A couple weeks ago I woke up with the worst jaw pain I have ever experienced. For the first week or so I thought I had pulled a muscle on one side. It was not till I noticed it on the other side that I became aware that my problem was not a pulled muscle. I texted my dental hygienist (who also is one of my best friends) and asked her about grinding and clenching…come to find out all my symptoms were there. She told me about the things I could take to help and the tests I could come get to get it all figured out. Normally I probably would have just done it, but this time I realized this was my own doing and something that I could fix. Why would I use muscle relaxants to loosen my jaw when all I needed to do was slow the f*** down and take a few deep breaths and find better balance. Now I know the drugs were probably the easier answer, but I think it was that early wake up call in all this craziness that I needed to get everything under control.
For the last few weeks I have been realizing how out of control much of our day to day feels. We are answering emails, texting with a clients, changing meetings, writing a blog post, rushing to finish photos for a post before sunset, tweeting, instagramming, designing, promoting a post, trying to eat healthy, working out, and oh yeah trying to keep our finances for the business managed. Even though Mike and I work together we both have felt like this for some time. It is a lot and though I would love to say it is just part of this whole crazy time we are in, I have begun to realize that maybe it isn’t and instead we have placed that stress and craziness on ourselves.
So when I started having that jaw pain I knew it was the first sign we needed to make a change. I am always someone who has to learn from failing first no matter how many times someone tells me what to watch out for. My mom has said to me to slow down and take time off, but that doesn’t mean anything till I see the sign that she is right. Sorry mom. Thank goodness this feeling only lead to jaw pain and not something more severe.
When we went out to Pennsylvania a few weeks ago, Mike and I discussed how we wanted to become more intentional about our work, life, goals, and so on. I at first called it growing up and realized quickly that was not what I meant. Minus the kids I already feel I am a 30 year old half the time so please don’t make me be more adult than my 26 years allow me. I realized what I really wanted was to feel more control of our lives. When you own a business there is no separation between work and life…work is life and life is work. I have tried to convince myself that you can find a line, but there is not one and I have realized that is okay. In fact I have grown to dislike the word work, because it sounds like such an awful description to explain what I love to do. That in no way changes the necessity to find balance between what you love to do, that makes you money, and the quiet time you spend away from the computer or with your husband. Even though we love what we do we still felt it was time to find a way to be more intentional at reaching goals and getting things done so we could spend more time on new things and new ideas and well to be honest enjoying Summer. I wanted to feel more organized and stop falling behind even after I “worked” a 16 hour day. Our typical work day has now stretched from 8-9 hours to more like 12-14 hours and when you actaully step back and actually add up the hours it is kind of crazy.
After I had a good emotional breakdown on our road trip, I felt I was failing as a business owner and doing that typical over-dramatic girl thing, Mike and I decided there were a few intentional steps we would take to feel more in control and happy with our work day so we could enjoy our hours off more and also have more hours off:
1. Stricter bed times (go to bed between 10:30 – 11 and wake up around 6 or 7)…before we were doing more like bed at 1-2 AM and wake up at 9-10 AM
2. Schedule a time to work out everyday. Kathleen Shannon taught me this and this girl is a total business rockstar in my book (and fitness rockstar! Look at that bod!) so I know she has got this right. Working out may seem hard when you work for yourself and have a fast deadline, but taking an hour everyday for yourself will keep your stress levels lower and will clear your head to create better work. I figured it was true, but it was not till I actually started doing it that I felt better and saw a change in my focus when I get back to my desk. Even if it is 45 minutes of yoga it will make a huge difference. I use yogaglo.com because I need to workout on my schedule and not drive and park at a studio. It helps me feel more motivated to get my de-stress time in. Yes sometimes I don’t take a shower and work for another 3 hours after the workout slightly sweaty but no judging I got the workout in!
3. Turn off social media. One reason we enjoy waking up early, which is not natural for us, is very few people are using social media between 6 AM and 10 AM EST so we can get a lot more done. As the day goes on we really try to keep twitter feed access, instagram checking, and facebook (the worst one of them all) to a minimum. It is hard because it is part of what we do, but it is not all we do. I accidentally spent more time here than I thought I was. When I started being very focused about what I needed to do when I got to these sites I noticed more got done faster. It is amazing the black hole that these sites can be…before you know it you are talking to your aunt and it’s been an hour. Damn you social media.
4. Plan errands. So you have a food post to prep for this week, garden stakes you need to buy, a check to drop off at the bank, a lunch meeting, and a hair appointment. The thing I have found as someone who lives 10 minutes (on a non-snowy or low tourist day) is that errand running can be a total time-suck and it is tiring. I didn’t realize how much time every week I was spending doing these things. Now we are trying to keep our outings to a minimum and when they happen we group them together. We say today is errand day let’s get it all done.
5. Get things done. If you have a deadline get away from everything and do what has to be done. Simple as that. Put headphones on and jam. We find that keeping a time tracker when working on projects is helpful to tell us how long it took and to keep us focused. We don’t use hourly rates anymore, but using a time-tracker is a good way to keep the reality of time in perspective.
6. Find a rhythm. I began trying to find a rhythm a few month ago. I have failed multiple times at this so far, but have also found some things that work for me. I know I don’t do good doing just one task all day so I try to break things up by focusing on blogging and email in the mornings when the world is quietest and then designing in the afternoon or working on whatever project we have. This is usually the best time to get a hold of clients if you have any questions. If we have to work in the evenings it is a shoot for the blog or it is more design work.
7. Find a stopping point. Yesterday was a good example. I was trying to haul through some stuff for an e-commerce site we are doing for a client. Currently we are switching platforms for them and there is some data entry we have to do to get things done (yeah sometimes you have to do things out of your job description when you are your own boss). I was trying to pound through and enter EVERYTHING…well Mike finally was like we need to stop we have worked all day since 7 AM let’s go get out and sail. I could have spent another hour entering the data but I reached a good point where my head couldn’t do a good job anymore and I needed a break. Sure enough when I came back to things this morning I hammered it out and got it all in with more ease than the day before, and got a little tan.
8. Learn to say no. The art of no is a hard one to learn. As a people pleaser saying no to something is like smacking someone in the face and swearing at them. It is no easy task. Over time I started learning that for the number of years I said yes to everything because of the opportunity I need to now learn how to pick and choose what is right for our business and blog. Mike is better at this than me, but I am the front end of the company many times so I am filtering a lot of potential clients, collaborations, and so on. This leaves me in a place where I have had to learn to have tougher skin and let some things go. Understanding our purpose for the blog and business has made saying no easier as well as having template emails that personalize. This way I am not stressed or avoidance of answering an email. It is stressful for me to say no, but every time I do I feel more relief than if I had said yes to something that was too much to take on or did not align with our vision.
It’s been about 1 week of waking up early, but almost 3 weeks working with more intention and I have to say I no longer have jaw pain and I have actually found more time to be in the garden, more time enjoying the outdoors, more husband time and have gotten more done. I don’t think it has become a rhythm yet, but I felt like I needed to share what we have been learning and how important it is as a business owner to think about your day and to realize you don’t have to kill yourself in the process. You can find balance, get it all done, and achieve your goals and deadlines. I am 26, I should not be this stressed and no matter how well I take care of myself if I am still stressed it will not be good down the road in life. I am realizing how important our habits now affect our lives as we get older.
So if you are feeling overwhelmed and things are out of control, know you are not alone and it is not abnormal either, but how you react to that feeling is the most important thing. Find a way to take a deep breathe, maybe cry it out, and then ask yourself how you will make a change to eliminate the level of stress you feel. For me I was wasting time in some places I shouldn’t have been and it was causing me to not achieve what I was supposed to and leaving me feeling behind and out of control. For you it may be different, but find a way to make an action plan to take control before it controls you.
Happy Thursday my friends! Make the choice to live with more intention. It will allow you more time to chase and achieve what you want as well as create better work that does not feel under the gun.