I'm an overachiever. A workaholic. A doer. I rarely say no to my clients, work is my hobby and my passion, and I've always taken pride in the fact that I can meet ridiculous deadlines — even at the detriment of my own self care. Sound familiar?
Those of us who are entrepreneurs and who get a rush out of growing our business, signing that next client, increasing our sales goals, securing more speaking engagements, and taking ourselves to that next level and the next and the next and the next, rarely slow down. And it isn't good for us.
Up until late last year, I found myself on that entrepreneur express train -- wanting more, doing more, never saying no, hiring more people, working more hours, and being subconsciously unhappy. I knew something was off, but wasn't quite sure what. And then I took myself to a Tony Robbins seminar and he asked us to draw circles: one representing our work, one representing our relationships, and the other representing our selves.
This was my result:
My "work" circle was huge, my "relationship" circle was tiny in comparison, and my "self" was barely a dot. To quote Dr. Phil, "How's that working out for you?" The reality was, that it wasn't.
While my clients were thrilled and probably couldn't tell the difference, I myself, was deeply unhappy. Socializing, exercising, relaxing, reading just for fun — it all took a back seat to work. I always found the time to work, but didn't always find the time for self care. When you think about it as I was forced to — that's not a great way to live. What the heck was I so proud of?
The fact that I could write a press release faster than anyone I knew? The belief that I should be accessible to my clients day and night? The stats that our team never missed a deadline when responding to TripAdvisor reviews or other online reputation management deadlines (and yes, our clients have systems where the clock starts the minute a review is left and we need to be on it and respond or the manager's bonus is affected — and we hear about it).
When I looked at how I was operating — sometimes at the request of the client and sometimes because of my own standards to be the best, fastest, most responsive, etc. — it was insane. Nobody can keep up that pace and yet I was doing it — for years. I worked longer and harder than anybody who worked for me. If someone couldn't cover, I did. After all, my name was on the door. And when I realized I it wasn't serving me anymore, I stopped. And I took a step back.
But let's keep it in perspective. As compared to most people, I probably still work more hours or maybe I just work more effectively, but for me, it was a big step. I stopped working weekends altogether — unless it was a major project that inspired me and I wanted to take on. I wasn't available at 6 a.m. Pacific Time when it was 9 a.m. on the east coast and my clients were at their desks. I started going out to lunch more often. Reading more for pleasure than for work. Getting a massage or even just a pedicure. Or just sitting and staring out at the ocean for 10 minutes in the morning when I woke up. I cook more versus ordering in. I take the time to nurture friendships. And I've started saying no to potential clients because it's just not something I am inspired by or want to work on.
It's only been a short time, but I don't think my clients have noticed a difference in the hours I'm available — or if they do, they are getting used to it. I find my productivity hasn't suffered because I've always been an incredibly fast worker. But my creativity has soared because I now have the time and space in my mind to let new thoughts, ideas, and possibilities in.
I've learned as entrepreneurs and executives and even superhero Moms, being proud of being an overachiever isn't always the best thing for us. Sometimes we need to still have that quest in sight, but recognize that the quest is only achievable, enjoyable, and sustainable if we want it body, mind, and soul.