I am a typical give it all, push it, smash the back-end out of stuff kinda worker. But, perhaps surprisingly, I wish I wasn't. It causes burnout, and it's something I really want to work on. It's on the LONG list of things to work on. I think I should perhaps move it up the list. If I manage to balance myself better then I know for a fact I'll be able to work on the other things on my list much more effectively. This starts out sounding a little down in the dumps, but stick it out to the end for the lessons.
The reason the 'hustle' is not the lifestyle for me (and probably for a lot of others) is burnout. I can push myself to achieve a lot in a short space of time, but then I drop. My immune system is rubbish from past health issues, and when I don't rest enough I crash. When that happens I'm screwed for days or weeks. Or months. Earlier this year I put myself out of action for the best part of four months! I started coming down with something at the start of July, and I'm only just coming out of it the past month or so.
When my physical health goes, my mental health goes too. A lot of what I went through the latter half of this year was probably depression rather than the illness which triggered it. My self-esteem, like everyone, is linked to my productivity. I get joy from doing stuff: work, play, anything. If I can't do stuff, I start to sink into a pit of depression which compounds the problem. If you haven't already, check out this post for a bit more background. This one too.
Another major knock-on is my finances. I work for myself and at the moment if I can't work, I don't earn anything. I am working on this, because I know that in the future I need to have a solid residual income in case I get ill again. Luckily I had built a bit of a buffer, but that disappeared pretty quickly. I have found myself starting from scratch again over the past month, which is tough to accept! I have changed my direction to something I'm even more passionate about, but I need to be patient with myself. Rome wasn't built in a day.
Quite simply I need to find the work ratio and timetable which works for me. I need to find where I can balance family life with business, both of which I love but require crazy effort. I need to make rest and recovery part of my routine, like I would with training. Then I need to stick to it!
I have learned that, as with training, I work better in short intense bursts.
So basically I have to treat my business like strength training: expend huge effort for a single rep, then rest for 4-5 minutes. What does this look like? Well, with the kids it's got much easier with Pippa on her own, so that helps. Mon to Wed I could focus on taking her out right after the school run for a couple of hours, short burst. Then home for lunch and recovery before we pick Evelyn up and things go mad again.
Avoiding business burnout
Business days it's a little easier as I don't have to entertain any small humans. I work better in the mornings now (not sure what changed there as I used to be a night-owl), so I could smash out some solid work then rest. Maybe a 9am start (post school run) until 12:30 would be good, short and intense. Given my work-rate when I'm focused I could easily produce some quality writing and videos, plus coaching, in that time.
This would leave my afternoon free for other stuff which advances my mission: gym, reading, podcasts, networking. Stuff that prevents burnout. I need to let go of the nagging, stressful feeling of 'I should be working' because in the mid- to long-term this leads to crashes. I can provide better for my family if I look after myself and can continue to work! As I automate the systems, the more I can give to my clients without it all getting too much.
In the evenings I must find a balance between work (right now it is 8:41pm on a Tuesday) and relaxing. Taking the full evening off doesn't work for me and the way my biz runs at the moment. I have started to limit myself to two hours of work, and phone on flight-mode at 9pm. This has helped me switch off before bed, and relax with a movie or series before reading and journalling.
I could probably bring this down to 1-1.5 hours work by automating more systems. I can batch tasks on my work days, such as writing posts which I can then publish through the week. Once I am in the zone I can get more done than if I split it up over various days. Say it takes me 20 mins to get into writing mode, one block of 2 hours is better than 4 blocks of 30 mins.
If I allow more time to relax in the evening I will avoid burnout much more effectively.
Beating the burnout
On my list of things to do this evening I wrote 'plan life' and that's what I will do. I've already made some big changes, and writing this has drawn out some more ideas. I'm going to increase my productivity by reducing my hours working (more hours doesn't always mean more value). Also, I will start using some habit hacking tools which have benefited me in the past, such as Coach.me.
It's a fact that all this stuff is within my control. If not directly, then I can control how I react and respond. I refuse to become a victim to my own limitations. Instead I will be aware of them and use them to my advantage. We must try to know ourselves as best we can. This is the only way we will be able to operate at our best. Our bodies and minds are tools. We must learn what they can and can't do, and how to use them to the best effect.
My challenge to you: plan and build the lifestyle which allows you to function at your best. Don't buy into someone else's operating system until you have tried it on for size. Take bits from different people and construct your own blueprint for successful living.
I am only at the start of my journey, but I am excited about the possibilities.