It might sound dramatic, but the entrepreneur that burns the candle at both ends isn’t just common, it’s a rite of passage. If you’ve not worked every day for long hours, bending over backwards to make your business a success, are you really an entrepreneur? And this lifestyle raises the question: can our mental wellness survive the entrepreneurial journey?
As a creative and entrepreneur finding a balance is key for me and I don’t always succeed but different approaches I took throughout time thought me a few things.
Set working hours: This goes for your day, but it goes for your tasks, too. By blocking out your time for tasks, you’ll find that how long things take you to complete shrinks. Tasks take the time allowed — so if you know you can get something done in 15 minutes, give yourself 20 to do it. Give yourself the entire day, and it will take the entire day. Say that unless there’s an emergency, you’re stopping at 5 or 6pm.
Build in breaks: If you’ve never tried using the Pomodoro method of time management, give it a try. This is where you work for a certain amount of time and then take a break. Traditionally, it’s 25 minutes on with a 5-minute break, but I find 30 minutes working, 5 minutes off, and repeated 3 times before a 15-minute break is the most productive cycle for me — so experiment with what’s best for you.
Make sure you have a hobby: If all your projects are centered around your business and your job, you’ll never feel like you can escape and it will lead you to burnout. Sometimes, burnout will feel like exhaustion for a week or two, and sometimes it leads people to fall sick or have to throw in the towel entirely. Protect yourself by giving yourself things you do and/or create just for fun.
Take time for yourself in the mornings: You don’t need to have a whole miracle morning routine, but if the last thing you do before bed is reply to emails, and the first thing you do when you wake up is the same, your mind won’t ever get space just to exist and process. Set your do not disturb time on your phone and spend half an hour in the morning waking up. If you feel the need to check for emergencies, do, but then take your half-hour (or more!) to look after yourself.
Keep your workspace and your home space separate: Even if you work from home (as most of us have through 2020!), keep your workspace and home space separate. Don’t work from your sofa, and splash out and have a couple of computers or a tablet that you use just for relaxing. When the day is done, put your work computer to sleep (no notification sounds) and don’t come back to it until the morning after your “me” time.
Creating something new is addictive, but it can lead us to abandon all other aspects of self-care and being social in the name of “finishing”. The thing is when it comes to business — there is no finished. There’s no final deadline for your project, and so you will rush from one “last minute assignment” to the next.
The only way to combat this and protect your creativity over the long term is to put space between you and what is currently your main source of income. This space is difficult to create, but crucial to our mental health and to the quality of what we produce.