Beep! Beep! Beeeep!
The shrill sound of your alarm splits through the crisp morning air. With a sigh, you bury your face in your pillow and do a quick mental calculation of how many more times you can swat the snooze button before you really must get up.
It's not that life is awful: you've got a business you enjoy and some good things going for you in your personal life. It's just that once you became an entrepreneur, you suddenly felt like you never had a break. "Is this just the way life has to be?" you wonder. "Will I always feel like I'm working?"
As a time management life coach and productivity trainer who helps entrepreneurs around the world to get more done and take more time off -- without guilt -- I can confidently say that the life of a business owner doesn't need to involve perpetual work. Here are some of my tips on how to break the cycle.
1. Let go of guilt. So many entrepreneurs feel guilty about taking time for essential activities like sleep, exercise, meals, socializing and prayer and meditation. But if you neglect those areas, you won't function at your highest potential. I recommend setting your personal hours first. After you've put in time on your calendar for proper self care, look at how many hours you have left to commit to your business. Give yourself permission to stop working -- without guilt -- once you reach your weekly work hours so it's possible to also meet your wellness goals.
2. Let go of being over-committed. Entrepreneurs tend to be very versatile, capable people, which means they can -- and often do -- take on too much responsibility. But doing it all has a huge cost to your quality of life and work. If you have too many commitments, think through what you could trim or eliminate from your schedule. Here are some ideas of where to cut back:
- Delegate work responsibilities to an employee, contractor or intern. These could include putting up blog posts, doing research, mailing out items or making follow up calls.
- Step down from a committee, drop a club or let go of a class.
- Hire someone to help with household activities like cleaning, lawn care and pet walking.
- Don't automatically say, "Yes," to every request or volunteer yourself for activities. Just because you could fix something, doesn't mean you should.
3. Let go of chaos. When you don't schedule in time to create order, you constantly feel like you're trying to catch up and worry that something might fall through the cracks. Each day should have time set aside for tasks like answering e-mail, responding to voicemail and wrapping up any details from meetings. Each week should have space blocked off for periodic professional and personal responsibilities, such as paying bills, going grocery shopping or doing laundry. When the basics of life feel under control, taking a break doesn't make you feel so uncomfortable.
4. Let go of stress. Each person has certain activities that leave them feeling refreshed and energized. For some, it could look like a leisurely dinner with friends, for others a long hike in a forest preserve, and still for others a few hours curled up with a book. Ideally, you should put in these types of recharging activities on a regular basis. But sometimes, they might not quite fit. When you're pressed for time, try alternatives like calling one of your best friends on your way home from work, walking around your neighborhood after dinner or reading while you're eating lunch.
Even small doses of "play time" can go a long way toward making you energized and ready to spring into action when your morning alarm sounds.
Elizabeth Grace Saunders is the founder and CEO of Real Life E®, a time management life coaching and training company that empowers individuals who feel guilty, overwhelmed and frustrated to accomplish more with peace and confidence through an exclusive Schedule MakeoverTM process. Elizabeth has appeared in Inc magazine, The Chicago Tribune, on NBC and was selected as one of the Top 25 Amazing Women of 2010 by Stiletto Woman.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the country's most promising young entrepreneurs. The YEC promotes entrepreneurship as a solution to youth unemployment and underemployment and provides its members with access to tools, mentorship, and resources that support each stage of a business's development and growth.