There is a terrible trend happening across the country among entrepreneurs, and let’s face it, humans in general. A quick internet search will turn up dozens of studies linking depression, broken marriages and illness to the “hustle” mentality that’s so prevalent today, especially among entrepreneurs.
I find this both understandable and sad. It makes sense that someone building a business finds themselves buried in the work of getting it off the ground and running. The word “hustle” has become so trendy and commonplace that we justify our busy schedules and lack of sleep with the idea that we have to work non-stop to stay ahead of the game. The statistics show that a large majority of small business fail in the first year, so we have to push through and work harder than everyone else, right?
The sad part is that so many of us decided to start a business in order to set our own schedules, live our lives on our terms and be a blessing for our families. While we are busy building our businesses, way too often we end up forgetting what matters most to us. We forget about taking care of ourselves and our relationships. We end up sick, exhausted, frustrated and those that mean the most to us are left with whatever little energy we can muster up on our little time off.
I believe there is something better. I believe that while there will be seasons of hustle and really hard work, that it can always be done from a place of rest and care for ourselves and those around us. What I find works well for me is to write down my “why” behind my business and set some non-negotiable boundaries. That may look different for you, but here’s what it looks like for me. Keep in mind that I am a married mom of five daughters ranging in age from 2-18.
The “why” behind my business is to build a business that gives me a creative outlet to share my gifts with people in love to ultimately bless the people I love. My business is FOR my family. I keep pictures of my family on my desk to remember that they are the reason I started this business. If it ever becomes a curse on my family, I will either have to create a better business model or leave it behind. My husband and my children need me to give them my best first! They don’t deserve my leftovers.
The boundaries I’ve place on my business come out of a really rough year I had in 2016. I was saying yes to everything that came my way, even if it wasn’t something I was excited about or that was in line with my mission statement. I did it in the name of providing for my family. That’s how I justified hundreds of mini sessions that pulled me in all directions. I said yes to shooting endless 8-12 hour wedding days for other photographers making less in a full day’s work than I could have made in a 2 hour senior/engagement session. I was gone every Saturday from April through the end of November, our only day of the week that our entire family is home together. My wedding clients, who I adored, got the short end as well. I wasn’t caring well for my most important clients. I wasn’t caring well for my family. And I wasn’t caring at all for myself.
The boundaries that have helped this year are:
1. Except for the busy months of June, September and October, I will take at least one Saturday a month off.
2. I will take off one week during Christmas.
3. I will only do mini sessions during months that I have 2 weddings or less.
4. I will not second shoot any weddings for other photographers unless I make a certain amount per hour that I am away from home.
5. I will take off one week for a family vacation, whether we go away or stay home.
If at any time, an opportunity arises that pushes these boundaries, I will ONLY say yes after having a conversation with my family. An example of this is when I took extra second shooting jobs to save up for a Disney vacation. My family knew that I was going to work extra hard for three months in order to have a week’s vacation together. They knew the cost, we set the boundaries of how long the cost would last and we made that decision together.
In order to care for myself and do my best work, I also need to schedule rest into my day, week, month and year. I highly recommend marking these things on your calendar when it makes sense. If you don’t protect your time of rest, whether that’s exploring nature, reading a book or a vacation at the beach, you will inevitably fill that space with work or other “good but not best” activities.
Rest looks different for everyone. For me, that looks something like this.
Daily: Morning coffee with reading time before the kids wake up. Nightly hot baths with the bathroom door locked. Don’t worry, I have teenagers to make sure the littles are taken care of when this is happening. 🙂
Weekly: One day off of work completely. No social media posting. No emails. No phone calls. This day changes for me week to week, but it’s on my calendar!
Monthly: One Saturday off. One date night. One family day.
Quarterly: One getaway day. I love to travel and explore. Someday this may mean hopping on a plane regularly or a quarterly road trip, but for now it means a visit to the city to explore or to Lake Michigan. Being by the water is my happy place so I do what I can to get there regularly. On the weekends that I have a wedding out of state, that may mean extending my stay by a day or two so that I can enjoy the city I’m in. Or, this year it means extending the trip to New Orleans for a wedding, taking my hubby with me and visiting the beach and the city of New Orleans.
Yearly: A week’s vacation with my family. A weekend away with my hubby. A weekend away with women or by myself.
The boundaries I’ve set up and the rest I schedule isn’t fancy. It’s not complicated or hard but it does take commitment to stick with it. It takes marking things off on your calendar. It takes revisiting, tweaking and learning what works best for you. But I can assure you that if you do these things in your own life, you will be a whole lot closer to living the life you set out to create when you started your business. You’ll have a lot more energy to give your family AND your business. You’ll be a lot less likely to burnout, and a lot more likely to succeed.
This post was originally written for my sweet friend Jill while she was on maternity leave. You can see that original post
on her page.