Yesterday it happened again. I was asked how my summer was, and I explained that it was a glorious mix of summer activities and building a new business. Working a few hours in the morning and playing a few hours in the afternoon. (Of course, having my kids around 24/7 means that it also involved making pancakes, filling up the dish-washer and walking the dog and more!)
The person behind the question looked sceptical and asked; “is that really wise when you are a consultant promoting work-life balance?” (Meaning working during time off).
Let’s dig into this question for a moment.
Since I recovered from a burn-out seven years ago, and started talking openly about my experience, and advising managers how they can limit negative stress in the workplace, this question pops up on a regular basis.
“You’re not working too much, are you?”
Although those questions are all well-meant, they highlight one of the main misconceptions about stress-related burn-outs.
It’s not working too much that’s the culprit. It’s the lack of control. The stress that is wearing us out and eventually making us ill is caused by a discrepancy between demands and resources. That means that doing a lot can work fine, as long as you have the ability to ask for help – or the freedom to plan and prioritize. As long as we have some degree of autonomy in our work, we will feel like we’re actually making a difference. When we can delegate and ask for support, we’re fine. But, when the opposite is true and we have little control over how we’re getting things done, we’ll soon lose motivation and energy. At its worst, it can leave us feeling helpless and depressed.
The wonderful thing about being an entrepreneur is all the freedom. I get to decide when and where I work, with whom and what I do. The risk is, of course, never taking breaks and sacrificing other activities like playing or working out.
So the trick is working smarter, not harder. Meaning, take regular breaks, both for the body and mind. Also, don’t be scared to ask for help. Recently, I hired a virtual assistant, the lovely Peggy, based on another continent. She helps me get this article out in the world and assists with other things that I’m not really good at or would take valuable time from strategic issues. Another thing I want you to consider is adding new revenue streams to your business so you are not just dependent on selling hours.
So no, it’s not only about the hours. It’s about the mindset and about taking (or asking for) the control you need to do a good job.