Being the kind of person that hustles towards their goals and hits them is seen as a pretty impressive character trait. At least in my world, most people see it as the ultimate form of hard work to rise to the top—whether that’s in a traditional career or in building a business. And what that usually looks like is: 12+ hour days, 7 days a week, skipping meals, never disconnecting, and never taking time off until the big goals are achieved or the project is done.
Extreme and imbalanced, yes. Yet there is something glamorous about it, isn’t there? As if the people that hustle are more badass, more go-getting, more destined for greatness than everyone else.
When I first started my business, I bought into this paradigm and thought I had to work all of the time in order to grow and be successful. And I did. In fact, I would only take one day off per weekend (either Saturday or Sunday), and the rest of the time I was writing for clients, leading strategy sessions, taking courses, and networking my buns off.
Sure, I was succeeding, a.k.a. making enough money to live comfortably in New York City. But I kept wondering how I could possibly keep up this pace over the long term. There were months where I had so much client work that I was overwhelmed, and there is no doubt it held me back from showing up as my best self in all areas of my life. Not only that, but I didn’t have time to daydream, strategize, or make bigger plans for my business. Something that is absolutely necessary for sustainability.
So what was the solution? Well, I took a step back and made some important changes because I needed to work smarter.
- I raised my rates.
- I only took on 3-4 projects per month.
- I set boundaries with my clients (no responses after 8 pm ET).
- I carved out time for strategy and support.
- I started using the Productivity Planner.
- And I took off both Saturdays and Sundays (as much as possible).
Not only that, but I decided to approach everything I did with more grace because as I’ve mentioned before, I tend to put a lot of pressure on myself which only fuels the anxious/stressed out tendencies of mine. So I’ve implemented practices that shift my worst-case scenario thinking to a more relaxed and positive one—really a more loving one.
I stopped wearing “hustle” as a badge of honor and started taking care of myself while managing the unpredictability of this crazy, growing business. And guess what? I’ve never felt more confident or organized. And I’ve found a sweet spot where I can work hard, while also relaxing into the flow of each day.
Truth is, work of any kind comes with challenges and detours, but if you’ve built a solid structure for yourself to get shit done without sacrificing your health or sanity, you’re going to succeed, pure and simple. Whether you work for a company, you’ve got a side business, or you’re running a business fulltime, the following tips will help you shift from a “hustle mindset” to a “work smart mindset” so you can avoid burn out and overwhelm.
Create Space. One of the best things about the career piece of our lives is that it often pushes us outside our comfort zones. We step into bigger titles before we’re ready, we launch courses without knowing everything first, we voice our opinions bravely. It’s so healthy and so necessary to push ourselves, otherwise, we’d always hide and never realize what we’ve got to offer. But what isn’t healthy is pushing ourselves to the point where we aren’t sleeping, eating, seeing friends, or stepping away from the computer for more than a few hours. THAT is a surefire way to lose your mind—and your wellbeing fast. So be sure to create space in your day to take care of you.
Set Boundaries. These days, our iPhones are practically body parts. We feel weird to be without it and are always connected, checking emails, Instagram, everything. It’s so easy to start answering emails from your boss at midnight or to let clients interrupt your 1-1 time with friends and loved ones. And while there’s no doubt you are invested in being the best employee or expert, your time does not have to be dictated by others. In fact, it shouldn’t be. Your life, your time, your energy is precious and deserving of preservation. So be sure to make it clear to the people in your work life when you will be unavailable.
Get Support. I love being a one-woman show, not gonna lie. But there is no way I could ever build this business—or advance my career—alone. I’ve invested in coaches, copy support, and courses to help me organize, strategize, and get better at what I do. The moments where I’ve handed off work or sat down to talk through a business idea have been game changers for me because they take so much pressure off. So be sure to hire people who you can lean on as you take things higher—whether that’s as a head of a department at a company or in your own business.
Have Fun. This one may seem obvious, but it’s way too easy to allow work to become serious and stressful. At the beginning of each week, set the intention to have fun in some way, shape, or form. Whether that’s in connecting with a coworker or creating a special experience for a client or seeing mundane tasks as a chance to listen to your favorite music or podcast. Having fun instantly lightens things up and fills us with fresh energy, and that nourishes our whole selves on so many beautiful levels.
Let Yourself Off the Hook. There will be times where you mess up, where you push yourself too hard, and where life just gets in the way of balancing everything in a healthy way. That’s ok! Go with the flow of your career and listen to your inner drive. When you need to put more time and energy in do it; and when you don’t, find more space to take care of you. Perfection is never the goal, honoring your process is.
Now, I’d love to hear from you. Do you worry about burn out? What have you done in moments of going overboard at work or in your business? How have you course corrected? Let me know in the comments below.