Anna Maria Locke

What I've learned about work-life balance in my first year of self employment

September 2015Anna LockeComment

Do you ever find your brain spinning when you’re in a situation where you’re forced to just be present?

Maybe when you’re supposed to be sleeping, sitting in church, driving in the car, sitting on the couch at the end of the day, or waiting in line. You automatically reach for your phone, the TV remote, a mindless snack to fill the void because we are so plugged in these days that we constantly live in this extra-wired "reactive" mode and it's uncomfortable to deal with just being quiet with our thoughts.

I caught myself getting the mind-spins lately and I’m learning it’s a big sign that I need to back off and create more downtime and mental space in my day to day life. If I don't give myself space to just be, to think, to be unproductive, then my brain is going to use onto those forced quiet times (like laying in bed) to process everything that's happening, and that's what triggers my anxiety or feeling like I'm never doing enough.

It’s easy to get swept up in the endless to-do list, to get into “hustle” mode, to convince ourselves that we have to be productive 24/7 and battle life in order to get and stay ahead. But we need to give ourselves mental white space to PROCESS everything that's happening, especially during particularly stressful times or during big life transitions.

It’s officially been one year since I quit my job, and it’s pretty cool to be able to look back on the last 12 months with a little more perspective.

My first 6 months of self employment were pretty stressful. Not gonna lie. I felt like I had to conform to this mold of “successful entrepreneur!” and I based my feelings of success and worthiness on how much I could get done, or how much money I was making. I signed up for a bajillion e-courses because I felt like there was so much to learn before I could officially call myself a success.

I wrote blog posts on what I was accomplishing, doing, and learning, and to be honest going back and re-reading these posts makes me feel super anxious and stressed. I just want to go back and give myself a big hug and an “oh honey, it’s gonna be ok!”

I quit my job at the end of August 2014 and by February, six months into the adventure, my income was plateauing, I was stressed to the max, and I hit a breaking point where I was just done with all the anxiety and overwhelm. I was sick of feeling stressed out every weekend, feeling like I never had time to do the things I actually wanted to do, the types of self-care things that are SO important to my mental and spiritual well being (like go for a walk, go shopping, blow an entire afternoon with friends, sticking around after church for coffee hour). I didn't feel like I "deserved" to spend time on me, because it would take away time I could be spending on my business.

I was living in a perpetual state of restless anxiety because I never allowed myself to take an actual break to recharge. I felt like I had to constantly stay plugged into my Facebook and emails and social media, and it was a compulsive habit I couldn’t break.

So eventually I decided ENOUGH IS ENOUGH and forced myself to establish some work/life boundaries, starting with overhauling my weekends.

I wrote this blog post about my work/life crisis.

And then I wrote this blog post a couple months later after I discovered that slowing down doesn't mean the world will collapse.

The thing is, quitting my job wasn't really brave. Being "busy" and overwhelmed and working 14 hours/day isn't brave. Being constantly overwhelmed and swamped with too many competing priorities and pressuring yourself to live up to ridiculous benchmarks of success isn't brave.

Giving myself permission to be ME instead of trying to live up to expectations of perfection was brave.

You don't have to be a slave in order to be of service.

It’s been six more months and I’ve come a LONG WAY, thanks to some major investments in my personal development, and learning that my job is literally to relax, live my life, and show the world it's possible to make a living by doing things that bring you joy...and that's ok! It's not something to feel guilty about. 

My income is growing, I feel confident and stable, I’m slowly becoming more resilient to the emotional rollercoaster, and most of all I’ve learned to TRUST MYSELF and establish boundaries to guard my energy and emotional wellbeing.

I no longer freak out on the weekends and try to get stuff done. I usually end up working at least 4-6 hours but I try my best to unplug completely on Sundays.

Life has been really crazy and fast all summer with trip after trip, so this past weekend I was super excited to simply be at home. My sister came up for a quick 24 hour visit and we had a lot of fun!

We spent Friday afternoon working together in a cute coffee shop.

Then we checked out the German Fest happening in our neighborhood and ate allll the beige foods (brats, sauerkraut, potato salad, beer, cake, and the best gluhwein ever YUM!) and listened to cheesy oompah music. 

I’m learning that when I give myself permission to relax and unplug, I can enter Monday feeling refreshed and re-motivated, instead of burned out and overwhelmed. I’m also learning to lower my expectations for how much I can actually accomplish in one day.

I finally feel like I’m finding my groove.

More fun, less desperation.
Less hustle, more surrender.

I love this quote from the Dalai Lama:

“The world will be saved by the western woman” 

I think he said that because we're the first generation of women who are free to do pretty much anything we want. We have so much innate power and opportunity. But to save the world we have to acknowledge the freedom and blessings we already have. We can’t get stuck in our limiting mindsets, our doubts and fears, or the little voice that constantly tears us down.

Freedom means giving yourself permission to prioritize yourself and your dreams, and the patience and grace to honor your own limitations and boundaries.

I’m realizing that you can’t LEARN how to be a successful small business owner or coach. You simply have to dive in, embrace the chaos, experiment, make mistakes, and keep moving forward.

The biggest lesson you’ll learn is simply how to be yourself.

And to be ok with what you discover :)

xo Anna

p.s. Some of my biggest work/life balance mentors right now: Chalene Johnson, Nisha Moodley, and Gabby Bernstein.

p.p.s. Wanna learn more about coaching? Read about my business mentoring and team HERE!