Screw Work-Life Balance and Focus on Work & Rest Rhythms Instead
I don't think it matters if entrepreneurs have figured out the elusive "work-life balance". What I do think matters is that entrepreneurs have healthy rhythms of WORK and REST.
I'm on a mission to expand my impact while having a healthy rhythm of rest, proving that you don't have to self-destruct before you can rest while building your business.
I have a confession to make: during my time as an entrepreneur I have felt a lot of guilt about the amount of time I work - A LOT.
Do you ever feel guilt around your work-life balance?
Here's the thing though - I've realized that my guilt stems from the opposite reality of most people: I feel guilty for not working enough, whereas most of my peers have told me that they feel guilty for working too much.
Whichever of these two camps you're in - there has been a long ongoing debate about whether work-life balance is even possible for entrepreneurs. There have even been arguments that if you're doing the work you were created to do, then what you do is impossible to separate from who you are and so work-life balance is a moot point. Here's my perspective:
Many "successful" businesses have "made it" by sacrificing rest for the endless work hustle, only to experience burnout and often times, a health or relationship crisis leading them to eventually adopt the oh-so-important rhythm of rest into their life and business. I haven't however, heard of many people building businesses with healthy rhythms of rest built in from the beginning.
Work & Rest Rhythms
I think of work and rest like a pendulum. In order to get momentum for work, it is required that rest is mixed in. The pendulum cannot stay stuck on the work side, it must swing to the other side, rest, in order to swing back up on the work side. And the more rest you get (the higher the pendulum swings), the more momentum you'll have for work. Here's the thing though, I believe that the amount of work and rest is irrelevant, and thus so is balance. Instead, I believe that the momentum of this pendulum is based on how effective work and rest are, rather than how balanced they are.
In order to continually do effective work, I believe that your work needs to be meaningful and fulfilling. In order to be meaningful and fulfilling, I think that you need to:
1. use your unique skills
in order to
2. impact things/people you care about
3. enabling (instead of hindering) your ideal lifestyle.
If you're doing this right, ideally you feel in FLOW a good percentage of the time you are working. You know you're in flow when time flies and you feel like you are in the zone. It's when you are uber engaged and productive and your work is energizing instead of draining. This is much different than just being busy - what you're busy with matters. Is the work important? Is it impactful? Is it using your strengths?
If you don't feel like this describes your business, check out my free downloadable workbook to help you figure out what meaningful and fulfilling work is for you, so that you can shape your business around that.
Download your Free Guide to figure out what meaningful & fulfilling work is for you.
In order to have momentum for effective work, you need to effectively rest. This means that your rest rejuvenates and energizes you so that you can work from a place of rest instead of resting from work because you're burnt-out and exhausted.
You may need a different amount of rest than I do to keep your pendulum swinging, and what makes rest effective for you is likely different from what makes rest effective for others. For some, rest may be relaxing activities such as reading, napping in a hammock, spending time alone, or taking a bath. For others like me, rest involves non-work activities I love such as sports, hobbies, playing games, or socializing in small groups.
By paying attention to which activities (or lack thereof) actually energize you, you can be sure to build in time for these while you are building, running, and growing your business.
When to Rest
My rhythms of rest are daily, weekly, and yearly - but you need to figure out what works for you.
My daily rest consists of things I do both after my work hours as well as during my work hours while I'm at my coworking space, Platform 53. During work hours, this might include frequent breaks to walk or stretch, make tea, work on a puzzle, chat with people, or take a turn in our progressive Scrabble game. I leave Platform 53 by 6pm and commit to no-work evenings. Rest after work can include going to a personal trainer, spending time with my husband and dogs, enjoying good food and drink, getting outdoors, planning our next vacation, watching TV, or reading.
My weekly rest rhythm involves no-work weekends. That's right, I do NO work on the weekends. I try to also have one full day where I don't do any household chores or anything else that I don't enjoy. That one day is reserved only for things that feel restful, rejuvenating, and enjoyable. The weekend can look similar to my evening activities but often includes more active and longer activities - such as hiking, camping, playing sports or games, or visiting friends and family.
My yearly rest rhythms include frequent vacations or stay-cation days where I TOTALLY disconnect, spending holidays with family, and participating in activities that we enjoy such an annual adventure race.
Sustaining Work & Rest Rhythms
Committing to effective rhythms of work and rest isn't easy, so I've setup systems that help me maintain this. These systems will be most important for whichever rhythm you have a harder time maintaining - work or rest - but it's a good idea to have some in place for both. Here are the systems that work for me:
I do 95% of my work at a coworking space to have physical separation (and thus mental separation) of work and rest.
I have set work hours (8:30 am - 6 pm) which are only an hour off from my husband's work hours. If I need to work outside these hours, I talk it over with him.
I meet an accountability partner at Platform 53 every weekday at 8:30 am to make sure I don't sleep in and putz around in the morning (a bad old habit) and she bugs me if I'm staying too late.
If I get distracted during work hours or find myself not taking breaks, I use the Pomodoro Technique by setting a timer for 25 minutes to do focused work on my #1 priority without chatting, checking email, or doing lower priority things. After 25 minutes I take a mandatory 5-minute break and then repeat.
I do prep work before vacation to ensure that I can completely disconnect while we are traveling. I set out of office messages and don't check email or voicemail.
Ending Entrepreneur's Guilt
As I've established effective rhythms of work and rest, my guilt around not working enough has drastically gone down. The truth is that in today's world, while some successful entrepreneurs are finally touting the importance of rest, most of them established their businesses by working until they imploded before allowing themselves to rest. While I understand that there are going to be seasons in our business where we are working more or less, I want to set an example that you can build a successful business while avoiding the self-implosion step all-together by having effective rest rhythms and I'm going to take you along on that journey with me.
Do you know any entrepreneurs that you consider to be successful that did not run themselves into the ground while they built their business? I'd love to find other examples of people doing this successfully. Maybe by knowing that I'm not along in this rebellious mission, my last bit of guilt around not working enough would dissolve completely.
In a Nutshell
I focus on work & rest rhythms instead of work-life balance.
It's not about how much you work & rest but how effective your work & rest is.
Effective work is best achieved when you're doing meaningful and fulfilling work.
Effective rest is when you spend your non-work time doing things that energize and rejuvenate you.
Aim for multiple time periods of rest. I have daily, weekly, and yearly rest rhythms.
Set up systems that help you sustain your work and rest rhythms.
How can you build healthy rhythms of work and rest into your life so that you can build a business you love while living your ideal lifestyle? I challenge you to implement one new system to help you do that this week.
Need help with #3 (making your work meaningful & fulfilling)?
If so, don't forget to grab my FREE guide that helps you figure out what business to start (or how to update your biz) so your work feels meaningful and fulfilling.
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I’m Stacy, an entrepreneur, strategist, and adventurer dedicated to helping you craft your dream business out of your skills & passions. Why? Because I think you should love your life and that’s kind of hard to do if you don’t love your work.
You are meant to do important and amazing things in this world and I’m here to help you do just that.
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