The typical goal that business owners strive for is to be busy. Because the opposite of being busy is to not have enough work coming in at all. And somehow, we’ve equated being busy with being successful. As a business owner of 5 years (and counting), I have to disagree with this comparison.
Somewhere the lines have been blurred around making a business, making a life, and the connection between the two. Often times, when someone asks how business is going, if I remark, “well, I’m really really busy right now,” the automatic reply is “oh wow, that’s so awesome! It’s better to be busy, right?”
And my unpopular response is “No.”
Who says I have to be crazy busy to be a successful business? What if that doesn’t line up with my version of success for myself and my company? I have for some time now coined the term that my ideal scenario is to be pleasantly busy. To me, this means having a nice flow of work coming in, but not feeling as if I’ll need to be chained to my desk for a 12 hour day, and still able to commit to a social and fitness life outside of work.
[Tweet “Being crazy busy with your business doesn’t always equal being successful.”]
Every weekday morning, I wake up and take a fitness class at a nearby local establishment. Whether it be spin, or intervals, or personal training, I’ve made this commitment to myself to adapt a healthier lifestyle. This is a trade off for me. It means I get up earlier, and it means my real work day doesn’t start until 9:30-10am (when I’m used to a day that can easily start at 8am). I want my business to support my healthy lifestyle choices.
When it’s sunny out, I sometimes want to leave the office a couple hours early, or take a long lunch break to be outside and enjoy the weather. The peace of mind and mental clarity that comes with this is invaluable. If I’m pleasantly busy, with my days not too heavily packed with work and meetings, I can make this happen without thinking twice. The result is a happier me, refreshed and better able to tackle the tasks on my plate.
Pleasantly busy means that my work is exciting, energizing, and challenging. It’s not overwhelming. I have room to breathe. When I’m too busy, I notice that I’m more stressed out. My shoulders tense up and I feel like I can’t keep up with things. It also feels like I’m not able to give my 100% to everything, because there are just too many things going on. I can go a couple days without paying attention to the weather, or without taking a nice long lunch break. The quality of my life suffers.
What does success look like to you?
Are we sometimes as business owners chasing an impossible vision? We see the relaxed entrepreneur on the cover of the magazine, perhaps with his/her feet up and with a cocktail, and yet our own reflection shows someone hunched over a computer with a forever long to-do list. Why can’t we incorporate some principles of a more relaxed workflow/life into our present moment? Do you really want to feel burned out at the end of the day, or wonder where the week went by Friday? To whom is this fair to? I want to ask you, what does success look like for you. You may say “Oh I have a lot of money,” or “I brought this new thing and went on an amazing vacation.”
To which my follow up question would be, “what does success look like to you on a daily basis?” Is it getting in your workout, or some me-time, getting to see your friends and family? We’re all guilty of being too busy sometimes, myself included. And trust me when I say that for some folks in your circle, you’ll most likely always be viewed as being too busy. But to the fellow business owner who gets the base level of time/energy commitment required to run a business, I’m more interested in spreading some of your success vision into today instead of storing it away for a fictitious tomorrow.
[Tweet “Ask yourself why you’re in business, and make sure the work you do aligns with the answer.”]
Why do you own a business?
Hey, that’s a super serious question. When I was first gearing up to start JWatson Creative, I remember having visions of being able to work from anywhere, of having such freedom. I wanted everyday to be different and to enjoy all of my life. Some of that wishful thinking was naive in the sense of not understanding the time/energy commitment, but my raw dreams are still sometime I try to put into practice daily.
At JWatson Creative, we know we’re not a perfect fit for everybody, and we’re okay with that. We work diligently to find the right clients and the right projects to work on. These are the things where we know we can make a difference. And I personally measure what we work on up against my reason for being in business and my passion.
My reason for being in business is two fold: (1) it’s to use creative talent to produce results for projects that matter and (2) it’s to live a life that I love. We factor in energy management. If I wake up one day and realize that I’m working way to much and not enjoying life, then I’ve most likely made a mistake in some of the business/work decisions that I set up. Understandable, I’m human. But what we do with that knowledge is then up to us.
It’s okay to stand up for yourself.
If you need to say no to something that isn’t a good fit, say no. If you really want to support a friend but simply can’t make their event due to another commitment, then say just that. As someone who used to overbook herself (as in 2-3 events an evening) I can tell you it’s way better to stick to what you committed to and give that your all. If something doesn’t feel right, trust your intuition. If you need to talk it out with someone, than do that.
You are 100% responsible for your life and how you live it. The tricky part is, when we fall into routine or don’t stop to check out the weather, a lot of time passes by, and in retrospect it’s hard to pin point what made a month or year noteworthy. Take charge of the work that you do and your time too. Be pleasantly busy, whatever that means for you.