IF YOU FEEL OVERWORKED AND OVERWHELMED, tired of putting in 14- to 16-hour days at work only to get home and put in more time taking care of your family–and then going back to work after they are all in bed–then it may be time to reconsider what you are doing. If your business is running you instead of you running it, change is in order.
Ask yourself these questions and answer them honestly (preferably in writing):
- How am I spending my time, exactly? We cannot correct what we cannot measure. If you really want to make a change, first you have to be 100 percent clear on how you are spending your time now. No guesses, but hard data. Track your time meticulously for two weeks. If that’s too much for you, then do it for one week. Use an app, or a time tracker on your computer, or write it down the old fashioned way–or do all three and then put it together at the end of the week. If you use a calendar and everything goes on the calendar, then this will be much easier for you, as long as you mark down how much time you actually spent on each task (as you do it) as opposed to how much you thought you were going to spend. Don’t forget travel time between appointments, meal times, time spent scrolling through social media on your phone or on the phone, and time watching television. Write it all down. Until you get completely honest with yourself about how you spend your time, you’ll always struggle to change.
- What payoff am I getting by staying in overwhelm? When I’ve asked clients this question, the knee-jerk reaction is usually, “None!” But that can’t be right, can it? Because we only do those things for which there is some kind of physical, intellectual or emotional payoff. So what is yours? What does being overworked do for you? What does being in overwhelm do for you? What does saying “I’m so busy!” do for you? It does something for you or you wouldn’t do it. Does it make you feel important to be busy? Do you keep busy so you don’t have to face other situations in your life? Would you rather work than deal with certain relationships? If your answer is: “I work this hard because I need the money,” I’m asking you to go a bit deeper. In our society, we all need money, and while it may be a reality of your life that you desire a certain amount of money, when you are working to the point of utter exhaustion and potentially, complete burnout, is it possible something else is going on? To change a behavior, a habit, it helps to understand the underlying reasons why we do what we do.
- What am I saying “no” to by saying “yes” to everything on my plate? Every time you say “yes,” to taking on a client, volunteering to steer a committee, or helping out at church, you are saying “no” to something else. What often happens with generous and competent people, is that we automatically say “yes,” when people ask us to do something (for free) because it feels good to be wanted and needed. However, every time we say “yes” to someone else’s desires, we may be saying “no” to our own needs and desires–or the needs of our family. As the saying goes: “Charity begins at home.” Before you reach out to help others in the community, first make sure your own needs are met, and your family’s needs are met. And THEN, see what kind of time you have to commit to volunteer work. This goes for straight up volunteer work and for giving away your services for free. Think of it this way, if we put our own oxygen mask on first, in other words, if we take care of our own mental, physical and emotional wellbeing first, then we will be able to do more, not less, for others in the long run. Maybe we’ll be able to make more money in our business and then we can write a larger check to the church to fund a really meaningful project, and we can let others feel the joy of volunteering their time. Also, remember, we don’t have to step forward every time someone asks us to “help out.” We can simply say: “Thank you so much for considering me. Let me think about it and check my schedule, and I will let you know what I can do.”
- Am I really the best person for the job? There are more than 7 billion people on this earth. If you are doing everything in your business because you think “nobody can do it as good as me,” then you might want to rethink that belief. Surely, out of those $7 billion people, one or two might be able to step into your shoes occasionally and do it at least almost as good as you can, whatever it is. Of course, I’m teasing a bit to make a point. The truth of the matter is that we all have one or two things that we are really good at. The rest we probably should be outsourcing to someone who is better at it than we are. Yes, you can do your own bookkeeping, but it is so tedious. Yes, you can design your own website, but since you bill $250 per hour and a good web designer (who will do it better than you anyway) works for at least half that, why are you the best person for the job? Do you really need to answer your own phone to screen potential clients? Do you need to prepare routine paperwork? For what you charge for one hour of your time a week, can you hire another person with perhaps a lesser skill level to handle some of the mundane, routine tasks on your plate? If you find yourself working 12-, 14-, 16-hour days or more day after day, it is way past time for you to start hiring help. It doesn’t have to be full time help, or even an employee. There are so many options now for virtual assistants and services. Do your research, make a decision and start hiring help! So what if one person doesn’t work out? Fire them and hire another. Keep doing it until you find the right person. Invest the time in training for a better return on your investment. If you want to grow your business, you must learn to ask for and receive help. Period.
- What would happen if I raised my rates? If you are so booked with clients that you are working long days, day after day with no break, then it’s likely a good indication that it is time to raise your rates. Why is that? Because when you are in high demand, your time is more valuable. The more people who want a piece of your time (and you), the more you’ll find who are willing to pay you what you require for it. If you are worried about who will help all those who can no longer afford you, make a list of younger, newer folks you can refer out to. You will help them build their business, folks who cannot afford you will still find the help they need, and you’ll be able to service the ones who can afford you by giving them your full attention and a higher value. Plus, you’ll make more money to take care of your needs and your family’s needs but with a whole lot less work.
- What happens if I continue the way I am without making a change? If you are exhausted now, imagine what you will feel like six months to a year from now. And now imagine you’ve made yourself sick from working so much that you are no longer able to work. Is that where you want to be? If not, then now is the time to start making changes. Human beings are not machines, and our bodies have a way of making us do what we must even when our brains think we can do more. Don’t wait until it is too late.
- Who else is paying for your overwhelm? Who else is paying for the services you give away for free? Who else is paying for your overcommitment to work and your exhaustion? If you think “No one but me!” you might be mistaken. If you have a family, even if it’s a spouse with no children, every time you give away your services for free or cheap, your family is deprived of those resources. And if you have employees, they are deprived of those resources. If you are spending all your time outside of work volunteering, then your family is deprived of your presence. If you are single, there still are important people in your life who may be deprived of your presence if you are choosing to run yourself ragged. Even if you do show up, you might not be showing up fully because of your worn out mental and emotional state. Most importantly, YOU are paying the price when you sacrifice your needs and, yes, desires, on an ongoing, consistent basis because you buy into someone else’s story of desperation. Flip the script. Instead of buying into their story, consider giving another person the gift of solving their own problems. We are not here to rescue the world. In fact, do think we are is arrogant. It means we judge ourselves to be more capable than other people. Sometimes, stepping back and allowing others to shine is the best option, don’t you think? Could that be possible?
If your goal is to create a thriving business to support you and your family, then it is incumbent upon you to take an objective look at how you are spending your time and whether you are spending it wisely. Your business is a separate entity. It is not you. It is your mule. You are not its mule. Unbridle yourself and start living the life of joy and freedom you truly deserve. If you would like help figuring out how to change your thoughts, beliefs and behaviors around your time and money so you can create a healthier business and lifestyle, reach out to me to schedule a complimentary virtual consultation to discuss how I may be able to help you.