I know all about work-life balance stuff. It’s why I started my own business. It’s why I left the corporate world. I had this idea I’d be cooking from-scratch dinners every night and starting each morning with a yoga class. This winter – my business’ third – though, felt especially long. When I checked in with myself, I realized I was working just as many hours as before. I was eating poorly. I was tired. And I was – I hate to even put it into keystrokes – but I was in danger of falling out of love with my writing and design business. It crept up on me so slowly that I didn’t even realize the precariousness of it all. Like a relationship that feels perfect until you get dumped.
Something about my eagerness for spring made me realize I was also hungry for change. Me and my business, we sat down for a heart-to-heart. I took inventory of what I loved, and what I didn’t love. I made a list of the activities that I could do all day long, and the ones that I put off, or that pull me away from the stuff I’m really crazy about. For me, I come to life sitting in my yellow office, writing. I enjoy meeting new clients too. Where I was getting buried was in the e-mail department. Through my website, I receive e-mails every day. I want every person who connects with Pink Elephant Communications to feel loved and cared for. After all, it’s hard to go out on a limb and ask a stranger for help. But all that e-mail and all of those new client meetings meant if I were to do any writing, it’d be in the evenings. Fourteen hours (and more) is a long work day.
So here’s the plan I made to rekindle the Carrie-Pink Elephant Communications love affair.
1. Get help.
The very first step was getting cool with the idea of needing help. It was an adjustment after wearing so many hats for so long. I sent a message out to my Twitter followers, asking for virtual assistant recommendations. Within minutes I had the name of The Perfect Candidate. After our first e-mail exchange, I knew she’d fit right in. Then I kicked myself for not seeking her out sooner. She’s now handling the initial e-mails with clients as well as some invoicing. (Insert big, fat PHEW!)
2. Batch and schedule.
What was interrupting the long swaths of writing time I’d fantasized about? Meetings and e-mail. So I set up a new Google calendar and I blocked one day a week for meetings and then implemented a new policy: E-mail-free Fridays. By batching my meetings all together, other weekdays were left intact. With Fridays now dedicated to projects, free from e-mail, I can work consistently and at a deeper level of concentration and care. My clients get better work and I pour even more joy into it.
While I had the calendar open, I decided to put the rest of my life on par with my work. I scheduled in that yoga class and time for – gasp! – three meals each day. There’s something psychologically charming about having those items marked in. I’m actually doing them.
3. Say no.
This one is almost cliché, right? I mean, I certainly wasn’t saying ‘yes’ to everything… but when I really paid attention, I realized there were lots more ‘no’s to be had. Now I say ‘no’ to projects that don’t excite me. I say ‘no’ to clients who just don’t feel like a fit (they’re lovely but for whatever reason my gut says “not this one” and now I respect that). I say ‘no’ to work on the weekend, except in special cases. I say ‘no’ to work in the evenings. It’s difficult for me to not return a call or an e-mail message right away when I know a client is eager but I cherish the client who respects the work enough to wait.
When I shared these policies with my clients, I was nervous. Would they think I’m too good for hard work? That I was a failure for not being able to stay on top of it all? Would they be annoyed that I wasn’t willing to do whatever it took to service them? But, no, that wasn’t what happened. The world didn’t come to an end. I didn’t lose business. In fact, my clients – because they’re awesome (I love them so much!) – cheered me on. There was enough “Yay, you!” to make me wonder what I’d ever worried about.
As time goes on, I’m sure it will cost me some work that not everything is instant, but I’m happier running a business that’s more like a sumptuously-paced four-course dinner in Paris than a fast food burger to go.
Carrie Klassen is a green tea enthusiast, amateur poet, fine point pen aficionado, INFJ Scorpio, and president of Pink Elephant Communications, a writing and design boutique for inspired entrepreneurs. She also teaches workshops at the brand new Pink Elephant Academy for Entrepreneurs (with self-study e-workbooks coming this spring!). Visit www.pinkelephantcommunications.com to download a free copy of 6 Ways to Attract Clients with Kindness.