How to give yourself compassion as an entrepreneur

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All photos in this post are from our engagement shoot with the incredibly talented Samantha Floyd.

To be totally honest, I’m writing today’s post because it’s something I myself need to hear. Even though I sit here all the time and tell you guys all the things I think make life easier as an entrepreneur, the truth is that it isn’t always easy. Not even a little bit.

There are a million and one hats that you have to wear when you run your own business. Between working on client work, reaching out to potential clients, advertising your portfolio, keeping your own site up to date, keeping up with business finances, etc. there usually isn’t must room left over for your own personal life.

But what happens when life gets busy or when life itself takes your focus away from your work?

We are personally in a really busy season. Life has been wonderful, this summer especially, but life has also been so dang crazy! If you follow me on Instagram then you know that we’ve been running around like mad trying to get everything done that we’ve needed to do. We bought our first house which has come with a ton of DIY and fixer upper projects, we are in the midst of planning our wedding that is happening next month, I had a surprise surgery at the beginning of the summer, and we are still trying to stay on top of our normal work schedules.

The fact of the matter is, doing all the things, all the time is just not possible. As much as we would like to be able to work 40+ hour weeks, finish all the projects around the house AND get everything sorted for our upcoming wedding, all while still making time for our friends, family, and ourselves, we are just becoming more and more aware that during these busy times we can’t physically do it all. AND THAT’S OKAY!

As humans we are not built to run at 100% peak performance 24/7. Heck, most machines can’t run at that rate on and on forever. Think about what happens to your laptop when you have a bunch of programs open and your trying to get it to run multiple heavy-lifting projects at once. Your laptop goes into panic mode, runs slower, and will inevitably crash. Umm, how do you expect yourself to be any different?

Obviously we aren’t wired up like a laptop, but it’s totally accurate that when we are overworked or overly stressed, everything gets harder to do and sooner or later we are going to crash. There’s nothing worse than that feeling of overwhelm when you are trying to juggle too many things and there physically aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything you need to do.

With all that we’ve had going on it’s been massively important that during all of it we are still being kind to ourselves. We are only human, we can only do so many things in a given day or week, and we shouldn’t be so hard on ourselves or beat ourselves up when things take a bit longer than expected. THAT’S LIFE! We still have to give ourselves some compassion as well as some space to breathe.

I know that may sound kind of silly, but holy moly it’s so true. The times when I’ve had too many projects going on at once, or too many things on my plate in general, I quickly start to realize that I’m not taking care of myself. I let my to-do list run my life and I’m not leaving room in there for my own mental and physical health. I start to feel depressed when things aren’t getting done fast enough and I start to beat myself up for not crossing all the things off as fast as possible. It’s a spiral that’s hard to break and yet super easy to find yourself in. Especially when you are a solo-entrepreneur and everything on your to-do list is solely up to you to complete.

The truth is, I’m a perfectionist to the nth degree, so not meeting goals on time or having more on my to-do list than I can actually accomplish has been killing me this summer. But there are several ways I’ve learned to give myself some compassion and grace during this busy season and many things I’m still continuing to work on. There’s not a definite end goal here, but rather something to continue working towards everyday.

Recognize that there are busy seasons of life that you can’t always plan for

The first thing I learned this summer when it came to giving myself grace and compassion in my work life is that there are times that are going to be busier than expected and there will always be things you didn’t or couldn’t have planned for.

The work projects I took on I take full responsibility for agreeing to do, but I’m also fully aware that during any other summer this workload would not have been difficult. I had no idea how busy our summer would get, how much of a fixer upper we would end up buying, how much planning would ultimately have to do into our wedding, or most of all, that I would have to take several weeks off for an unexpected surgery.

Life happens, but work is still there. That’s just part of it. While life and work both kind of got away from me, I still learned a lot about time management this summer, like when I personally need to back off from work and not say yes to every project that comes my way, and really how to find peace and understanding within myself during hectic times. It’s something I’m still working on, because the unknown element of life always seems to throw me for a loop, but it’s so dang important to be patient with yourself and realize that not everything is in your control 100% of the time.

Prioritize and set timelines

The goal setter in me just can’t help but set timelines for projects and while this may seem like something that can add pressure or stress, I find it to actually do the opposite. Think of it as a mental organizing practice. Just like organizing your office can have a calming, therapeutic effect, so can organizing your projects and deadlines.

The point here is not to stress over everything that needs to get done all at once, because let’s be honest, it’s not all going to get done in the same day. Instead, sit down and prioritize what needs to get done FIRST. Are there any projects that need your primary focus for the time being, then once those are done what projects are next in line priority wise?

For us, we have several client projects that need to get done this month. Those are first priority because they have been on our to-do list for quite some time. Next is last minute wedding stuff, and obviously the wedding date acts as its own deadline. We know exactly how long we have left to get all of our wedding items done and checked off. Other business goals, like building some new themes for our shop or redesigning our own website come after client work and wedding stuff because they still need to get done this year, but it’s okay if it doesn’t happen this month. Things like house projects, while still needing to get done, are not nearly as high on the priority list because we can honestly fit those in whenever we have a spare day and there is no end date that we absolutely have to meet.

By prioritizing and giving important things a deadline you can focus so much better on what tasks need to take precedence, help split up that insanely long to-do list of yours, and relieve a lot of the overwhelm all at once.

Keep a list of things you’ve accomplished, not just a list of what you still need to do

This goes a long way in helping you feel accomplished and showing yourself some much needed gratitude. Sometimes we get so focused on what we haven’t done and we totally forget about all the awesome things we’ve already taken care of.

Even if you don’t end up writing it down, it’s still a great exercise to think back through what you’ve done in a month or in a year just to give yourself some perspective on how far you’ve come.

Early this month I was having a moment of totally coming unglued with stress about all the things we had going on and all the things we still needed to do. I was being so hard on myself for not getting more done in a week. But Mike and I started talking through all the things we had done and it was honestly really eyeopening. Even looking back at my year as a whole has been really crazy and awesome. So I didn’t get around to posting on the blog or podcast as much as I had planned. So I didn’t build my social following like I thought I would. So I didn’t end up losing as much weight as I had wanted. THAT’S LIFE.

I’ve done so freaking much this year that I am stoked about. Simply acknowledging those things did wonders for my mental state. While the blog wasn’t super active, I still worked with some DREAM clients this year. While I haven’t grown my social media following as much, I still took some amazing business courses that opened my eyes to so many other ways to market myself. Even though I haven’t lost a ton of weight, I’ve recovered super quickly from surgery and started so many amazing healthier habits. There are so many things behind the scenes that I am so proud of and I know will make a lasting impression on my life and work and THAT is where my attention should really be focused.

Find a hobby that helps you de-stress

You may be thinking, “okay what the heck? Why would I add one more thing to my daily routine when I’m already slammed??” and I hear you, I really do. BUT finding a hobby that helps you de-stress will do wonders for your mental well being.

There are so many hobbies that can take a load off. Taking up a sport or exercise can not only give your mind some moments of peace but wearing out your body can do wonders for clearing your mind as well. I’ve been trying to take a walk everyday, play more tennis, and continue with my yoga practice, all of which allow me to get out of the house and focus on something outside of my to-do list each day.

If working out is NOT your idea of a good time, try something soothing that you can do while watching tv each evening, like painting, knitting, or working puzzles. I’m all for adult coloring books making a comeback! Anything that can refocus your energy for even a 20-30 minute period is the perfect thing.

Stress is really the root of all the overwhelm and chaos that you start to feel trapped in, so anything that will alleviate those feels will be the biggest step in feeling good about yourself again.

Leave room to take care of yourself

Take breaks. I’m going to say it again for the people that really need to hear it. TAKE BREAKS!

Whether that is in the form of little breaks throughout your work day or if it takes the form of a full blown vacation/get-away, taking breaks from your to-do list will help you come back refreshed and ready to tackle anything.

Like I said before, you can’t run at 100% all the time, just like your laptop can’t either, so take time to shut off for awhile and really allow yourself to rest. I’m a HUGE advocate for taking weekends off when you are an entrepreneur and it made a world of difference when I really started taking that little bit of break each. You may think that the way to success is to push yourself as hard as possible on and on, working 15 hour days everyday, or staying up way into the night working, but honestly that’s just the quickest way to achieve burnout. You need time to power down in the evening, to think about things outside of work, and to rest.

At the end of the day, it’s so important to just listen to what your body and mind need. Being in tune with yourself means recognizing when you are overwhelmed, when you are stressed, when you need a break, and when you really need to give yourself some compassion. Pay attention to what’s happening with yourself and your work and acknowledge that trying to do everything is not the same as being productive. True productivity comes from a place of feeling good, finding balance, and taking care of yourself.

Have you encountered busy seasons of life where balance felt impossible? What ways do you show compassion to yourself during those times?

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