Growth & Burnout
It's September. September. I'm in shock at the fact that the summer is gone; I feel like summer happened all around me, but never really invited me to the party. Although, if I am honest with myself, summer did invite me, but I was just too busy to accept the invitation. This year, I turned down summer.
That kind of hurts to say. I'd love to blame a lot of external things for why I didn't go to the beach (other than our awesome camping trip), didn't see any concerts, didn't walk on a single boardwalk, didn't get a tan, didn't read a sleazy summer novel...but in absolutely honesty, I am the only one to blame.
However, for every personal thing I didn't do, I did two or three professional things that blew my mind out of the water. I more than quadrupled the number of custom design projects I did (compared to this time last year), I reached out to a ton of vendors and professionals that I have been inspired by, I've been following my gut and working harder and harder in a purposeful, fulfilling way. I started working with a business advisor, a financial advisor, and began thinking more carefully about the value and use of my very limited time.
Am I proud of my business? Yes, I am incredibly proud. Am I afraid of the precedent I set by working 18hr days and missing out on summer? I am absolutely terrified. I feel the burnout rearing it's ugly head, and I know I need to work quickly to make sure that I take care of both myself, and my business, so that we can grow together in a healthy way.
Here are some of the things that I have been, or plan on doing, so that I can restore a bit more control over my work-life balance.
First off, I found that I was way too close to my clients and their timeline. For example, if a client missed their approval deadline for their wedding invitations, I would immediately feel overwhelmed with the fear that they wouldn't get their invitations out in time. I'd send reminder emails, and then I would work crazy long hours to rush their order through so that it would still be done on time. Not only was this not healthy for me, but it told my clients that they CAN miss their deadlines and still have things done on time without any repercussions. Now, I find myself setting clearer boundaries and leaning much more heavily on my contract, which is helping me significantly manage my time better. If a client misses their deadline, they still get a reminder email, but they also get reminded of the ramifications of that deadline being missed (rush fees, potential project cancellation, etc). I no longer wake up at 4am to rush orders or prep files for last-minute print, which leads me to the second thing I have been doing to help me feel more in control...
Getting fitness back into my life. I've struggled with weight my ENTIRE life, and the past two years have tested my waistline in embarrassing ways. While it was hard to watch the summer pass me by, I think the absolute hardest part of working full time while running Sincerely, Jackie has been the lack of time I have to take care of myself. As my business grew, I would spend more and more time on my butt in front of the computer, and less and less time doing anything else. My fridge was always empty, which meant my husband and I ate out (or ordered in) more nights than I feel comfortable sharing. Not only did we both gain a lot of weight, but we also saw our paychecks vanishing in record speed. I realized how closely my business growth related to my husband and my well-being and health, and have been working very hard to manage it better. Even Miss Juliet, our pup, was getting less active and seemed a little neglected. Honestly, the moment when I realized that my business was negatively impacting the health of my family, I felt an overwhelming sense of guilt and sadness. It also motivated me to get myself, and our family, back on track. By following my contract closer, I am now giving myself the freedom that I desperately needed to start spending a little more time taking care of myself. Now, when I wake up at 4am, it's to workout and prepare healthy meals for my workday. My husband and I also started teaming together to get groceries and plan dinner meals for the week. Since he usually has a little more time on his hands, but I'm the one that knows what we need, I write him detailed grocery lists and he picks it all up on his way home from work. Some weeks are harder than others - especially when he works overtime and can't get to the store during the week, but it's still been a better process than before. I've already lost a few pounds and am feeling great starting my days with a good workout. Miss Juliet seems to enjoy the increased activity as well, which warms my heart.
Turning down projects is another scary thing that I've been doing in order to help me achieve the balance that I need. I'm listening closely to my gut, and if a request comes in that doesn't fit my purpose closely, I am getting more and more comfortable with simply turning it down. By only focusing on the projects and clients that I love, I am making sure that I'm staying motivated, enjoying my work, building an awesome portfolio, and leaving the wiggle room in my life for, well, life. I've turned down at least a half dozen projects in the past two months, and I really do believe it's only helped make me better.
Lastly, I am listening to a lot more music. Music really defined so much of me as a teen and young adult - my husband and I met and married at a concert hall - and so many of my life has been motivated and shaped with the help of a good song. It might seem small to some people, but having music on while I work is helping to make the work more meaningful for me. Right now I can't get enough of One Republic's Counting Stars - I feel like it's practically written about my business and is a great reminder of what numbers to count, and what to aim for.
How do you manage burnout? I'd love to hear the things that have been most helpful for you!