In the past few years as a business owner, I have continued to redefine what a work day can look like. I’ve talked about my “break up with corporate” previously, the process of breaking down a decade of beliefs about what “working” should look like. The constructs of what “being a professional” looked like was ingrained into me so deep that it has taken years for me to release them.
While working in a corporate environment, I believed that the more hours I worked, the more I’d get done, the more successful I would be. All that working didn’t always equate to more money. I was on salary much of the time.
I believed I needed to work all day on most days. I believed that being on call 24 hours a day meant I was there for my staff and my bosses when they needed me. I put my own needs second almost every single day. After spending all that time working, I STILL had things I needed to do, places to be, people to talk to. Longer days didn’t mean my to-do list got much smaller.
That lifestyle wasn’t sustainable. I skipped parties to stay at the office. I missed adventures because I was afraid I wouldn’t have cell reception. I paused movies 10 times to answer phone calls. Literally.
2021 marked the year I finally proved to myself that working 70+ hour weeks and sometimes working 7 days a week was NOT NECESSARY.
This is my confession…
This past year, I gave myself permission to continue my break up with corporate. I gave myself permission to have a weekday off if I wanted it, whether to do something for myself or with someone else. I had extended lunch dates just because it felt right. I gave myself permission to stop working when my boyfriend got home. I took most weekends off.
I was able to put myself, my friends, and my family FIRST almost every day for the first time I can remember in a very long time.
Did I work some 12 hour days? Yes.
Did I work some weekends? Yes.
Did I work after dinner until midnight on many occasions? Yes.
But on the days I didn’t do these things, I gave myself permission to put myself first. I allowed myself to not work a full day if that is what my workflow allowed. I freely planned weekends or vacations by blocking my calendar OFF for those days. No permission needed from a boss. No paperwork needed for HR.
All of this and I still made more money in 2021 working for myself than any other year working for someone else. Ever. The best part is, I got to do it while working towards my own dreams and not someone else’s.
Now don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all rainbows and sunshine. There were times when I stressed about when the next project would come our way. If a proposal would be accepted. If we were going to meet a deadline for a client.
There were times I had to find solutions for unsatisfied clients (because let’s be honest, no matter how awesome we are, there is always someone with a complaint). There were times I doubted myself and imposter syndrome crept up on me.
I wore the hat of customer service rep, sales rep, bookkeeper, marketer, and strategic planner every day of the year. My creative juices were always flowing and I was thinking at least a little about my business each day. But that’s the life of a business owner. The business is my baby and I must safely grow it so it can one day flourish without me.
That day is not today. It won’t be tomorrow, or even next year. Despite the fact that being a business owner is an all-the-time job, it doesn’t mean you have to work all the time. I have learned as a business owner that we must have a healthy and happy personal AND professional life. That without a growth mindset in both my private and professional life, I won’t be the best that I can be in either of those areas of my life.
As a business owner, I have realized there is a fine line between where my business and personal life begin and end. I now give both of them the love and attention they deserve. I’ve come to understand that working constantly does no one any favors. It means I’m tired, leading to less productivity and focus. Neither of which benefit me or my clients.
Do I still feel guilty when I don’t put in a full 8 hour workday (as if there is some kind of rule that this is required)? Sometimes.
Do I still feel guilty when I don’t respond to my emails on the weekends because I need a break to be with my loved ones? Sometimes.
Do I still feel guilty when I sleep until 10 am because that is what my body needs? Sometimes.
These things are getting easier, and I don’t consider myself actively “breaking up with corporate” anymore. Instead, I am recovering from the unhealthy relationship that it was. I am continuing to reframe the way I think about “working” and what, exactly, that’s supposed to look like. This is my confession, and it feels good.
To read Confessions of a business owner: Part 6, click here.