If you were to sit down and really evaluate everything you work at daily in your business. Be honest with yourself – what do you see? Busyness or productiveness?
Back in my beginning days of being an entrepreneur and building my business as a fine art wedding and portrait photographer (man, it seems like it was just yesterday), I wore my ridiculous amount of hours worked and lack of anything resembling boundaries and self-care like a badge of honor. I worked 15 hours daily thinking that it somehow put me ahead of everyone not willing to hustle. Looking back? Yes, I learned a lot from during that time doing so much research and self-educating, but the fact was that all it truly got me was less time with my family and a hole in my pocket from buying far too many energy drinks. I wasn’t any richer than the person next to me and didn’t have an endless supply of clientele lined up on my doorstep.
So what was the problem? I was investing all this time into my business so why was it not paying off? I was equating being “busy” as being “successful” and these are two very different things. The person on social media with thousands and thousands of followers is someone we may assume is successful, but sometimes they are simply just busier answering more DM”s and responding to more comments.
We often value ourselves at how busy we are as business owners when “busy” has nothing to do with our actual worth or accomplishments. We have to re-wire our brains to understand that doing less with more impact is far greater than any amount of busy. So how do we do this? Let me give you five tips that have worked really well for me:
Tip Number 01: Take Breaks
I don’t mean long, extended breaks. We want to infuse regular breaks throughout our workday. Why is this important? Science has proved that our brains do better when given the opportunity to “break free” from the task at hand. Regular breaks increase productivity, creativity, restore motivation, improve learning and help prevent “decision fatigue”.
Tony Schwartz of The Energy Project shares about the “pulse and pause” mantra. From research done, he teaches that as humans we naturally go from completely focused and energized to mental fatigue after 90 minutes. From additional research I have done, it seems that the tried and true “sprint” times before taking a break have been 25 minutes, 52 minutes or 90 minutes (all conclusions from organizations who have tested the “pulse and pause” theory). The best advice I have heard? To simply set a timer for every task at hand to gauge your best sprint times. Prepping your week’s worth of social media content? Put 30 minutes on the timer and know that when the clock runs out you will spend 5 to 10 minutes stretching, drinking some water, getting a healthy snack, step outside – anything that is completely not focused on what you were just doing or on the next task. From there, figure out your natural rhythm and when you feel your brain telling you it’s time for a breather.
Tip Number 02: Set Boundaries
No one can work 24 hours a day, seven days a week and live a well-balanced life. Make sure and sit down and figure out a realistic work schedule based on your personal life and what you have on your plate professionally. Yes, sometimes things will come up, but promise yourself to be diligent in keeping to the times you set.
Between running two businesses and homeschooling four out of five of our children, I have to cut myself off to put on my mom and wife hat despite how hard it is sometimes. I make sure that I work Monday through Thursday for approximately 7-9 hours daily. Each day differs with my start and end time depending on my schedule with the family and I make sure that Friday, Saturday and Sunday are reserved for rest and time away from work. Do I get to everything I need to every single day? Not always and that is OK. Remember that re-wiring of the brain thing I mentioned before? Continue working on it. And I still swear by block scheduling.
Tip Number 03: Get Outside + Get Physical
Being in front of a screen all day long, reaching for unhealthy snacks and not taking care of yourself will catch up to you. And it can bring on a whole other set of problems like poor health, depression and more.
Make it a priority to not only get your heart rate up but doing it outside. Feel the sun on your face and enjoy a daily walk, jog, work out – whatever it is. It not only is good for you physically, but you will be amazed at how much you are able to focus and get more done. It helps to clear that brain fog!
Tip Number 04: Take Regular Time to Reflect
This could be a weekly thing or perhaps bi-weekly, even monthly. Set aside regular time to get away from work and reflect on things. Are current workflows working? If not, find the hole and adjust. This will aid you in being even more productive with less time wasted. Is there a new goal you would like to begin working towards? Break down the process and steps that will get you there. And goodness gracious, daydreaming isn’t just for the kids! Take the time to do it and let your brain relax even more.
Tip Number 05: Take a Regular Break from Technology
With my business being 95% digital, I have to say this has been the biggest transformation for me. Think of it as your “digital sabbath”. Mine is taken on Sunday so it’s literally the Sabbath for me. I put all the technology away. I have stopped scheduling anything for Instagram for this day and have even stopped watching IG stories or consuming anything on social media. I put my phone on vibrate and leave it in a different room so that I am not distracted. I leave my computer off as well.
This allows me time to shut down completely. To soak in time with my people and truly be present. Nothing has helped me more with feeling inspired and productive when I get back to my desk on Mondays.
I know what you are thinking… Kara, if I take the time to do all of this there is no way I can get to everything I need to in my business! I have been there and have had that exact same mentality. However, if you are currently feeling stressed, overworked and burned out your way isn’t really working anyway, right? Try it, my friend. You won’t regret it. Keep me updated with your progress so I can root you on, OK?