Walking around with an ice-cream cone on vacation makes me very happy. There’s something about carrying the sweet creamy treat, playful method of eating it (licking around the edges to avoid drips), typically good weather when I would choose to have it, special occasion, potentially unique location that calls for an ice cream cone in my opinion, that’s the perfect storm of joy.
I recently got to experience this while on vacation in Syracuse, NY, on a fun trip with my husband to see our son play baseball on his collegiate summer league team. We went to the Fingerlakes region and visited a darling ice cream shop called Skaneatles Skoops in Skaneatles. Here, I selected a Chai, Chai Again on a sugar cone and enjoyed it while we walked along the shops and down by the lake.
There was a time when it would have been a challenge to truly enjoy carefree, fun, easy moment like this on vacation. Or an evening, weekends, or day off.
Why everyone should stop and smell the roses
As a small-business owner, entrepreneur, and wearer of many hats in the business, I used to think about work all the time. I’d think about work when I wasn’t working. I’d think about my never-ending to-do list, about problems that needed solving, about commitments I made to others, about responsibilities that I held. There was always more work to do. Work never felt done and I didn’t go on vacation without taking my laptop.
I didn’t stop to smell the roses.
I admit, I put a lot of pressure on myself. Remember, I am my own boss, so this was my own doing, but I felt that I was just “driven”. I wanted to be the best I could, to be of service to the most people possible, to build a team of great employees, and to constantly grow.
It stressed me out much of the time. While I loved the work, I didn’t love it occupying my thoughts (and so much of my time) 24/7. In fact, allowing work and the self-imposed pressure consume me led to physical and mental health challenges. I was making myself sick.
Thankfully, I no longer feel that way.
Over time, I’ve implemented several productivity strategies that allow me to continue to run and enjoy a successful business. I’ve found the the time, energy and attention to spend outside of work to have more down-time, and much less stress. Now I enjoy vacation to the fullest, take regular time off, and no longer feel guilty about not working. I’ve stopped thinking about work around the clock. I enjoy the ice-cream cone experience as it’s meant to be enjoyed and I often take the opportunity to stop and smell the roses.
Here’s what I changed:
I have much better-defined work time and non-work time. My calendar and plans are organized into blocks of time dedicated to work, time for myself, family, friends, recreation, or personal or home projects. I compartmentalize the type of hat I’m wearing for work: client sessions, content creation, business development, project work, etc. so that I can see when I’ll next address a certain area of work.
Prioritization and Planning
In a weekly routine, I review both personal and professional priorities. I plan the aforementioned time blocks and ensure that I see time allocated to relevant priorities. I also look for things that I don’t need to plan time for but can eliminate, delegate or automate.
It helps to have a reliable system to capture, prioritize and plan tasks. This means when I think of something I need to do for work and it’s not a defined “work time”, I can easily capture it for later. It also means that when I stop to smell the roses, if I find myself worried about finishing or working on something, I can tell myself, “you don’t need to think about that now, it’s scheduled for tomorrow and you’ve allocated time to work on it then.” This allows me to focus on what I’m doing or enjoying in the moment (see above on Compartmentalization).
Concentrating on one thing at a time helps me be more efficient and effective in getting things done. This results in saved time, greater output, and confidence. If I’m choosing to do something, it deserves my full attention and other things can wait. I teach a workshop titled “Multitasking Makes You Stupid“, and practice what I preach here!
I learned relatively early in my business that I didn’t have to wear all the hats and do all the things. Building a team to handle certain things so I didn’t have to (or wasn’t good at), freed me to focus on my priorities. I appreciate this “village” of support that helps me serve our clients and get things done. We’re better together.
I don’t work on evenings or weekends anymore. My typical work hours are between 9am – 4pm. I have a morning routine that I hold sacred and protect that time. Evenings are for family, friends, and me. I take one weekday per week off. I love working a 4-day week. Usually, my day off is Wednesday (unless personal plans have me out on a different day for some reason). I use the day for personal appointments and as a day to recharge after focusing hard for two days.
If I’m asked to book something on a Wednesday, I typically decline and suggestanother date and time that I am available. In fact, I say “yes” to things more slowly these days and practice what I preach by considering that when I say “yes” to something, I am in effect saying “no” to something else. Honoring boundaries makes me a happier, more creative, and more productive person. I am able to stop and smell the roses.
I ask for what I need. I stay connected with my team in various ways, especially about my hours and availability. Utilizing my out of office message lets prospects, clients or other business associates know when I’ll be next available. I am responsive without being knee-jerk reactive. While it can be great to spontaneously connect with and collaborate, I also plan time and methods for these things intentionally, in advance, on my calendar.
I use a scheduling tool that allows others to book time with me without needing me to work with them to find a time to connect. This saves time and means that when I’m off work or on vacation, plans for when I’m not can continue forward easily. The scheduling tool syncs with my calendar, so I can indicate times that I am available, and block off times that I won’t be working, scheduling meetings, or conducting client sessions. I employ automation in other ways with our CRM and our marketing campaign tool.
While still driven to help others, grow personally and professionally, and “succeed” in business, I’ve taken the pressure off. I’ve gotten clear about what I need to make financially, and it’s not a figure that means I always must have my foot on the gas to achieve. I’ve incorporated other elements into my definition of success besides business growth. Having rich relationships with those I care about, taking exceptional care of my physical and mental health, engaging in personal interests and pursuits, and taking enjoyable time off of work are all parts of this new definition of success.
How do you define success? What have you put into place to help you separate work and personal time? How do you enjoy time off and cherish fun “moments” in life without feeling guilty about not working? How can you make changes that allow you to stop and smell the roses?
If this is something you could use help with, I am here for you (four days a week 😊). Schedule a complimentary Discovery Call (using that automated scheduler I mentioned) and we’ll explore what it would be like to work together. It would be an honor to be of service and I will look forward to helping you reach your goals. It’s About Time, right?