Something you should know (part 4)…

June 11, 2009 at 6:00 am 7 comments

That Takes the Cake (cake) / Laurel McConnell Photography (photo)

That Takes the Cake (cake) / Laurel McConnell Photography (photo)

You might love your business enough to work on it 24/7, but if you don’t take a break you will burn out.

When I started my business it was easy to work on it all the time.  I LOVED everything about it and I was fueled, fired, and ready to go.  I worked on it A LOT.  But after a couple years of maxing out my weeks with work, I knew I needed some more balance in my life.

I also started to see something in my industry that made really bummed me out. I started to see business owners that I loved and respected close up shop.  I saw individuals burn out that I had considered to be peer mentors.  I had seen them work their businesses to the bone.  They couldn’t take it anymore.  I felt that it was a huge loss to our industry to lose such great people.  And, I learned that I was headed for a similar path, if I didn’t take a step back.

One of the reasons I started my business is because I want to have work-life balance that is within my control.  I had a vision of how my life would be and having a business would allow me to have that life.  The problem was that I’ve always worked hard and I didn’t have an employer setting boundaries for me.  I had to set those boundaries myself.

The first thing I did was hire someone to come in to help me with my business for 5-10 hours a week.  It was not much time, and my budget was limited, but it took a HUGE load off my back.  And, it was worth its weight in gold – to my business and to me.

The second thing I did was to stack my appointments.  I was meeting people at all hours in all places.  And, because most people meet on weeknights and weekends, I was working when the rest of my friends and family were not.  I was eating dinner late (if at all), and I was missing out on personal weekend activities.  I started offering people appointment times on Tuesdays, Thursdays, or Saturdays.  At first, I wasn’t sure about this.  I thought I should bend for the client.  But, it turned out that most people could meet whenever I was available.  I also learned that it put more control into my hands and I wasn’t at the complete mercy of the client.

The third thing I did was to make weekends a “no-work zone”.  Like I said earlier, I would offer Saturdays as a meeting option for people.  But, I would also ensure that other than those potential meetings, I would not work on the weekend.  This was not always possible, but if I had to get some work done, I made sure to give myself a time limit: 2 hours on a Saturday only.  One of the perks of being an invitation designer is that I am not a “day-of” vendor and do not have to set up or be at the wedding.  I know a couple of wedding planners who mark out their Sunday and Monday as “no-work zones”.

What I started to see was that I was actually working more efficiently during the week.  By knowing that I couldn’t work on the weekend, I was pushing myself to get more done in less time.  (Getting more done in less time would later become a necessity when I gave birth to my daughter in 2007.  It’s amazing how you become so much more efficient when you have children.)

The fourth thing I did was to move my office out of my home.  When I was working from home, there were no barriers to work.  It was there and I was working.  I had an office, but I would bring work into the living room, and the dinner table.  My entire home might as well been my office.  Alternatively, if moving out of your home isn’t an option yet, start by creating a work zone for yourself.  Section off an area of your home (a room, a basement, a corner) to do work only.  And, do not let that work leave that area.

Lastly, I have made an earnest attempt at shutting down work at 6pm in order to have dinner with my family.  This is not always achievable.  There are times that I have an evening appointment with a client or a networking event.  During busy-season there are times I need to fire up my computer late at night to do more work.  But, generally I stick to this rule.  It helps that my husband does this also.  (He is also self-employed.)  If you are in a relationship, you need to make sure that your partner or spouse is on board with you on this.  It takes commitment from both individuals.

What I’ve seen is that I’m much more relaxed and at peace.  I don’t always have a pressing work-issue on my mind.  I am much better at letting go of work and embracing the present moment.  The client is also much more respectful of me.  I was giving everything and not setting any boundaries.  And, I was being taken advantage of.  I sleep better.  I eat healthier.  I exercise.

And, I LOVE my business because it gives me what I want.


Entry filed under: Inspiration, Life Lessons.

Something you should know (part 3)… Insider to Insider: Beth Helmstetter, Owner of Beth Helmstetter Events LLC

7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Barbie  |  June 11, 2009 at 7:16 am

    This is a battle with EVERY small business owner I believe – what great advice! Beautiful photo too!

  • 2. Lindsey  |  June 11, 2009 at 10:11 am

    Definitely something I’m going through right now and struggle with creating these boundaries. You and Sean Low are right on!

  • 3. Sarina  |  June 11, 2009 at 11:08 am

    What a good post! I find that if you value yourself and your time by setting boundaries then your clients will respect you and realize you are a professional regardless if you have a home based business or not. Actually, having boundaries for your self and clients is even more important if you do have a home based business! Boundaries are something we always have to work on and remember in all aspects of our life 🙂

  • 4. Kevin M. Dennis JWIC  |  June 11, 2009 at 3:03 pm

    LOTS of really good suggestions. I have already implemented a few of your ideas and have seen an improvement in my work flow.

  • 5. Real Card Studio  |  June 11, 2009 at 3:05 pm

    Great post. You are so right. I’m leaving work now! ; )

  • 6. elizatruitt  |  June 11, 2009 at 4:28 pm

    Great post, Michelle. I’m struggling with this right now and trying to set time-off hours. But working any time/all the time is such a hard habit to break…

  • 7. Happy Fourth of July! « Sage Wedding Pros  |  July 3, 2009 at 7:44 am

    […] you need a reminder, I’m referencing this post on the importance of taking a break… Read here. Enjoy your time […]


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