I’ve always had a job — even during school. I think back to my college years and rather than a myriad of memories involving friends, travel, and adventures, what comes to mind are countless hours of working multiple jobs and long nights slaving away at my desk. No one could doubt my passion and drive, and I was convinced that my overabundance of grit would get me where I needed to go.
“The result of my labors? By the age of 25 I owned a small business, had a separate successful freelance career, and I was completely burned out.”
I cried often and loudly. I had forgotten how to take time off, had stopped reading for pleasure, or even doing anything that wasn’t somehow related to my work. My personal relationships had completely disintegrated before my eyes and I couldn’t even recognize the woman I had become when I looked in the mirror. Sunken-eyed, out of shape, listless — I was a shell of my former self.
“Then one night, having hit rock bottom, I realized an important truth: life is for living. I spent years living to work; it was finally time I worked to live.”
So I joined a CrossFit gym, reconnected with old friends, and bought a ton of new books. I forced myself to take two days off a week. I learned the awesome power of the word NO. And I set real boundaries with my clients. Was it hard? Yes. Was it worth it? Absolutely. I took back control of my life, and both my quality of life and the quality of my work flourished.
Now why am I telling you all of this? Because in pursuit of my dreams I lost the beauty of the dream itself. As cliché as it sounds, I forgot that there should be joy in the journey, not just the destination. I know people say work / life balance is a myth — but it’s time to contest that belief. We can’t afford to not make room for ourselves amidst the noisy confusion of life. Believe me, your clients will thank you for it.
Change comes from making small manageable adjustments — trust me, you got this. Start by giving yourself some structure during the day; block off time for tasks rather than following an endless to-do list. But be sure to prioritize your tasks for each day and just focus on accomplishing the top 2 or 3 items, you’ll be infinitely more productive if you’re not attempting to finish 10 tasks at once. And learn to say “no” more often - without drowning in guilt. Turning away work that isn’t right for you and your business makes room for the projects and clients who are a perfect fit. Those dream clients can’t hire you if you’ve overcommitted yourself.
I understand the struggle; I’m far from perfect. If I ever find myself slipping into old habits I look at my right arm, where I had tattooed a line from Max Ehrmann’s poem Desiderata:
“...and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.”
A daily reminder to keep myself in the equation.
So blaze a trail, be a force of nature. But never forget the importance of keeping peace with your soul.