dream can help – those short moments away from your desk often result in some of the most inspired ideas!
Sleep deprivation does not create a happy, productive or creative founder, so create ideal conditions for a good night’s sleep. Set ’Do Not Disturb’ on your phone between specific hours, don’t drink coffee before bed, switch off the TV an hour before you need to sleep etc etc! A minimum of 7 hours usually does the trick. Again, the Headspace app has an entire section dedicated to sleep that I can highly recommend.
Protect your energy.
We all know the people who energise us, and those who don’t. It’s so important to spend more time with people who light us up, and avoid those who drain the life out of us. As an introvert, alone time is so important to recharge, and yet that doesn’t mean social interaction isn’t important too. It’s great with the right people!
Have some fun!
On that note, plan out your social life. Make plans to meet a friend for lunch or dinner, work from a different location for the day, FaceTime an Insta-friend… the possibilities are endless!
Make time for you.
In reality, only you can do that. No one is going to do it for you. Recognise that there’s always something that needs doing, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t deserve a rest.