Hello May! It is mental health awareness month and on the Stress Less Show this month, we are talking about one of the top stressors for people in the United States. I'm willing to bet that this stressor has probably impacted your mental health at some point in your own life - I know it has for me. Yes, this month we are talking about job pressure! To start off this month’s topic this week, I decided to bring on the show, Sue Allen Clayton, the founder of the Serene Solopreneur to discuss how working long hours contributes to the pressure we feel about our jobs, careers and businesses.
Sue’s company, the Serene Solopreneur, is an online community for women business owners and was founded after Sue’s personal experiences with burnout as a solo business owner working non-stop. Working from home as a business owner can feel like a very lonely place at times and Sue saw a need to provide an online space for women to support each other as they manage their businesses and everything else in their lives. “I wanted to set up a community that provided education, support and kind of a tribe for female solo business owners; and I think - [with] women in particular because we’re generally the caregivers - we have so much more going on in our life than just our business.”
Long hours is a topic that plays a large role in Sue’s work and so she has a few tips that you can use to resist the urge to work long hours and be more productive during reasonable work hours.
Tip #1: Work like an athlete
Sue’s first tip is to take a page from the elite athletes of the world and make rest a priority in your schedule so you can take care of yourself and continue to work when you need to.
“A lot of the recent science in terms of athletes has to do with the importance of resting and recovering, not just killing yourself with overwork. And in fact, the athletes that have longevity... are people who've really learned how to have rest and recovery as part of their training. And I think we need to do the same thing as entrepreneurs and business people.”
To do this, Sue recommended planning rest breaks in your schedule, during the day, week, month, and beyond. Plan these breaks out and take them seriously because you have to have time to recharge and heal your mind and body in order to keep growing your business.
Tip #2: Structure your days
In addition to incorporating planned rest breaks in your schedule, Sue also recommends bringing more structure to your work day. For example, set a specific start and end time for your work day and find ways to make yourself stick to it.
“It's nice if you've got something like you know kids coming home from school or a spouse or something like that, but even planning in a yoga class or planning in a walk or planning in a movie or something where you force yourself to stop [works].”
Sue recognizes that us solopreneurs often like to avoid structure, but she stresses that setting work hours and even selecting specific days of the week to focus on different aspects of our businesses and responsibilities can increase our efficiency and prevent you from trying to work long hours.
Tip #3: Get real with yourself
Sue’s last tip she shared is for all of us professionals and entrepreneurs who feel like we have to keep working and working and working. Busy is the new status symbol these days, but Sue notes that we all need to really think about what our work day looks like.
“I think we delude ourselves that we need to work all those hours but maybe we're like scrolling through Facebook or at home we're taking a lunch break... and we're not really as busy as we think we are. So I think that's another piece is to really look at how busy you are and what you want your life to look like.”
It is important to decide how many hours you want to spend working based on what you want out of life and the goals you have for yourself.
Whether it’s 5 or 15 hours a day, decide on what works for you and accept what that level is. Accepting what you are able to accomplish, Sue notes, is not always easy, which is why she also stresses the importance of dealing with anxiety as business owners and professionals.
“A lot of that time we spend working - especially when we're solopreneurs - we spend in fear or in procrastination or you know in perfectionism. And if we can have strategies where [we say], ‘I'm coming in. I'm doing my work. I understand this blog post may not be perfect but nobody's going to die because I missed the comma,’ and then moving ahead, we're a lot more productive.”
You can find ways to handle that anxiety on your own or with a coach. Another great resource for addressing that work anxiety is by joining an online community like Sue’s group, the Serene Solopreneur. Joining her online community also includes access to a monthly book club, lunch and learn sessions, and a coffee break session where they discuss metaphysical issues related to women.
You can find out more and join her community by going to serenesolopreneur.com. Sue also is offering Stress Less Show viewers 50 percent off when you sign up and enter the code ‘happy’ at checkout.