Often when people start their own business, it’s because they want freedom.
Freedom to make their own choices.
Freedom to live life on their terms.
Freedom to feel good and powerful.
But suddenly the business takes off, you get a bunch of demanding clients, and your to-do list explodes. You’re drowning in overwhelm, can hardly keep track of the millions of things people are waiting for from you, and you find yourself as far away as possible from that freedom you so desperately wanted.
I worked with the amazing Joy Coach Sarah when I was in a period of overwhelm with my own business, and she helped to equip me with the tools I needed to take back control and work ON my business, instead of running around putting out fires all day. And now, Sarah joined me on my podcast to discuss some foolproof strategies for taking care of yourself when you run your own business.
1. Create your ideal schedule
The operative word here is YOUR. We’re not focusing on your clients, or on anyone else. We’re talking about you, and you alone.
Sarah says that the first thing you should put into your ideal schedule for the week or month is self care. Remember, this is not based on what your clients want, or when they’re around. It’s about what works best for you, and working your clients around that.
It sounds easy to remember, but it’s a great idea to schedule in your food breaks. We need to eat to keep our blood sugar levels stable, and to allow us to function at our best. A few years ago, I would work crazy long days, and I would only really eat when I finished my work for the day. That meant that I’d often fall into emotional eating, where you feel like eating everything in the cupboard because your body can barely understand what it wants.
Also think about the hours your ideal schedule would include. You need to choose between early mornings or late nights — which essentially is saying that you’ve got to sleep. No matter what the startup founders of Silicon Valley want you to believe, sleep is so necessary to function and perform well at work.
It’s also important to check in with your body and focus on what it needs and wants, not just what you think it SHOULD want. In the world of social media, we’re surrounded by ‘shoulds’.
“We always think like, oh, for example, I should work out three times a week,” says Sarah. “But what if you're already exhausted? You only got five hours of sleep and you have, you know, eight deadlines the next day? Is it really going to be the best thing for you to go and then do a bunch of physical exertion? Probably not. You might actually need a nap.”
It’s a question of listening to what your body is telling you. Do you need some water? Do you need a nap? Do you need a walk around the block? And then literally giving that to yourself!
I think many of us will recognize this situation: we want to be that person who gets up at 6am and goes for a run, and then does 30 minutes of weightlifting and downs a protein shake and looks glamorous all before anyone else is up yet. But we're not that person. And especially when we're feeling overwhelmed and stressed, that's just not possible.
So we need to take a step back and look at what we need. So not thinking, “I should be making a green smoothie with 25 ingredients every morning.” But what does my body need?
Something that works really well for me is scheduling a one hour time slot, three times a week. And in that hour, I just check in with my body and ask myself what I need in that moment. Often, the answer is just literally to decompress. I can spend that hour how I like — reading, chilling, going for a walk, or even just laying on the floor contemplating life. That gave me so much freedom, because I realised I needed to get rid of the ‘shoulds’ in my head.
Remember, how you’re feeling now, overwhelmed and stressed, won’t last forever. Right now, you might be too tired to even think about going for a walk. But in a few weeks or months maybe, that’s exactly what you’ll feel like doing.
Sarah says that a lot of her clients are afraid that if they lay down to rest, they’ll never want to get up again.
“I can tell you from coaching hundreds of people, you will want to get up again after you rest, but you have to rest first!” she says.
So there you have it — in this section of the plan, literally write down your ideal schedule. Don’t focus on how it’s going to happen, just think about WHAT you want.
2. Only say yes to ‘worth it’ activities
The second step to taking better care of yourself is to only say yes to the activities that you actually want to do — the ones that are worth it.
This is how Sarah explains it: “You get invited to this, you get invited to that, you know inside yourself, ‘oh man, that one's going to be a drag, that guy is always like so weird’. You have a feeling about the activity. Only do the things that are worth it: either they're going to be really nourishing, like, ‘Oh my gosh, I haven't seen her for so long. And I love her so much. And I really want to know how she's doing.’ Or it could mean going to that event, where there's going to be these three people there that I have been wanting to network with and it'll be so cool to be able to make that connection.’ Those are ‘worth it’ things.”
Got it? Whether it’s something in your personal life, or something related to your business, make sure you’re going to do something you really want to do, and not something that you feel obliged to go to.
“But Amy, how do I know if it’s something that’s worth it to me?” I hear you ask.
You have to figure out how you feel. Sarah suggests imagining yourself there at the event. Think about how your body would feel there at the event, and what that feeling tells you.
“We’ve all had that experience of going out and buying a really expensive pair of shoes. And in the shop, you're just enamored with them. But then you walk out of the shop with your shopping bag and you're like, ‘Oh, I shouldn't have spent that money.’ You get that feeling if that was the wrong thing to do,” says Sarah.
That’s the no feeling, the one we’re trying to avoid here. We’re shooting for the yes feeling instead, where you feel light and like you’re happily expanding inside. Tune into your body and find out how you feel, and that will help you figure out whether or not something is worth it for you.
Make sure you’re not making the decision out of the place of guilt. It’s easy to wonder if I say no to the parties, am I gonna say no forever? And I'm never gonna go out anymore? Am I going to be that person?
No, you won't — you won't be this exhausted forever. But first, we need to get you to a place where you're not this exhausted anymore. So not right now doesn't mean not ever. The focus at the moment is getting you out of this place of overwhelm.
Right now, you don't have enough left in your cup to pour from to do this as well. And we need to start looking at what are the things that fill your cup, and literally just eliminate all of the things that are draining it. Unless there's a really good reason to, unless there's this really big thing of networking with those three guys that are going to change your business or whatever. But don't say yes to every single thing just because you're used to saying yes.
What are the activities that will lift your life and your business? ‘Saying no’ is a form of self care, too. Self care doesn’t have to be expensive — but if you find something like getting a weekly manicure or massage, that really makes you feel great, then that might be a good choice of self care for you, and an activity that would definitely count as something that’s ‘worth’ it.
When I started working with Sarah, she told me I needed to get more sleep. I remember asking, but what about my morning routine? And should I change anything in my mornings
Sarah said, “Amy, I think you just need as much sleep as possible right now.” So sleep was the biggest thing I needed and that was worth it. And then it was okay if I was just rushing through my morning as long as I was filling up on that sleep. That was worth it more than creating a morning ritual at that time. So try and think carefully about what’s worth it to you, not what you feel should be worth it.
3. Write it down
The last piece of the puzzle? Write it down before you go to bed.
“Because when you're running your own business or just being a human today, there are so many things you need to remember,” says Sarah.
Do you spend time lying in bed worrying about someone you forgot to call back? Did I email, blah, blah, blah, you know, just those thoughts that go round and round in your head while you should be sleeping. Just write them all down.
That way, you can just tell yourself, it's okay. You wrote it down, you'll remember. You can relax and your brain will stop thinking which is very key for good sleep.
Find a method that works well for you. For me, I love the CBA principle — Catch, Batch, Act. If you want to find out more, there’s a whole podcast episode dedicated to that. When you’re so overwhelmed that you can’t even remember what you forgot to remember, writing everything down is your only hope for getting things done. This is how you start working your way out of overwhelm.
Now, if this whole process is starting to make you feel overwhelmed, don’t worry. This is Sarah’s advice: “You can always scale everything in your life up or down. That’s an option available to you.”
So while eventually it would be great to implement all the advice here, don’t focus on that now. For now, just pick one action that would make a big difference to your life.
“Is there one of these things that resonate with you? Are you doing a whole bunch of things that aren't worth it? And you knew that right away and recognized it? Maybe start with that one. Do you lay in bed just thinking and thinking and thinking? Maybe writing down is the one for you to start with,” suggests Sarah.
And once you’ve seen that action make a real difference in your life, you’ll start to feel less overwhelmed. And less overwhelm means a happier you — and who doesn’t want that!?
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