Gabrielle Treanor is a writer and teacher supporting overthinkers to worry less and enjoy life more. She has spent years researching positive psychology and experimenting on herself to reduce her own overthinking and increase the joy she feels in everyday life. Today she’s sharing expert advice and mindfulness tips for business owners and freelancers who want to avoid burnout.
When you work for yourself time becomes scarce. Or at least it feels that way. When you’re self-employed, whether you’re a freelancer or a business owner working from your kitchen table or responsible for staff and premises, there never seems to be enough hours in the day and your work is never finished. The buck stops with you. If you don’t do the work, there’s no-one else who will do it for you, so the idea of taking time for yourself feels like an impossibility.
You are your business’ most valuable asset. Without you the work doesn’t get done, sales aren’t made, and money doesn’t come in. Which is exactly why taking care of yourself isn’t just a nice idea for when you have the time, it’s essential.
If you aren’t at your best, thinking creatively and making connections, you aren’t giving your business the attention and care it deserves. If you’re exhausted, overwhelmed and you can’t function properly, neither can your business. It’s vital that you nourish, nurture and care for yourself. Because without you there is no business.
I’m speaking from experience. Several years ago, while running my stationery business (which I sold last year), I worked every hour possible. When I wasn’t working, I was thinking about my business. Then one day I reached a point where I couldn’t think straight. I sat at my kitchen table and sobbed because I didn’t know what to do next. I was utterly overwhelmed.
My husband convinced me to take some time off and thankfully I did. After completely removing myself from work for a few days, I was able to see how lost I’d become. Once I’d regained my focus and enthusiasm for my business, I did everything I could to ensure I wouldn’t let myself get so wrapped up in overworking again.
I don’t want you to reach this level of overwhelm, or even get close to it. I want you to read my experience and think, ‘No way, I’m not letting that happen to me!’
But how can you ensure you don’t end up a stressed out, unfocused, exhausted business owner or freelancer? By paying attention, by being mindful of what you’re doing and how you’re feeling.
Mindfulness can be applied to everyday life and it can also take the form of specific mindful practices. It starts with being mindful of how you’re going about your life and running your business. Through this awareness, you can see what you need to do to be your best and stay that way.
Here are three ways you can be mindful of how you function in work and life:
Be Mindful of How You Spend Your Time
Pay attention to how much time you spend doing business-related work. This should include interacting on social media, jotting notes in your phone while you’re in a queue, answering emails while you’re cooking dinner and anything else that may not look like work to the outside observer, but you know is contributing in some way to your business.
Aside from when you’re sleeping, how much time are you spending doing non-work-related activities? How much time do you spend doing what makes you feel relaxed, energised, nourished and joyful? How do you feel when you compare the two?
Start Your Day Mindfully
It can be easy to dive into work as soon as you wake up/drop the children at school/sit at your desk and that contributes to the feeling of time scarcity. Beginning your day mindfully means that you are in control. You decide what you’re doing rather than reacting to the demands that are coming at you through emails, orders and phone calls.
Before you start work take a few minutes to do what feels supportive and calming to you. That could be taking a walk around a park (without checking your phone), following a yoga video or meditating for a few minutes.
When you have 782 items on your to-do list, it can seem like a waste of valuable time to spend precious minutes on anything other than work. However, by beginning your day with a nourishing supportive action you’ll calm your mind, allowing you to focus on what’s important for you to accomplish that day. Taking these few minutes at the start of your day will give you more time back in productivity.
Create Mindful Boundaries
When you’re self-employed, you’re the boss. Yes, that means you’re responsible for everything, but it also means you get to make up the rules of your business. You have a lot more control and choice over where you work, how you work, what time you start and stop and when you don’t work at all.
Consider why you became a freelancer or started your own business in the first place. Perhaps it was to have more flexible hours around your family or the freedom to work wherever you like. Creating boundaries will help you honour the original vision you had for your work life and to work when and how you really want to.
- Decide on your official office hours and only answer emails or customer enquiries within that timeframe. If you send messages at 11pm, you’re setting a precedent and the recipient may expect you to be available to them at any time.
- Switch off notifications for email, social media, news alerts, text messages – anything that lights up your phone and demands your attention. You choose when you go online, not your phone or anyone else.
- Set yourself a device curfew, perhaps you have a no-screens rule after 9pm or no devices at mealtimes. The blue light emitted by screens has been shown to inhibit the production of melatonin which helps us fall asleep at night.
Self-care is unique to each of us. What one person finds relaxing or energising can be very different to the next person. By being mindful of what makes you feel stressed and overwhelmed, and what makes you feel supported and nourished, you can take better care of yourself and in the process your work and your business. Looking after your own needs isn’t optional when you’re self-employed, it’s essential.
Love Gabrielle and the SOL team x
Gabrielle works with women who are looking to free themselves from worrying about everyone and everything, and instead feel lighter, calmer and more contented. You can find her online courses, the Pressing Pause podcast for overthinkers, a wellbeing resource library and a link to her free private Worry Less Enjoy Life More Facebook group at gabrielletreanor.com.