Creating an Intentional Work and Life Balance
We are in full GO mode here in the Christina Holland Designs (CHD) studios as we prep for the Watermark Art Festival in July (aka Art in the Park). You can find the date/time and more details for the festival by clicking here.
Over the years of my jewelry business (20 years!) I've had plenty of experiences of overworking myself while I prep for a show. As I grow older and wiser I've worked on creating a balance in my work/home life- it's still a work in progress but it's so much better than it was. Still, those last 2-3 weeks before a show mean the pressure does set in and you'll catch me working later into the evening than I usually do. It's become part of the "show-prep" routine at this point in my career so we more or less plan for it which reduces stress as well as general wear/tear on my body and mental health. A big factor in getting my shit together in this way was trying to alleviate stress induced autoimmune disease reactions- my body goes into a frenzy when I don't get enough time to rest and recharge. Just recently I was given a diagnosis for another autoimmune disease, the Dr reminded me that since I already have one it leaves me vulnerable to others autoimmune issues. It's not the kind of "abundance" I had in mind, but it sure is a physical/visual reminder to stay true to myself with the way I live and work.
Overall that benefits the energy I put into this business of mine- intentional, mindful, and positive. CHD is truly my happy place and I plan to keep nurturing that so I can stay on this journey for many years to come. I hear a lot of friends and small business makers and shakers overextending themselves to meet up with the demands our hustle culture. Overworking to the point of physical and mental breakdowns, heart problems in their 20s/30s, autoimmune issues, depression, anxiety, etc etc... I get it friends, we're not living in an easy world where just making enough to survive month to month is enough to take us to the edge- the struggle is real and you are not alone. What's a person to do? I truly believe that one of the biggest things we can do on an individual level is to push back, reclaim your life and buck the system that says you have to live this way in order to thrive. How are you thriving when you don't allow time to rest? How are you thriving when you don't don't enjoy your own life? How are you thriving when you sell out your health and well-being trying to keep up with societal, social, and work demands? These are just a few questions I had to ask myself not that long ago which helped me make changes we so desperately needed to actually thrive.
I can tell you about the time when we overextended ourselves to get that big check and meet up to all the social pressures resulted in the worst few years of mine and my partners life. We had the funds to meet our needs plus modest discretionary funds, we attended tons of events and social gatherings.. We appeared more or less to the outside world like we were living the dream- and we told ourselves that too. What no one saw and what we tried to ignore was how we rarely spent quality time together or nurture our homestead- a big dream and goal of ours. Not to mention major neglect of our physical and mental health needs- resulting in some really scary emergency medical visits. Scary as they were, they were a huge wake up call to make change. I remember telling my husband that I didn't care about the money and benefits his job from hell brought us- none of that mattered if he wasn't here to share this life with me- that life insurance payout could never replace him and the life we've built together. It was time to make changes.
Changes are hard, we get stuck in the comfort zone of what we know and what we're use to- even when it's not good for us. If you're a small business owner and you work from home it can be even trickier to strike that work/life balance. I will never ever tell you I have all the answers- I still stumble, sometimes I fall down completely. However I want to share a few ideas that have been really helpful for me in hopes that even one of them might ignite a spark in you too.
One of the most important things I've learned is that when I do step off track and fall back to unhealthy work/life habits is to be kind to myself first and foremost. Don't beat yourself up about it- we're humans, we make mistakes. If you fall back on an old habit you're trying to break- don't give up! Remember that we don't have to cling to our mistakes, we can take steps to leave them behind and move forward.
For me working from home has it's own challenges in creating a boundary between work time vs home time. It's easy to keep working- you're already home and there it is, just one more pair of earrings, just one more hoop to wrap, just one more, one more, one more... Y'all I use to routinely work until 3am or later. I finally had enough that I set up a schedule for what days/times I work and what days I have off. I ended up going with a Monday to Friday 10am to 6pm work schedule. When 6pm rolls around I clean up my benches, turned the lights off, and mentally "clocked out" for the night. That also means any emails, orders, DMs, etc that come during my off hours have to wait until the next day I work. Now I get days off and I feel guilt free about it. Bonus I didn't see coming was how much more productive I am now on my scheduled work days!
If you're a small business maker you'll find times that you'll need or want to work overtime- like when you're prepping for a market. Nowadays when those needs arise I take a minute to look over my calendar and see where I can find a compromise. For example, I usually have weekends off but the markets are always on weekends and I know I'll need the week prior to get ready for it. So I'll see if I can take the Monday off after the show- Tuesday too if possible. At the bare minimum I'll schedule myself to sleep in or start work later taking a half day.
Another tip for my fellow small business owners and makers- if you haven't done so yet, schedule yourself a day to create policies for your business. Your first draft doesn't have to be perfect- it's your business and you can update them as needed. But I promise it will save you a lot of time and headaches when you have clear policies in place for your business. A few areas to address are your store policies- everything from processing time for orders, returns/refunds, shipping times/how to handle damages or lost packages, custom projects, and how you collect client info, payments, etc.. All of these things take a ton of time to type out if you're addressing each and every message individually. I personally have a bunch of these already in place, but I still find areas I can improve, add, or update.
To help with that last tip, I like to keep a notebook for ideas and improvements. I'm constantly thinking of new things I could do and I can easily exhaust myself trying to remember them all or trying to complete it on the spot. Keeping an ongoing list is a great way to manage your business needs- I have one with a calendar in combo with a notebook so I can often schedule a day to complete a task.
With work and personal life it's always good to have boundaries and continue to practice them. Maybe your boundaries are overworking, maybe it's struggling to say no. Whatever your struggle area is- setting a boundary to protect your health and mental well-being is a must. Even the best set boundaries will get tested at times, do your best to hold true to yours and if it gets trampled over this might be a good indicator of areas you can improve. Rebuild that "fence" and make it stronger. Remember that anyone that doesn't respect your boundaries in your life and business is probably not someone you want to keep coming back anyway. Easier said than done, I know- but the more you stay true to your needs the better you'll feel and the easier it will be to set them in the future.
Friends, I know that making changes are scary- I implore you to take your life back any chance you get. Set your own pace and make adjustments that help sustain your life on your terms, even if they're small. It doesn't have to be one grand overhaul- take baby steps and try something different if your first attempt doesn't work out. Whatever you do, don't give up on YOU. Life throws a lot of stones our way- pick that stone up and throw it back!
I love hearing your feedback- do any of my ideas resonate with you? Did you think of something else to add to this list? Leave a comment or drop me a message from the contact form here.