Experts say the key to happiness lies in achieving a healthy work/life balance. And I couldn’t agree more. Of course, in my world, this means spending many of my working hours in my bed, which is probably not quite what they had in mind.
The problem with running a business (especially one about which you’re rather passionate) is that it does end up consuming your life, blurring the lines between personal and professional until you’re not quite sure which is which. You work while you eat your breakfast. You check emails while you’re out on your morning run. Hell, most days you’re even chasing deadlines in your sleep (if you’re lucky enough to get any).
And so emerges a strange case of entrepreneurial Stockholm syndrome, as we become immersed in the charms of our captor, yet can’t help but becoming unnaturally attached at the same time. We bemoan the long hours, the hard graft, but really, what would we do otherwise? Hit the beach? Play a round of golf? I hardly think so.
On some level, we do of course understand that there is more to life than the hustle of small business (presumably this ‘life’ with which we’re supposed to balance work). Yet, try as we might, it’s impossible to find anything else quite as invigorating or fulfilling. Sure, we could watch a movie, OR we could create a spreadsheet of potential clients! I know which way I’m leaning.
What emerges as a result of this unnatural over-investment in our professional endeavours is a strange dystopian universe, in which things are not quite as they seem. In this parallel world, our clients are our best friends, our brands our beloved children, our deadlines and personal goals one and the same.
Of course, the problem here is that the people you’re dealing with on a daily basis are unfortunately not residents of this rogue state. They have families, mortgages, kids, pets and other inconveniences. And as such, they’re probably not going to immediately respond to that over-excited email you sent at 4am.
Equally, your employees are likely to be less than charmed by being bombarded by random ideas and ‘ground-breaking’ plans at all hours. Even though they work FOR you, they are not actually inside your head, and probably don’t suffer the same professional separation anxiety when they’re out of mobile signal range. Apparently working hours and waking hours are different. Who knew?
Another unfortunate shortcoming of this all-in, all-the-time approach to working life is the inability to field criticism pragmatically. Whereas others might respond more….normally to someone pointing out a simple spelling error or misguided strategy, to the over-invested entrepreneur it’s akin to having your whole village set alight and your charred corpse torn limb from limb by wild dogs.
You see, it’s not just the annoyance at your oversight, but rather a complex web of emotions that takes hold, as you’re consumed by the guilt of disappointing your best friends and your beloved brands. Of course, in all likelihood, neither of the aforementioned parties feel remotely slighted by this affront – after all, what’s an extra ‘g’ in the grand scheme of things?
So, before you ask the obvious question, yes I should probably look up a good psychologist sometime fairly soon. And no, I am not a danger to others ( I think). What I definitely am is too attached to my work – not because I’m afraid of failing, but because I really genuinely enjoy it, and take pride in the little achievements and obstacles overcome each week.
That said, it might be time to explore the whole ‘life’ element of this much-touted work/life balance concept. I hear the countryside is lovely this time of year.
If you’re finding yourself in an equally over-committed relationship with your career, here are a few lessons I’ve learnt the hard way:
- You WILL make mistakes. And unless they’re the type that result in people losing a whole lot of money, they’ll be forgotten in a hot second. By everybody but you that is.
- Over-enthusiasm isn’t a good look on anyone. Your clients are not going to be impressed by your early morning wake-up call, but rather call your sanity into question. Probably rightly so.
- A time out every now and then is actually good for you, and will keep your brain fresher and more functional, enabling you to bypass those horrifying spelling errors that keep you up at night.
- Sleep is good. Try it. You won’t regret it I promise.