Seven years ago I experienced burnout and after a long, slow recovery, I knew I wanted to do life differently.
I decided I wouldn’t work full-time again, and set about building a life that reflected the balance I wanted to have between my work and my life beyond work.
This was all great in theory, but I found that in the early stages of setting up my current business, I was regularly working up to 50 hours each week despite only having childcare to cover a fraction of that time.
I worked every nap time and in the evenings after my son was asleep. I became an expert at squeezing every last drop of time out of the day.
But it wasn’t helping me or my business.
I noticed after a few months of working at this pace that the business was plateauing, despite the hard yards I was putting in.
More than this, I found myself swinging between restless excitement at the potential in my business and crushing overwhelm at the many knocks along the way. I was tired and not looking after myself, but struggling to slow down.
And then life got in the way. My father was diagnosed with terminal cancer and died some weeks later. I fell pregnant with my second child and found that nausea and exhaustion became my constant companions, as well as an unexpected diagnosis of gestational diabetes in my third trimester. My husband was offered a new job, and we decided to accept and move our family 200 miles away.
All of which made me realise that something in my business had to change.
My brand is centred around work/life balance, and it just didn’t sit right with me that I was letting my business goals set the agenda for my life outside work. I had gone into my business determined to make it work around my family commitments, prioritising a lifestyle that benefited my health and wellbeing.
I decided to change my business model and opt for a pattern of working that gave me more flexibility.
So I reduced my working hours and cut back on the amount of childcare and household support I had in place.
This meant tearing up my plan for the year, and accepting that I would have to go slow. Even as I decided that, I wasn’t entirely sure what it would look like. But I was ready to accept that my business goals would have to go on the back burner while I got life at home a bit more ‘sorted out’.
The surprise was — my business actually started to do better than it had done while I was working longer hours.
More money was coming in. I started to enjoy my work more. I felt more connection with my clients and had more meaningful interactions with them during our sessions.
I was hustling less, but achieving more.
So what had changed?
Without realising, I was implementing the principles that I had been teaching to my clients.
I was being more efficient with my time and I was actually getting more done.
And the tip that made all the difference?
I call it ‘Just One Thing’, and it works like this.
The night before I start work for the week I open up Evernote and make a list of everything I want to achieve that week.
I then group the tasks under headings e.g. Marketing, Website, Clients, or the particular work projects they are part of. I also include errands that need to be done at home under a separate category.
I then look at the list as a whole and ask this one question:
‘What one thing will have the biggest impact on my business this week?’
I assume I may only have time to do one thing on the list. So I pick the most important and do that first.
It sounds so simple, but this isn’t how I used to work.
I would go for the task that appealed to me the most, and then put in extra hours to make sure I got the most important task finished in time. And I constantly felt that I was behind schedule!
I covered quite a bit of ground in the early months of 2016, and definitely laid the foundations for what would follow.
But I didn’t actually achieve many of my business goals until I started to implement the ‘Just One Thing’ principle.
I’ve been able to launch two mastermind programmes, run several intensive promotional events, and grow my network in a matter of months on fewer hours and less stress.
All in a year where I lost a parent, had a second baby, and relocated to a different part of the country.
Downscaling my business has given me the work/life balance that I was always looking for. It bought me time to look after myself and my family in a year where everything was turned upside down.
More than that, it injected life into my business and has given it a real boost – the kind that only comes when you FOCUS.
I’m not saying I won’t increase my working hours when I’m through this season. But it’s not enough to talk about self-care and work/life balance without turning those words into actions.
How about you?
Are you tired of working harder and not seeing proportional results?
Are you squeezing work into every last moment of your schedule despite knowing you want a better balance?
The last year of my business has taught me so much. More than that, it has given me even more confidence in my belief that we don’t achieve great things by hard work alone, but by being purposeful and intentional with the time we have available, even if that is constrained by family responsibilities and life as a whole.
As entrepreneurs and business owners we have the unique ability to choose our working terms and conditions.
The key question is, will we?