Have you ever felt as if you have been hit by a tidal wave? Have you ever felt as if you were fighting stormy waters, trying to find your bearings after being pulled under? Most of September, October, and November were like that for me. Those months, in the moment, felt like a wild and turbulent adventure that took much of my mental strength to pull through. It was a wave I saw far out, but I continued to wade into the water, deeper and deeper, until it reached a point where there was no running back to shore, only accepting what was in front of me. I told y’all that this year has been about growing and learning. I don’t look back at those months in any poor way, and maybe in fact, I value them more than any other months this year, but I do look at them as lessons learned.
While working for 80-110+ hours a week bettered me as a professional, I do not value that as a healthy routine. I do admire those who manage to work 4-5 productive hours at their desk, while still living well and spending more time creating away from the computer than they spend in meetings, emailing, and hitting deadlines. I hate telling friends I worked till 4 AM, and in fact, I feel embarrassed if a client does find out …thus, why I avoid sending emails out late if I don’t need to. Efficiency is a highly valuable skill to me! It’s my dream to one day know that life as a creative.
Now that I feel we have finally pulled our heads above water and are coming into a slightly less intense period, I am looking back and asking what those months taught me and how, in the future, I can check my sanity as I see a tidal wave approaching. I have learned that I am someone who has to learn lessons the hard way. I think I know my limits, and then somehow, I always go beyond them, but this season has shown me that even though I have learned I am strong, I do not want to live a life that is full of stress, inconsistency, and about feeling on the edge constantly. That space leaves me unhappy, depressed, and ultimately, the exact opposite of creative. From this experience, I learned that even if I can handle it, I don’t need to live this way.
In order to avoid these waves of intense stress, I have learned there are some key steps to think about and implement in to your business:
1. Check yourself before you wreck yourself:
Embrace what stresses you out. Also ask yourself how much time you enjoy spending at your desk? How often you want to hang out with people? What you REALLY want out of your career? Maybe you need to go through a month or two every year of insanity to be able to live the life you want, or maybe you want to keep things fairly consistent in the work department. Whatever you choose doesn’t matter, but this will dictate how you avoid getting hit by a tidal wave of stress.
2. Generate a calendar:
Begin to schedule things out every week, month, and even for the year. Keeping things planned ahead of time will help you avoid over scheduling, and also, it will remain a great reminder for what needs to get done every day and week. When you see a hole, instead of filling it with work, maybe you need to fill it with a week off of just working on a personal project or visiting friends or family.
3. Be realistic:
You can’t do it all, even if you want to. I don’t care what you feel you are capable of, you just won’t be able to get it all done. Don’t place too tight of deadlines on yourself. Working in looser deadlines that you know you can hit will help you to avoid the late night work sessions that leave you exhausted and drinking more coffee than your stomach probably wants to handle. I am not sure about you, but those late nights don’t prove to anyone that you are a rockstar, and there is nothing like the day after hangover from a late night. The only thing you are doing by making fast deadlines is hurting yourself and you have to remember you are most valuable asset to your business. You burn out, so does your work and income. Remember, your creative process is not just the time you spend at your desk but the time you spend away as well, so factor that into your deadlines.
4. Learn to say no:
Oh, the lesson of no is a not an easy one. Too many times I have learned this one the hard way, taking on more work than I can handle, which usually results in crying and a bottle of wine…no good. That being said, listen to your gut, check your calendar, and be realistic. If you can’t do it, don’t. Have a good list of reputable people to which you can refer your clients so you don’t leave them hanging. If it is social stuff, then find a balance. Make a point of giving your friends the quality time they deserve, if you can’t give it, then turn it down and try to schedule for a day that you feel you will be able to give them your undivided attention.
5. Schedule time for yourself:
Whatever that may be, make time for it. Every week, I focus on finding time to go to bed early, workout, go out for a dinner, and enjoy a cocktail with friends. Those are the things I need time in my schedule for in order to feel happy and creative. These things are de-stressing. I try to avoid my computer, phone, and iPad during those times.
As I am looking to the New Year and the oncoming of my 27th birthday, I am thinking hard about what I want these last few years of my 20s to look like. I know a family is on the horizon, and I know that the routine and habits I set now will predict my 30s and 40s. These are harsh realities to someone who enjoys being young and wishes she could stay 25 the rest of their life. So I am looking at 2014 as my year of finding balance and focusing on myself before there is little time for it anymore, like when we do decide to have a family. Learning to avoid the tidal wave is a big thing on my list. I know that there will be times when it will be unavoidable or maybe even a welcomed moment in life, but I want to make sure that I know how to avoid those unnecessary moments of extreme stress and exhaustion when I can. I want to feel in control of it as much as I can.
Have you ever found yourself in too deep? What are things you learned?