No matter where you are on the spectrum of being a full-time small business owner or work a fulltime job alongside your small business pursuits, running your own business can seem like running the longest marathon of your life. Day in, day out, you work long hours at your day job and come home, tired but continue work for your own business. You hope to grow it into something that supports yourself and perhaps your family too. You spend every spare minute working on your sidepreneur gig. Any time that you are not working on your business, you are wracked with guilt and fear. In your mind you are constantly plagued with “what if” questions and try to rationalise your decisions for working on your business instead.
“What if I were to skip this (insert social occasion) and spend time doing X, Y and Z instead? I have an endless To-do list! There’ll always be next time…”
If you do take time out, you’re constantly thinking about or worried about your business. You’re glued to your phone, monitoring and updating your business. You’re not fully present. You feel inadequate and question whether you have the drive to really “make it.” Maybe you view this way of working like a badge of honour? Sacrificing things now for a better future? But really, if this is the mentality you’ve adopted, it can be all too easy to burn out. Your ability to be effective and efficient becomes diminished. You stop producing your best creative work. You’re stuck in a vicious cycle. Lose direction. Panic! Feel paralysed. Which is why the most vital thing for you to do for your business is to look after your number 1 and best asset: you.
This has been something I have always struggled with, especially most recently. Together with deadlines for my jewellery studies, last minute organization for my holiday (who gets stressed from organising a holiday, right?!) and tying up loose ends at home before flying overseas for said holiday – I felt completely deflated, unenthusiastic and a bit directionless about my business. But after being reminded that self-care as a small business owner is the most important thing I can do for myself and my business, here’s my top 5 action tips you can do too to look after yourself and your business.
Celebrate all your wins (whether small or big)
You’ve worked hard to achieve your goal – whether it’s big, like gaining a new client you’ve signed up or something 'smaller' – every achievement should be viewed as a win in your eyes and you should do something to celebrate these milestones! Whether its a nice meal out with loved ones, a candle lit bubble bath, or some time walking along the beach with your dog – take the time out to celebrate your achievement – because you worked hard to achieve it!
Look after your body
When you’re busy, it’s easy to forget that our bodies need regular exercise, nutritious food and plenty of sleep to be productive! Take the time to schedule into your calendar, regular times to do some exercise – whether it be an early morning walk with your pet, a midday yoga class or cycling around your neighbourhood, whatever activity you enjoy, make the time to do it! Life is too short to feel sluggish, be unfit and neglect your health. Not only will you feel better after exercising (hello endorphins!) but you’ll be so much more alert and energised to do the best work that you can.
The same goes for the food you eat too! Too often, we reach for the easiest and most convenient food options, which usually contains too much salt, fat or processed sugar. If you continue down this path of unhealthy eating, it’s no wonder you won’t feel at your best. If your schedule is busy, why not spend time planning your meals for the week, take a few hours and batch cooking some food and freezing it for the remainder of the week? You’ll be surprised how easy it can be to eat some nutritious home cooked meals when you put a little planning into the process.
Get enough sleep. Simple advice but often the first thing that gets sacrificed.
Go on a digital detox and recharge
Give yourself time to get away from the online world and reconnect with the natural world around you. Yes – this means disconnecting from all forms of social media, your blog, your online shop, forums etc etc.
Being constantly connected to the online world can be draining and counterproductive. Sometimes it may be best to just disconnect completely for a while, whether it is a few days, a week, a month or maybe more and spend time doing other things. Not only may this help you find new sources of inspiration, but also help you recharge so that when you do return to the online world – you’ll feel refreshed and ready to kick some butt again!
Allow yourself time to rest, catch up with friends and family and general “me time”
Give yourself permission to read a book and soak in the sun’s warm afternoon rays over a flat white, take a holiday (and don’t take work with you!) or do an activity you enjoy and don’t feel guilty about it!
For those that operate their small business from home, where this may mean a spare room, bedroom or kitchen is the “office”, the lines between work and play can be difficult to differentiate. Remember that for your business to be successful in the long-term, you need to draw some boundaries – just like you would if you worked a day job. Don’t fall into the mindset that you need every minute to work on your business to make it a success and that if you don’t do this, it means you’re not dedicated enough to your business. You’re not a failure for resting and relaxing! Our minds and bodies were not built to work 24/7. We need rest to recharge and you’ll be happier and healthier for it.
Remember why you decided to become a small business owner!
Think back to why you started your small business in the beginning. Did you start it up to gain financial freedom? To gain freedom away from the usual 9-5, operate during the hours you work best and pursue your passion? Whatever your reason may be - don’t forget it!
Sure there may be some late nights and early mornings – to grow a small business into a successful operation, it takes some serious hustling. But remember, that hustling means working efficiently, effectively, with excitement.
Now – don’t mind if I kickstart my own digital detox, recharge by immersing myself in Taiwan’s glorious luscious natural and urban landscapes and enjoy my holiday in Taipei!
Monica Ng left her accounting career at the end of 2013 to run Geometric Skies, her Etsy jewellery business, alongside her jewellery and object design studies at the Design Centre in Sydney. Find Monica at her blog or on Instagram @geometric_skies.