PODCAST 01: Juggling, Balance, and Harmony in Your Business

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Transcript and show notes:

Hi everyone, welcome to From Hustle to Hell Yes. I’m your host, Emily Carter of Change Agent Studio, and I believe that entrepreneurship is a tool for freedom and improving your life in a LOT of ways, but especially with: How we spend our Time, Energy, and Money. In this podcast, I focus on how to create more ease, enjoyment, and effectiveness in your business using Mindset, Systems and Ops, Community, and Core values - because being busy isn’t why you started your business. You started your business to play by your own rules, doing work that you love that has an impact on the people you serve.

This is the very first episode of From Hustle to Hell Yes - and I’m excited to dig into what we’re talking about today: making space. And this episode is all about the number one thing that folks ask me: how to have work life balance. But that phrase has a lot of baggage. And a lot of like, magical thinking surrounding it too.

So much gets said about work life balance and burnout, that I think it’s led to some confusion about what they really are. Work life balance is not a magic number that you spend at work vs not work. It’s not like a sleep number bed where there’s some magical number of hours that will equate to balance for you. Work-life balance doesn’t happen if you just find the right ratio of time, like suddenly everything will fall into place. Time IS a component of work life balance but it’s not the whole story - it’s actually just a small piece of the puzzle.

So let’s get into an example, because I think this becomes a lot clearer when we have context. 

Here’s a scenario I’ve been in, and I know from working with my clients that this happens to other entrepreneurs, especially parents. I talked about this with a friend  about a year ago and this conversation really stuck with me because it’s ALSO such a perfect example of how the season of life and business we’re in and the experience of the world around us can be impacting us. At the time of this recording, a year ago would have been just a couple months into the COVID-19 pandemic and shortly after mass protests of police violence against people of color. I can say without a doubt we were feeling tender and more vulnerable about things during that time - and my friend, we’ll call her Alison, were just catching up. And she was telling me about how she’s been feeling more tired and anxious - and she was telling me:

You now, I sit down to work, and I know it’s going to be a long day because there’s a big project I’m working on for a client and the timeline got really crunched because of COVID… I’ve had to put some extra time on it - a few hours on the weekend, an extra long day here and there. 

So I asked her if she thought it was the work load or the amount of time she was working, and she said it could be - but that she’d worked this way before in spurts and it hadn’t hit her this hard. So then I asked her, what are you feeling during the day? Like, what thoughts and emotions are coming into play here? And that’s when the real stuff came out - she told me:

“I’m at my computer, working and making progress, but suddenly out of nowhere - feeling guilty about not giving the kids enough of my attention, and not spending more time with my partner… I’m making progress but it doesn’t feel like it - I just feel kind of anxious about it. Oh AND THEN the guilt is nagging me, so I stop working earlier than I was planning to so I can spend a little quality time with the family and kind of ease that guilt… But then, while we’re playing a game after dinner, and I’m trying to enjoy this quality time together, I can’t stop thinking about what I didn’t get done - I can’t turn it off. My mind keeps going to work and what needs to be done there. I’m completely distracted while we’re playing and don’t even hear my 6 yo telling me it’s my turn.”

After hearing that, it was pretty clear that what was making Alison anxious and tired wasn’t necessarily the amount of time she was putting into work - it was the other stuff that was being triggered by those extra hours at a time when she was feeling especially  vulnerable about her priorities, given the situation in the world. It was really causing some internal angst and it was manifesting as these thoughts and feelings of guilt. I’m not a therapist, I can’t help anyone unpack why they might be feeling that guilt or how to cope with it, but sometimes just recognizing that this is a contributing factor makes it so much easier to resolve and get back into a better relationship with our work and our balance.

This cycle of thoughts and feelings and not being fully present where we are is one of the ways we can end up feeling like our work-life balance is out of whack, and if this happens for an extended period of time, if this constant push and pull of guilt in these different roles continues for months at a time, then we can start to feel burnt out. And this is how we can end up burnt out even when we’re working reasonable hours. And this is why having a better relationship with work, and a better understanding of how we experience time, can be so transformational. 

There are some really key things in this example that I want to talk more about because they’re the most common things that create a feeling of balance or imbalance. First, there are the relationships in life that are important to us - our kids and our partner, our friends, our clients and colleagues. And in this example, the tension is in feeling guilty about how we’re showing up or not showing up for them. That feeling is draining. It’s mentally exhausting. AND it isn’t always cleared up by trying to figure out our perfect time ratio. This feeling isn’t only about TIME (event though that’s a component here - if you’re working a number of hours that doesn’t allow for time to rest and play, then 100% that is a contributing factor.) The feeling of guilt in Alison’s example is really really common and it’s about feeling like we’re not showing up for our people, and just spending more time with them isn’t the whole answer - it’s about the quality of that time as well - how we feel during that time. In the example, if Alison had spent that game time feeling 100% in the moment with her family, instead of feeling guilt about work, then it’s far more likely that she would break that cycle of feeling like her work life balance is out of whack - she would have shifted how she was feeling about how she’s showing up. And the same is true of the work side - if she could let go of the guilt and focus on the work, that creates a sense of better balance because she’s in the moment and not trying to do her work while ALSO wearing herself out with the guilt. So - our roles and relationships (and how we’re showing up in them) have an impact on whether we feel we have work life balance. How we feel we’re showing up for the important people in our life has an impact on this.

So why DO we mostly hear about work life balance talked about like it’s some kind of magic ratio of hours? Well it’s complicated, but I believe the main reason is that we often conflate our TIME with our PRODUCTIVITY and our productivity with being successful. And we also discount our feelings. How many times have you been told that your emotions don’t belong at work, that they have no bearing on our business? I disagree. Satisfaction and accomplishment are feelings, and so is work life balance and burnout. 

Another point that we can kind of see through this example is that we feel balanced not because we’re divvying up our time into these ideal chunks, we feel balanced when we spend the right amount of time for feeling fulfilled and satisfied in these areas of work and life. And the reality is that has everything to do with our relationship to work, our relationship to time, our workplace culture, the roles we fill, and the relationships we have with the people in our work and life: how we show up for them and how they show up for us - and how these various elements make us feel. Because work life balance isn’t a magical number of hours we spend working vs doing life. Work-life balance is a feeling that we get when we’re getting what we desire from the ways we are spending our time and energy. 

So our feelings impact our sense of balance, our relationship with time has an impact on this - are we in the moment or are we thinking about the past or future. Our relationship with work has an impact on this. 

Folks I’ve worked with will look at their calendar and say something like “I’m just so busy! It’s burning me out. I can’t get any work done because of all these meetings. I’m never able to focus on the big picture because I’m so busy with the day to day.” Now, upon further inspection, here’s what we usually discover:

  1. The things in the calendar are energy draining, not energy inducing. And often times, these are things that we’ve said YES to that we say yes to because we feel obligated in some way or we are wanting to please people in some way.

  2. Things are scheduled too tightly and close together, creating a sense of urgency and a feeling of constantly being behind and late, which combine into feeling both stressed and like a failure or embarrassed.

  3. There isn’t time for self care during the day. Things like physical movement, a healthy lunch that isn’t rushed, a 10 minute break here and there to re-energize the mind.

  4. They may be working long hours, or not. It often has more to do with overscheduling: sometimes that’s measured in hours and sometimes it’s measured by how tightly things are packed into the calendar. And sometimes it’s both. This is a time / energy situation. Your time multiplied by your energy is your capacity. We all have a different capacity for work: Our ability to focus and be productive is unique to us and the first step toward balance is getting to know what our individual capacity is. This is so so so key to our feeling balanced.

  5. Toxic unconscious beliefs about work and success are influencing our decisions and they are out of synch with our capacity, and working against our capacity instead of with it. Now we don’t have time today to dig into this one specifically, but I’ll be unpacking this one in a future episode that I’m working on putting together for you.

Now I know that being busy isn’t why you started your business. You started your business to play by your own rules, doing work that you love that has an impact on the people you serve, right? You started it to have more freedom to choose how you spend your time, energy, and money. These things that I just listed? These are influences that actually prevent us from experiencing the freedom and success that we desire. As entrepreneurs, we’re always looking forward, always planning for what’s next… but it’s really crucial that we give ourselves the SPACE to feel accomplished, to do the self care that keeps us energized, to celebrate our wins - big and small.  

Now, PS - I’m not saying you never have to hustle hard in business. There will be times that it is totally necessary, and also - not unhealthy! To hustle hard. But, if constantly hustling is not a condition that you thrive in, it doesn’t have to be your lifestyle as an entrepreneur and business owner. But because we live in a society that really embraces it, even when we start our own business to have personal freedom over how we spend our time, how we spend our energy, and how we make and spend our money - we’ll fall into this same rhythm because we haven’t consciously addressed it for ourselves: WE HAVEN’T CREATED A BETTER RELATIONSHIP WITH WORK, we just changed roles: instead of being someone else’s employee, we’re our own boss and employee. If you want work life balance, that’s only achieved through addressing these toxic beliefs, beliefs that we are unconsciously choosing, that keep us in this constant state of feeling imbalanced. And part of this is also knowing what we want to feel about work - what we want work to give us. You have to know what you want your work to create for you, what you want your business to give you, before you can intentionally create it. It’s not something that magically happens - it’s something you intentionally move towards, but you can’t do that if you don’t know what you want from it, and how you want to feel while you’re working.

So if you’re listening right now, and you want to experience more work life balance, here are 3 steps you can take right now that can help you get closer to that feeling:

  1. Remember: work life balance is a feeling. The first step is acknowledging how you’re feeling. Where do you feel imbalanced? How is that showing up as feelings? Do you feel guilt? Resentment? Irritated? What’s going on when you feel that way?

  2. Know what you want your business to bring you, and get very specific. What do you want to feel in your work? What do you want it to bring you? What do you want to experience SPECIFICALLY because of this business you started?

  3. Take your rest seriously and take your hydration seriously. These two things alone, if you do nothing else, if you are ridiculously well rested and hydrated, your brain and body will be more creative, more effective, and better able to prevent burnout. These two things increase your CAPACITY by effecting your energy and making it possible for you to work longer when it’s necessary.

Alright y’all. I hope can feel the freedom your business is giving you and that you just take a minute today to celebrate all the small ways and big ways it’s changing you and taking you closer to what you want.

Thank you so much for being here. There are hundreds of thousands of podcasts out there, and I’m stoked that you’ve chosen to listen to this one.

You can find a link to the show notes on my website - there will be links to everything that was mentioned in this episode, and every episode. Go to www.changeagent.studio and click the podcast link.

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