If there’s one thing I know about entrepreneurs, it’s that we’re big dreamers. We’re tenacious and ambitious, and these are usually good things – until they’re not.
Having big dreams and big goals and the wherewithal to reach them usually means that you’ll find some level of success, but those same big dreams and goals can also cause us alpha entrepreneurs a lot of strife. What happens when you set the bar so high for yourself that you’re never satisfied? What happens when you are so busy that you no longer enjoy the small things in life? What happens when you’re so driven that when reaching one goal you don’t pause to enjoy it but instead pile pressure on yourself to reach the next rung on that ladder?
If you’re not careful as an entrepreneur, ambition can ultimately lead to unhappiness.
Sometimes when I lay my head down at night it brings with it the most amazing visions and goals, but also a racing mind, a mind filled with an endless to-do list and huge dreams I don’t know if I’ll ever accomplish. It’s difficult to fall asleep (and I’m not the greatest person to be around when I haven’t had my sleep). So, the past few weeks have forced me to develop some techniques to calm this mind and allow both body and mind to rest.
1) Commit to active rest. Decide when you will work and when you will rest, and allow yourself to rest. Yes, entrepreneurs have long been known for working endlessly with little sleep and poor nutrition. I say hogwash. Let’s acknowledge that we are our biggest assets and that if we aren’t healthy and happy, our businesses won’t be either. Build rest into your day and don’t forget to make time to do the things you enjoy.
2) Be grateful. As you’re calming your mind for the evening (I usually do this when I’m already in bed) make a list of 10 things you’re grateful for. I literally count with my fingers and think of ten things I’m grateful for. Gratitude is one of the best gifts you can give yourself.
3) Be grateful again. Do the same exercise as above, except this time think about ten things you accomplished that day that you are grateful for. For me this is usually a mix of business, family, and friend-related stuff. “I’m glad I updated my website’s homepage.” “I’m glad I finally talked to Rachael, it had been to long.” “I’m happy I finally scrubbed the kitchen stove clean.” For someone obsessed with productivity, this one really helps me realize that I am making forward progress, and it helps me pause and recognize just how much I am accomplishing.
4) Think about tomorrow. Before I go to bed I try to have three work tasks and three personal tasks I will complete the next day. I use Evernote pretty religiously and break down my to do list like this:
- Send newsletter
- Update profile picture
- Add business directory to blog
- Plan 2014 calendar
- Add promotional posts for new Femworking meetings
- Respond to callouts and add value to members
My list will look like this for the whole week. It’s always shifting and there are about 30 more tasks at the end of this list that aren’t assigned to a day, but making it bite-sized makes it manageable and helps me work smarter not harder.
I manage my personal tasks the same way: manicure nails, pay doctor bill, and call sister might be my three tasks for one day.
Sleep, exercise, meal planning and cooking are never on the to-do lists, because those are non-negotiable. Your health and happiness have to come before your business. As a fairly new entrepreneur I have to say that there has been a pretty steep learning curve. I went from being business-obsessed and not giving my family the time it deserved to setting boundaries to ensure I avoid the wife and mother guilt that can so easily plague me. I’m no longer working feverishly ever spare second, and instead have become grateful for the work I can accomplish each day as a housewife entrepreneur, raising a baby and running a home while growing a business. I’ve even picked up a novel from my favorite author to read as part of active rest. Implementing these four practices has been my saving grace these past few weeks, and I hope that they can help you enjoy a fuller, happier life as well.
Do you struggle with a racing mind? Do you put too much pressure on yourself as an entrepreneur? Do you find it hard to balance family and business time? Please share your experience and any practices you’ve implemented that may help the rest of us live a little happier.