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My Work/Life Balance Struggle

I’m writing this more for me than for anyone else.  It probably won’t be the most interesting thing on my blog, and there won’t even be a picture to go along with it.  But I need to get this out, and it needs to be here, so I can come back and read it when I feel like I’m drowning.

Some weeks, I’m totally on top of things.  I finish all my editing early, I answer all my emails immediately, my house is clean, my bookkeeping is done, my marketing is working for me and bringing in tons of new clients, I get to spend time hanging out with my husband and cuddling with my cats, and I have dinner ready at a reasonable hour.  I wish every week was like that, but to be honest, most aren’t.  This week definitely isn’t.  This week I am in a hole so deep, I can’t even see the light.

I sort of debated this morning whether or not I should talk about this… this lack of work/life balance.  My struggles as a business owner.  I wasn’t totally sure being open about my weaknesses was a good idea.  But the more I thought about it, the more I decided I did want to talk about this.  Because I know we all struggle with this, no matter what you do.  Whether you have your own business or work in an office or freelance or whatever.  I think we’re all trying to find that magical, elusive work/life balance.

I may have been a little naive when I started my business a few years ago.  I thought working for myself would mean that I would have tons of free time.  I’d shoot fabulous photographs with my wonderful clients, get all my editing done in a day or two, and then spend the rest of my time on fulfilling personal projects and frolicking with friends.  I didn’t think about marketing or bookkeeping or taxes or meetings or emails or networking or building vendor relationships.  I just didn’t know… I’d never owned my own business before.  Needless to say, the part where I get to actually go out and take photographs is a very very tiny part of my business.

And because I work from home, it’s hard for me to say, “Well, it’s six o’clock.  Time to punch out and head home for the night.”  I’m the only one here, the only person involved in this business, so I feel like I have to constantly work.  I often find myself working seven days a week, or pulling sixteen hour days.  Because I can, because I feel like I have to, because I have huge dreams for the business… and if I stop working for one second, it will all fall apart.  Logically… I know that’s not true.  But emotionally… that’s another story.  I kind of let my work become my whole life; I let my business wrap itself around my heart, so that I am almost indistinguishable from Katie Jane Photography.

I played hooky on Monday and went to the movies with my husband, and I felt so guilty about it, I worked for over fifteen hours yesterday.  I went to bed long after my husband, because I just had to get it all done.  But I still didn’t get it all done.  So I woke up today and felt bad and set about getting to work.  And then I started to feel frustrated, like I was never going to catch up, like I was never going to have free time again.  And I know that’s not true… but it felt true.  In that moment of frustration, while I was drowning in a sea of paperwork and emails… it felt really true.

So I walked away.  I closed my computer, I had a cup of coffee, I played with my cats for a few minutes, and I took a deep breath.  I can’t keep doing this.  I’ll get burnt out, and I love my job too much to let that happen.  It’s time to make some serious changes.  I cannot let Katie Jane Photography totally consume my life anymore.  My business is actually in a position to stand on its own two feet right now, and I need to let it and know it will be okay.  Because it will!

I’m going to sit down, and I’m going to get some things straight.  I’m going to set some hours and stick to them.  I’m not going to answer emails at 11pm anymore.  I’m going to give myself two whole days off a week (crazy, right?!), and I’m not going to do anything business related those two days.  I’m going to schedule in time to be totally unplugged and unconnected.  And I am going to try to let go of this urgency… this weird need to get everything done RIGHT THIS SECOND.

I don’t expect to find the perfect work/life balance over night.  It won’t be that easy.  I’ll have to dig myself out of this hole first.  But I’m going to try really hard.  For the sake of my sanity, for the sake of my marriage, and ultimately for the sake of my business.

I keep thinking about something that Meg (creator of A Practical Wedding) wrote on her blog last week about her own business:  “When you look at someone and think, ‘Wow, their star is really rising!’ What you don’t know is that they are hauling up the star themselves, by hand… You decide you want something, and then you go out and you work yourself into the ground trying to get it. You ask for what you want, you get told no, and you ask some more.”  That is it, isn’t it?

I’ve been working myself into the ground, and my business has thus far, flourished.  But it is exhausting doing this thing, creating something from nothing.  And because I want my business to continue flourishing, I need to start taking care of myself more.  So that’s what I’m going to do.

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  • I TOTALLY agree. It’s crazy right? Learning to run a business and work on it, and not constantly work in it. I’m having a panic attack that I have a 2 day workshop on encaustics this weekend and won’t be able to work all weekend. Someone needs to hit me, ha!

  • I think those of us that have started our own businesses are a little crazy to begin with. You have to be, I think, otherwise… we wouldn’t be doing this, right? It’s SO much easier to just go and work for someone else. And then this whole thing just makes you even crazier, because you’re putting so much of yourself and your heart into it. It just makes you a little nuts. We have to figure out when to stop, take a step back, dial down the crazy, and remember to live like normal people again. :-)

  • Janice

    Hey there! I just landed here as I wandered over from A Practical Wedding, and I just have to say that I TOTALLY agree on this post. Balancing work/life while combating entropy can be super tough sometimes…. and I’m not even running my own business yet!

    When things get overwhelming and you need to laugh, I would recommend checking out this post about being a grownup on Hyperbole and a Half:
    http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2010/06/this-is-why-ill-never-be-adult.html.

    Makes me feel better every time!