I’ve always been a workaholic.
Since starting my first business at 15-16yrs of age, I’ve always juggled multiple commitments along with some sort of a business venture.
I used to think that I wasn’t capable of relaxing. Even now, if I get a day off, I’m already antsy two hours in because I’m desperate to answer some emails.
It wasn’t until a couple of years ago (when my health started to take a turn) that I realised I was running myself to the ground without knowing it. While I was answering emails, solving problems, working on new entrepreneurial ventures, all of which were just “business as usual”for me, I was silently stressed (or if you ask Cam, I was probably not so silent).
To the outside world, it seemed like I was managing fine. I was answering emails within minutes of receiving them and I didn’t need sleep if I was working on a huge project as I was running on adrenaline. I had every notification under the sun switched on, so I was always contactable no matter when or where. I was pretty much on call for the rest of the world and I was perfectly OK with that.
But it wasn’t OK.
I was ALWAYS sick. In fact, for the longest time, I couldn’t remember ever not being sick. If it wasn’t a head cold, it would be the flu or a sore throat. I would get food poisoning easily, and I became allergic to everything.
I told myself I just had low immunity, which was absolutely true, but what I didn’t realise was WHY.
It wasn’t until my low immunity started affecting my health in deeper ways, that I realised my workload was the cause. What I wore as a badge of honor was actually destroying my body!
Since realizing this, I’ve made some MASSIVE changes to my lifestyle, my relationships and my workload. The difference it has made on my mental and physical wellbeing has been astounding! I’m a lot calmer, less stressed and haven’t been sick in a very long time (touch wood). I’m able to deal with problems without getting angry or emotional (most of the time), and my productivity is through the roof!
No doubt there are plenty of studio owners out there who have gone through, or are currently going through, the same thing. So today I’m sharing some of the strategies I used to truly switch off and to create a better work/life balance. Though there is no one-size-fits-all approach, hopefully, these tips will give you some inspiration to take time out for yourself.
1. Identify What Truly Matters
Right now, you may think your studio is the most important thing in the world.
But it’s not.
Your studio should only be a part of your life, not all of it.
Take a moment and think about what truly matters to you. Your family, your friends, your health? If you lost one of these tomorrow, how would you feel? Would your studio still matter then?
We always hear stories of people who realize the importance of family and self care after a health scare, so why wait until the scare? Take more time now to cherish those special moments, without being prompted by something horrible first.
Think about WHY you work so hard in the first place. Was it so you can be your own boss, dictate your own hours and spend more time with the people you love? If so, then make this your priority and build your business to help you achieve this goal.
2. Trust Your Staff and Delegate
It’s natural to do everything yourself when you first start running a business. Most dance studios start off as a one-person operation.
But if you’re a couple of years in and still trying to run everything on your own, then it’s time to make some serious changes. Unless you want to burn out, or stagnate the growth of your studio, you need to start delegating your workload to other staff.
If you’re not comfortable with the idea of delegation, then start small. Delegate simple emails and tedious data entry tasks first. Provide training and feedback so your staff knows what you expect, how you like things to be done, and what deadlines to meet. As you feel more confident in their abilities, you can begin to delegate more complex tasks, and free up your time to spend on things that matter most.
If you are already delegating, but still struggle to find time for yourself, then it’s time to reassess.
Are you delegating effectively? Is your team working efficiently or do you need to supervise their every move? If so, perhaps more training should be provided. Do you give your staff enough authority to work by themselves, without hounding you for approval every hour?
There’s no point delegating, if you’re still spending the same amount of time monitoring their progress.
3. Don’t Be Afraid To Disconnect
I LOVE LOVE LOVE this one. It has made the biggest difference for me when it comes to truly unwinding mentally.
We live in the digital age where information is fed to us as it happens via notifications and live streams. We share intimate details of our lives on a public forum and expect important information to be communicated via social media (since when is Facebook an acceptable method to invite people to an engagement party, by the way?!)
Every person, business and news report is vying for our immediate attention on the things they deem are important.
It’s overwhelming! Even my mobile cooking app has the ability to notify me as soon as they update their recipes list! I mean, honestly, what is the benefit in being the “first to know” when a new recipe for Southern Fried Chicken Liver is released?!
As a business owner, your time is extremely valuable. You can’t afford to waste it checking useless notifications or having other people dictate how you should spend your time.
So, do this by:
- Getting RID of the notifications. You have the ability to turn this off on every app that you download. So do it!
- Scheduling in actual times when you check for updates. Instead of being notified the moment you receive a new email (and subsequently checking your inbox 60 times a day), schedule in 3 times a day where you check it and do so on your computer, so you can answer/delegate/delete those emails properly. Instead of being notified every time someone posts a photo of their baby on Facebook, only it check it once in the evening after work, when you have time to care and comment.
- If you need Facebook for work purposes, then consider installing apps that remove status updates from your newsfeed. For example, Newsfeed Eradicator is a Chrome extension that replaces your Facebook newsfeed with an inspirational or productive quote, so you won’t get distracted by a friend’s status update or someone’s photo of their lunch.
- TURN YOUR PHONE OFF. Disconnect from the world. Don’t let text messages, phone calls, random beeps and vibrations throw you off your course. Tell your staff that during this specific time slot, you will not be contactable (if this is a struggle for you, give them an emergency contact. For example, I tell my staff to call Cam if it’s urgent so they still have someone to reach if they desperately need me).
The world won’t collapse (trust me!) and as long as you have voicemail activated on your phone, you can get back to any missed calls and messages when YOU are ready. Not when the world demands it.
Why It’s Important
By disconnecting from the digital world, it allows your body, mind and soul to re-group. It brings your mental state back to baseline (before all the distractions and chaos) and allows you to have a more focused and simple stream of consciousness.
It may take a few tries before you completely switch off and not think about checking your phone, or refreshing for social media updates. After all, we’ve been conditioned to do this for a good decade now. But once you get used to it, you will find a whole new world you’ve forgotten about.
A world before technology consumed us; a world with more time to enjoy with family and friends; a world of productivity that allows you to dictate how you want to spend your time.
4. Schedule in a Real Vacation
Turning off from technology is fantastic on a weekly, or even daily, basis. But it’s also important to allow time to switch off from work completely.
Being a studio owner often means that we are thinking about business 24/7, even when we’re not physically at the studio. When your mind is occupied non-stop, it takes a toll on your mental and physical health. You need to allow yourself time to clear your mind and recover from the daily stresses of business.
It also gives your mind an opportunity to allow other ideas and thoughts to surface, stimulating creativity. A mind that is engaged 100% of the time won’t allow room for more important or innovative ideas to come through.
So plan a proper vacation; time away from the studio where you can fully unwind. Don’t bring your work with you, and don’t check your emails. I know, I know…it’s easier said than done. I am certainly guilty of many “working vacations” myself. But be mindful of why you are vacationing to begin with. You want time away, to de-stress and relax. So give yourself time to do that. Plan some activities that will take you out of your hotel room and away from the computer. Switch your phone off, even for a few hours each day, and truly be present in your vacation.
Once you fully let go, you will be surprised at just how relaxed you can be!
5. Create a Daily Routine
If you feel like you’re working 24/7, chances are you’re not being very productive.
Most people who are in a constant state of “busy” are usually procrastinating most of that time, or working on things that do not provide the most return on their business.
If you’ve ever read Tim Ferris’ The 4-Hour Work Week, you’d understand that just because you spend a long time working, it doesn’t necessarily mean you actually get a lot done. A lot of the time you spend “working” is just to make yourself feel better, but it’s not actually productive work.
Do what’s important for business.
Organise your workload effectively, and you’ll find that a lot of the work you’re doing now can be done by someone else, or not at all. You may also find that in a normal 8 hour working day, over half of that is spent procrastinating or doing tasks you weren’t supposed to.
Spend some time going over your tasks and pick the ones that truly require your attention. Start thinking like the CEO of the business, rather than the worker. Would a CEO of company waste 30mins answering an email about the right shade of ballet tights? Or spend 2 hours scrubbing crayon marks off the wall?
Put together a list of things that you should be doing regularly to grow the business; tasks that require your attention because nobody else can do them, and delegate the rest.
Once you have the list of the most important tasks you should be working on, schedule it into an actual routine. Dictate how many hours you want to be working on these tasks yourself and stick to it. Disconnect from the digital world while you are working on these. Don’t allow for distractions or procrastination.
Also schedule in other important factors, like time with family, coffee with friends, gym, dinner, even sleep. By having a clear routine for all aspects of your life (and following it) you will be able to see your priorities more clearly and work more productively in the allotted time.
Not only that, but you can guarantee a work/life balance, by simply scheduling life into your routine.
6. Stop The Guilt
Many studio owners often feel guilty in spending time on themselves.
They are able to spend 24/7 on their studio, go through 3 nights of zero sleep during recital season, but as soon as they take even an hour out for themselves, they start to feel guilty.
I used to be like that; in fact, I still am at times and I have to catch myself before I start wallowing in the depth of my own self-inflicted guilt.
Stop feeling guilty or ashamed just because you want some “me-time”. Don’t beat yourself up because you had no patience to answer the same question for the fifth time today. Don’t punish yourself into working double the hours on the weekend, just because you took half a day off to have lunch with your husband during the week.
Learn to have a life outside the studio. You should have a life outside the studio.
The less of a life you have outside of the studio, the less perspective you have on the world. Suddenly, small issues become huge dramas; a simple email that should take 2 minutes to answer will cause 2 hours of anxiety; a problem with an easy solution will seem like the end of the world.
Without you, there would be no business, no employees, no students, no parents. So why feel guilty just because you want to spend some time looking after yourself, so that you can look after everyone else?
Achieving work/life balance is not an easy task, especially as a business owner.
To have a healthy, productive and happy life, you need to learn balance. If you’re going to switch on like a boss, then you need to learn to switch off equally. At the end of the day, looking after yourself means looking after the business, so don’t feel bad for that.