I used to be a bit weary to start my own business, to tell you the truth.
I thought owning a business would make me feel free. Free to do what I loved, free to help others, free to make a difference in my own way.
But I saw so many examples of entrepreneurs that seemed to be enslaved by their business. I watched people I admire become consumed by their job and work themselves into the ground.
I heard over and over that you need to put in a ton of hours and hard work into your business, especially at the beginning. I thought that if I didn't wake up at 5 a.m. and work 14-hour days that it would mean I wasn't going to make it. In order to be successful, I had to work myself to the extreme. Then, once I had achieved success, only then could I take a step back and start to relax.
I was petrified. I saw business owners working crazy hours and pushing themselves to the limit. I heard so many stories about successful people getting completely burnt out, often ending up in the hospital for one reason or another. That was something I didn't want to experience. I didn't want to burn out. I get overwhelmed and have high enough anxiety as it is.
So instead of just taking precautions and preparing myself to not get burnt out, I became paralyzed. I couldn't do anything. I wanted so badly for everything to fall in my lap and be easy because I was so afraid of becoming overworked. I was frozen out of fear.
Fast forward several months. I was working three side jobs to support myself while I gave a half-assed attempt to grow my business. I finally got fed up. I was afraid of burnout, but this was not what I wanted either. I had to figure out a way to put energy into my business without going overboard. Without working ridiculous hours. Without flirting with burnout.
I sought help from a business coach, and the advice she gave me was both incredibly simple and powerful:
A lightbulb went off in my head. Boundaries!
Instead of avoiding burnout, which basically amounted to me not working much at all, I needed to prevent burnout. By setting up boundaries, my business could function the way I wanted it to.
Yes, building a successful business is hard work. But it doesn't have to mean pushing yourself to a breaking point.
I think all business owners should set boundaries in their business, especially at the beginning. It's much easier to set boundaries from the start than to work yourself to a pulp and then try to scale back your hours.
There are three main boundaries that everyone should set:
1. When you work.
Sometimes this is hard for entrepreneurs since you don't have a real "schedule" to stick to. There's no one telling you when to clock in and clock out. So you have to set those times yourself.
Personally, I hate waking up early. So as a general rule, I have told myself that I will show up for work Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. (with breaks throughout the day, of course).
2. When you don't work.
This is the most important one. You need to know when to stop and unplug. You need to know when work is completely off-limits.
I have 2 rules: I won't work after dinner, and I won't work on the weekends. I try to cut myself off at 6 p.m., but sometimes I work right up until it's time to eat dinner. But after dinner? Nope. I won't even respond to emails. That's my time to relax and hang out with my man. Same with weekends.
Vacations aren't an option; they're a necessity. Everyone needs time to get away from their routine once in a while, to rest and recharge.
Some people like to set up a type of vacation schedule, like taking a vacation every six weeks or something like that. I tend to mostly base it off of how I feel. Vacations are my answer to everything. Feeling stressed or overwhelmed? Vacation. Antsy or bored? Vacation. Depressed or unmotivated? Vacation!
The best thing about boundaries is that you are in control. You get to decide where your boundaries are. My boundaries probably wouldn't work for most people, but they work for me. That's all that matters.
And boundaries can change. If there's ever a point where something doesn't feel right, adjust your boundaries. You are in control. Own your business, don't let your business own you.