Remember when you first decided it would be a great idea to open your own business? To earn a living, working for yourself and not have to answer to anyone…to set your own schedule and take vacation time whenever you wanted…The allure of a flexible schedule and independent life sounded dreamy. You could just picture yourself sitting on a beach somewhere with your laptop earning millions of dollars while your children play in the surf (with a full-time CPR-certified nanny nearby, of course!).
Then one day you realized that having your own business means being your own boss, but it doesn’t necessarily provide the ticket to freedom you anticipated. In fact, you find out you have dozens of new “bosses” in the form of clients and the glory of independence turns into loneliness when you pull a late-nighter to get the job done.
Trust me – I’ve been there. And my clients are there too. One minute you’re excited about a new project, and the next minute you’re explaining to your son that you can’t come to his soccer game on Saturday morning because you have to work. AGAIN. So the land of opportunity is not always what you expected. But the good news is, that it doesn’t have to stay this way! You CAN achieve that level independence you crave as an entrepreneur and have the freedom to enjoy time with your family!
Here are Four Tips to Reclaim Your Independence and live the life you envisioned when you became an entrepreneur:
1. Stop responding. Ever have one of those days (or weeks) when you were insanely busy but didn’t manage to cross off a single thing on your “to-do” list? This happens to moms a lot. It’s because we let everyone else call the shots – clients, kids, teachers, schedules, friends, etc. We spend every day answering what others are asking, responding to their needs and reacting to their drama. We allow ourselves to be constantly interrupted by the needs of others (no matter how significant). And, here’s the best part, we FEEL good about it because we love to be needed and to help others.
But God did not call us to simply sit around and wait for others to need us and respond to their every request. He wants us to live our life to the fullest and to follow his plan for us. He wants us to thoughtfully consider our gifts and talents and how we can best use them to please him and serve others. And, he doesn’t expect YOU to be the only one to react to and help others!
So start giving yourself permission to live a more PROACTIVE life and stop being so REACTIVE. Begin by clearly defining your own priorities. Need help? Read about the Three Big Things That Lead to Meaningful Progress.
2. Set clear boundaries. When you work from home it’s often difficult for other family members to know when you’re working and when you’re not. This is true even if you have an outside office but tend to bring work home (or take work calls at home). I find myself shifting roles from mom to business owner several times throughout the day. While I relish the fluid pace of my day –I’ve learned that setting clear boundaries between “work” and “home” is essential. What happens is in my house when I don’t set boundaries? My kids don’t know when I’ll be available next, so they interrupt and distract me more often. In return, I never feel as if I complete my work, so I don’t allow myself to be fully present and enjoy family time. My solution: I establish and communicate my work hours (even if they differ each day) and I clearly define a fun family activity that will take place when I’m finished work (or on a break). This allows me to give 100% of my attention during my “work time” and 100% of my energy during family time.
3. Just say “no.” You’ve probably heard this before but sometimes we moms have a difficult time saying “no.” And the biggest reason for this is guilt. We put such high expectations on ourselves to be everything for our families, our clients and others and we don’t want to let anyone down. So we say “yes” every time we’re asked to bake cupcakes or go on a field trip or sit on a committee. We say “yes” to a project that sucks up time without bringing us closer to our goals. This is why there never seems to be enough time to do what we truly need to do. Sometimes it’s difficult to decline requests and invitations gracefully – especially to family or clients. In fact, when we say “no” sometimes we worry that people won’t like us or clients won’t hire us again. But I’m here to encourage you to be RUTHLESS about your commitments – so that you can be more fully present in the areas of your life that matter most. Not every project, job or social engagement is going to be in alignment with your priorities – so feel free to say “no” when it doesn’t feel right. For more on this tip, read Twenty Things You Can Say “No” to Now.
4. Live the life you are working so hard to create. What is your personal version of success? How does your life look differently in your vision for five years from now? Are you working fewer hours? Spending more time with your children? Laughing more often? Feeling rested and less stressed? If you’re truly an entrepreneur at heart, I have some disturbing news for you: you are NEVER going to feel like you’ve “made it” – like the journey is over and now you can just sit back and relax. You are ALWAYS going to be coming up with new ideas and new plans for the next big thing. But somewhere along the way, you will learn how to make these personal versions of “success” possible in your life – despite your thriving business. So why not start now?
What are your most successful strategies for protecting your independence and freedom as an entrepreneur? Share them here!