How are you spending your energy?
What tasks and activities energize you?
What drains you?
One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned as a business owner is how to manage my energy efficiently.
For about a year I was on a vicious cycle that ended in burnout. I would feel motivated, I'd work obsessively, then experience burnout and fatigue.
But working myself to the point of physical exhaustion didn't help me make more money. It didn't help me make lasting connections. It didn't help me grow my business or make room in my life for joy and happiness.
Working relentlessly only made me tired, faster.
For a long time, I thought that if I could manage my time and tasks better I’d be able to see the success I imagined.
But that didn't work either. I filled my schedule with tasks that didn't matter so that I didn't have time to do things I enjoyed. Things like spending quality time with my husband, going out with friends, and taking care of myself and my space.
And I ultimately met the same end: untimely exhaustion.
So if working myself wasn't going to save me, and if time and task management weren’t going to save me, what would?
I began to ask myself the hard questions about what I’m doing and why.
Why was I working myself so hard? For what result?
What was I trying to prove and to whom was I trying to prove it?
Why am I in a constant state of work mode or pure exhaustion with no pleasure between?
What I learned was humbling.
I believed the only way to see success was to work myself to death. And I wore my relentless work ethic as a badge of honor.
It was a way to prove to others that I’m not a failure, and to confirm my presence in the world of entrepreneurship.
The reason why I was creating a life without happiness and pleasure was because I didn't feel like I deserved it. I thought if I didn't hit all my goals or clear my task list, then I didn't work hard enough to rest or be rewarded.
And I’d been conditioned to think this way since childhood. I’m not saying it's all my parents’ fault. But I am saying they unknowingly taught me unhealthy habits about work and rewards.
I was a straight-A student until 9th grade (someone please get rid of AP classes!) and I was the salutatorian of my graduating class. For a good part of my time in grade school, my parents rewarded me for having good grades. This reinforced that hard work brings rewards.
For the majority of my life both of my parents worked corporate jobs, but what they did for a living didn’t bring them joy. Even now, my mom has 3 different jobs and is exhausted from juggling so many responsibilities. I learned that what you do for a living doesn’t have to make you happy, it just has to pay the bills.
Although I’ve vowed to never work a corporate job (just not the lifestyle for me), I’ve seen myself operating with that same type of mentality in my business. It led to me working with clients and providing services that I knew I shouldn’t have. But I did them because I would get paid.
And that’s not the life I want to live. I understand that sometimes, you have to do things that are less than ideal as a sacrifice to get where you want to be. But these days, I’m not willing to sacrifice my peace of mind and spirit for a dollar.
So how do I break the cycle?
After taking a hard look at my bad working habits, I realized that it wasn't a matter of time or tasks or the work itself. It was a matter of managing my energy.
I had to learn a few new things in energy management:
How to track my energy level
How to recognize and put my energy towards high impact tasks
And how to power down my work mode to I can replenish my energy
Learning to watch my energy level is something that I can do as a result of more self-awareness in general. Once I realized my behaviors were cyclical, it was easy to see the connection to my energy level during the week.
On Sunday, my energy level was at its highest and so was my motivation to get things done. Between Monday and Thursday, my energy level diminished and so did my productivity. By Friday and Saturday, I was mentally and physically exhausted. And that meant no work, even if it HAD to be done.
I’d already implemented no working on Mondays ( read the blog post here), but it wasn’t enough. I needed to do more to preserve my energy.
So I implemented a 3 day work week. Working fewer days each week forces me to do 2 things:
Relax and do things outside of my business that bring more balance into my live
Focus on tasks and activities that are going to make the greatest impact in my business
Having four days every week to replenish my energy levels has been a game-changer! I have time to decompress from working so hard and energy to dedicate to things that help me realign.
Instead of stressing about what didn’t get done or what needs to be done next, spend my time resting. Resting looks like laying in bed for as long as I like, reading books that have been on my reading list for months, spend time with and strengthen my relationship with my husband, and cleaning and organize my space.
Time away from work helps me focus and gives me a more balanced sense of accomplishment. I no longer seek satisfaction from only what I can produce in my business. I’m also satisfied by accomplishing things that aren’t related to business, clients, or money.
Prioritizing things that make the greatest impact while I’m working has been challenging, but rewarding.
Because I only have 3 days to make an impact with my community and clients, I’m focusing on optimizing my systems, incorporating automation and outsourcing.
For example, social media is a major marketing tool in my business. I have a system that helps me create content for each of my social media platforms in bulk. Because I want to make my content more impactful, I’ve outsourced my copywriting. Posting and engaging across these platforms is time-consuming and not as impactful. So, I automate my social media posts and they are posted automatically at the times I choose. Then I set aside up to an hour to engage on these platforms.
By helping me manage my energy levels, these new habits help me live a well-rounded life and remove the pressure of becoming successful. I’ve learned that success is more than having a lot of clients or making a certain amount of money. Success is living a life that brings me joy.
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