Do you remember the song, “There’s a Thin Line Between Love and Hate,” by the Persuaders? “The sweetest woman in the world, can be the meanest woman in the world, if you make her that way…” This song has always reminded me of how volatile relationships can be. One minute everything is going in the right direction, and you think you’ve found the love of your life, then wham! You’re hit like a ton of bricks and left broken-hearted by something that’s just not meant to be.
Your relationship with your work, just like a romantic relationship, also can be unpredictable. That’s why it is so important that we create healthy boundaries in our business lives. There’s a thin line between productivity and insanity. The first will make you feel fulfilled and accomplished, while the latter just might leave you “bandaged from feet to head”, and laid up in a hospital.
Women have many double standards and sexist attitudes to overcome when operating in today’s workforce. The thin veil of corporate inclusivity only vaguely hides the sexist treatment and expectations that many women have to deal with regularly. Women who lead are called bossy, assertive women are called difficult, and confident women are called forceful and brash –– the list goes on. These confusing expectations enforce the mentality that women have to work twice as hard as men to be considered half as good which can leave women feeling tired and burnt out.
Your time, and where you invest it, will have a direct impact on the success of your business. That’s why it is so essential that you come up with, and stick to, your boundaries. Spending too much time proving yourself and your competency, over and over, can lead to insanity that results in burnout and poor work performance. Even without the extra pressures of being female, entrepreneurs are generally more at risk for burnout because of their passion. Working hard is a good thing, but, if driven by pressure and fear, the desire to succeed can become dangerous. The 12-stage model of burnout starts with a compulsion to prove yourself, ramps up to the need to work hard, with an inability to switch off despite the harmful behaviors you have adopted, and ends with the mental and physical collapse that can, and often does, require hospitalization.
I know you don’t want that for yourself. The question is, how do we, as entrepreneurs, set boundaries that allow us to be productive and work to our full potential, without bordering on insanity?
Life as an entrepreneur is not all glamour and superstar business. There are entrepreneurial boundaries that you can and should adopt to create a healthy work relationship that allows you to thrive, without sacrificing your sanity.
When scheduling your calendar, make sure that you set designated times for essential business priorities. Make time to check email, take business calls, exercise self-care, create systems in your business, and work on marketing and content. If you don’t schedule these tasks, it will be harder to set boundaries regarding the completion of each item, and you will find yourself overwhelmed by the pressure of other people’s agenda.
If you are a service-based business, like myself, boundaries for clients or partners can be established by your contract. Open communication and your willingness to say no to things that do not allow you to provide the best service, within an adequate time frame are also advisable. Firm business boundaries will enable you to take charge of your business and confidently make decisions that are in the best interest of your business, and thereby your clients.
As hard as we work, entrepreneurs also need time to pause and rest so that we can maintain our passion, creativity, and innovation. Oftentimes, if vacation is not pre-scheduled, it gets overlooked and pushed back, until months and months later you realize you haven’t had time off in years. Your work/life balance needs will always be unique to you, but it’s crucial that you have some sort of boundary in place, so you can get the productive rest that you need to keep doing your job well.
Some people will wave off burnout as something that only affects “the weak.” They will tell you loud and proud that they have never experienced burnout, and never will because they know how to work hard and not complain about it. This “get over it” mentality, although it might seem like an effective coping strategy, is not what’s best for your business. Even if you are “strong enough” to withstand the physical and mental effects of burnout, it doesn't mean your business is equally able. Imagine how much better you and your business would be if you were able to work at your full potential, without the hidden, but often devastating, effects of burnout getting in the way.
The entrepreneurial journey is full of twists and turns, and after many years, and a close call with my own burnout, I have learned a few tips for navigating the journey. That’s why I have created my new podcast, Breakthrough to Excellence, in which I share the stories of entrepreneurial women who have broken through their own fears, overwhelm, and doubts to get where they are today.
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