Being in business is a marathon, not a sprint
Do any of these scenarios sound familiar?
There’s the “I was crazy busy today, but what did I actually do?” day. You felt busy and the time crunch was real. But then you glance at your to-do list at the end of the day and wonder where the time went.
There are days when we are on a roll. We are getting things done, and it feels so good to cross items off our to-do list. But we push ourselves until the point of exhaustion to make sure everything on our list is crossed off and not feeling behind the next day.
Work is going well, you are doing deep meaningful work. You feel pleased with your results only to look up and see that there is time left in your day.
So, what do you do? You find work to fill the extra space. You want to feel productive and avoid feeling “lazy”.
But where does this type of “productivity” get you in the end?
- Poor quality work
- Trouble getting up the next morning
- Decreased enjoyment in your business
- Irritated friends and family
It is easy to get discouraged when we don’t get it all done, why don’t we feel productive, and feel guilty for shutting off the computer when there is extra time in our day. We wonder “what is wrong with me”?
If you look at each of these 3 scenarios, at the center of all of them is a skewed view of productivity.
Remember that being busy does not always mean being productive. In fact, it is often unhealthy, both mentally and physically.
If we started our businesses for the freedom and flexibility we were needing and looking for, why do we work this way?
Entrepreneurs and Entrepreneuritis
We all experience what I call “entrepreneuritis” which basically means, “If it needs to be done, it has to be me and it has to be done now, no matter how long I’ve already been working today or this week”.
And here are a few more lies that Busyness and Toxic Hustle feed us.
- It’s up to me to hold “stuff and things” all together.
- If I keep moving, I can control All. The. Things.
- If she can produce that much content, marketing, get that much client work done, etc. I can too. And should.
- Constant moving and busy work is productive.
Busyness, constant productivity, and Toxic Hustle are ingrained habits, but If we look below those lies, there’s another layer just under the surface that we all want to avoid. This layer includes things like:
- Productivity & Busyness is Addicting: We feel productive, so keep going. We feel needed and that we are keeping up with the Joneses.
- Productivity & Busyness Distracts Us: If we keep going, keep trying, we don’t have to ask the tough questions about why we can’t stop doing, producing, and constantly going.
- Slowing down feels vulnerable: It feels unsafe. We wonder what we will see and feel, realize and think when we give ourselves time to look up from our productivity. It can seem scary.
- Comparisonitis: We are not keeping up with_____ you fill in the blank, I’m doing something wrong, I’m behind, and doing everything wrong.
What do we need to do instead?
Ask yourself, “What does healthy productivity look like, and feel like, for me?”
We need to define what productive means to each of us. And we need to define it in light of the season of life we are in, health issues we are dealing with, business plans and goals, intentional rest, family needs, and more.
Step #1: Evaluate a typical day.
Ask yourself some questions like:
- What got done?
- What didn’t get done?
- Where did I waste time?
- What got done that could have waited?
- What got done that wasn’t even on my list?
- Does my calendar and to-do list reflect my goals, values, and priorities?
Now go back through your answers and ask yourself the following:
- Did I try to cram too much into my day? Was it an impossible list to begin with?
- Did I plan for the unexpected? Did I create and plan for margin in my day to accommodate the unexpected?
- Did I plan to get done early so I could enjoy something else? Or did I fill up that extra space with busy work?
Step #2: Get Real With Ourselves and Learn to ask for help
Sometimes the scariest person to ask for help from is ourselves. We are our own worst critics and bosses.
I’ll be the first to admit that asking for help is not the first thing I think of on the days I don’t get it all done. I’m not always sure what kind help I need! Which is why step 1, evaluate is so important.
In my first business as a virtual assistant, I would come across this scenario a lot. My clients would come to me so stressed out and know they needed help. But, when I asked them what they would like help with, a common reply was that they were so busy they didn’t know. They just knew they needed help.
Use these “I can’t get it all done” days as a “Get real with yourself” day and use it as a starting point to see where you could use some help.
Let’s ask a couple more questions:
- On your list of things that DIDN’T get done: What do you dread doing? (maybe that is why it didn’t get done??) and what are you not good at doing?
- On your list of things that DID get done: What did you really not like doing? What would make your heart sing to get off your plate?
- What shouldn’t have been on your list in the first place?
- What type of work was missing from your day?
This is not a podcast about hiring or knowing when is the right time to hire help for your business or for your home. There are better podcasts and experts that can help you with that decision.
What I can tell you is:
- We often hire too late. It’s hard to release work and place it into someone else’s hands and it’s hard to make room in the budget for our first or 2nd team members.
- As perfectionists, people pleasers, and worried about what others think about us, we often demand way too much of ourselves, we don’t get the help we need, and that leads to burnout.
Asking for help is not a bad thing.
It’s not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of growth.
It means that you have carefully evaluated where you are at, what you want to accomplish, and that you are putting together a plan of action on how to get it done.
You may need to be your first “fire” instead of hiring.
- Getting real with yourself about expectations, energy levels, and family obligations is a good thing.
- Learning to let go of what we are holding on to so tightly is important.
- Do we need to hold on?
- Why are we holding on?
- Why are we holding on so tight?
- Asking what am I afraid of?
- Is being busy helping me avoid something I don’t want to face?
- Do I feel less than because I can’t do it all like I used to and feel like I should? (That’s a hard one to admit, ask me how I know!?)
Step #3: Superwoman needs to leave the building.
Can we be real for a minute?
- We aren’t 30 anymore. We are not even 40.
- We have health issues.
- We are running businesses.
- We have aging parents.
- We have different priorities, goals, and ideas about life and business then we did in our 30s and 40s.
As women, we have created a set of unrealistic expectations not only for ourselves for others too. How long and hard you work has become a badge of honor.
It’s time to give others, and ourselves, some grace and realize we don’t have to do it all.
I can tell you it won’t be easy at first. You will probably experience some feelings of guilt and failure that you are needing help. That needs to stop.
Instead of wearing the “badge of honor,” of how long you worked, wouldn’t you rather say “I loved working in and on my business! I had fun, worked with great clients and did meaningful work. And then I was done and spent the rest of my day….”. Now, doesn’t that sound wonderful?
When we enjoy our work, when we run our business instead of it running us:
- Our enjoyment of the work increases
- We maintain sanity!
- The quality of our work increases
- Our relationships improve
- Our physical and mental health improves
I kind of like that productivity list.
Wouldn’t it be amazing so say, “I liked today. I liked that I didn’t get everything on my list done today. I got my priority work done, and that is more than okay. “
Maybe it’s time to be kind to yourself and get okay with not getting it ALL done today.
Marta Goertzen is an entrepreneur, writer, WordPress Website developer, and nature photographer. She daily explores the trails and beaches of the South Central Oregon Coast with her dogs Oliver & Mochi. You can follow along on their adventures on Instagram. Marta also fully believes that change starts with gratitude and that gratitude can change everything. Find out how with the “Grateful Friday 7-Days of Gratitude Starter Kit”