When You Need A Break (but can't find time)
A colleague of mine recently took a week staycation - didn't check emails, didn't look at the project boards, chats, or any other work-related communication. And for me, it's a bit of a foreign concept. But what he said stuck with me.
When you feel stressed, overwhelmed, or like you've hit a wall with creativity, step away. It's healthy to take a break and know when your body and mind need to regroup.
So many entrepreneurs can't even think of the last time they took a true vacation because they are afraid their clients won't understand if their emails don't get replied to, calls go unanswered, or projects go unfinished. This oftentimes results in a "brownout." This guy clocked out for an entire week to just get his groove back and clear his mind from stressors. I'm impressed.
Mostly because I'm guilty of this - and I know I'm not the only one. Because everything I do is cloud-based or online, as long as I have wifi, I can literally work anywhere I go. It's a blessing and curse. And while I feel extraordinarily blessed to be my own boss, I can't help but think how unhealthy it can become.
Fact: I am terrible at setting boundaries for a healthy work-life relationship.
I find myself working all the time - during typical business hours, on the weekend, at night, early mornings, and when I'm technically out-of-office. This inevitably translates into unrealistic expectations. A people-pleaser, through and through, I feel like clients will think I'm lazy or not committed to doing a good job when I give them deadlines that are more or less realistic and practical.
Example: I have a client who gave me finalized information for a project around 9pm on a Friday night, and needed the project to be completed by 11am on Saturday. 100% wrong on the client's end. But what is even more wrong is that I obliged. I woke up early and took time away from my Saturday morning with the girls to knock out a design project, so I didn't disappoint the client. That's messed up.
But it is hard for someone who is self-employed to take time and not worry because there is very little respect from others. So many of my friends are photographers and they ahve been borderline harassed by clients for taking "personal time" when said client thinks that time could have been spent editing their gallery. THAT IS NOT OK. Entrepreneurs, more than anyone, need time to breathe. Not only are they running a business, but they are doing it all - finances, creative, self-marketing, promotions - the list goes on.
Long story short, how do you take time away when it's hard to come by? Carving out personal time, time to rejuvenate, time to breathe, or just finding time for self care is difficult when you wear loads of hats & juggle a whole family's worth of calendars.
Tips for Carving Out Personal Time When Busy
Do Not Disturb
I am attached to my phone. Whether it's a work email or photos of the kids, I always have my phone with me. This makes it very hard to unplug and take time away from the email notification, work chat "pings", or event calendar reminders.
Set a "do not disturb" time on your phone so even if you have it in your pocket, there aren't sounds or vibrations constantly. You may not even remember you have your phone if it's on radio silence. Make it a set time every day so you know that you have at least 1 hour during your day free from technology.
Set Clear Working Hours
If you depend on Google calendars like I do, create boundaries and clearly defined "working hours" that allows clients to request meetings during working hours only. This will decline any invitations to meetings, calls, anything that doesn't fall within your working hours.
Be intentional about these hours and making it clear to the client or project manager when signing onto a new project or task so they don't make absurd requests during hours when you don't typically work. Treat it like an office job - when you are done work for the day, clock out. I know that it is hard to do, and my generation feels like work is the most important thing and it is hard to disconnect, but it is unhealthy.
Don't be afraid to ask for help. But I get it. This is not always possible. But on rare occasion that you have a kid-free day or weekend, take advantage of it. For me, this means that I go sit at a coffee shop and get work done for a few hours. This only happens maybe once a week, but often times, it is rarer than that. So I cram as much as I can into this precious time - emails, design work, articles, meetings... you name it. This allows me to not take up quality time with the girls during the week and focus on work at a separate time.
Don't Feel Guilty About Self Care
As a mom, it is so easy to feel guilty about taking time for self care and doing something for yourself. It doesn't mean taking a trip to the day spa, but it can mean doing something that brings your joy, happiness, or even 20 minutes of relaxation. For me, this means having a nice hot shower and not rushing or worrying about having one of the kids peek their heads around the curtain (only happens on days when hubby is home!). It also is the 25 minutes it takes to give my nails a nice in-home mani (thanks to ImPress, it's a breeze). Going to a salon costs a lot over time and takes a lot of time, but having my nails look good makes me feel put together. It could even be something as simple as doing a nice face mask while drinking your morning coffee in peace and quiet. Self care doesn't need to be a big expensive gesture. And it certainly shouldn't be something you feel guilty about.
I still struggle with this. And it is something that doesn't happen often, but setting a very clear OUT OF OFFICE email when you have family plans, vacation, or even weekend getaway relieves you from feeling like you need to answer client emails, requests, or solve any issues while you are having family time. If a client doesn't understand that you need time "off the clock" and that you need a break too, then you may want to reconsider them as a client... (just saying)
I don't say any of this because I have it all figured out. I say it because I don't have all the answers and I struggle with this constantly. My hope is that other creatives will read and we can have a conversation about this. What works, what doesn't, and why this is such an epidemic.