There have been times in my six years of starting up and running my photography business, that I have thought how much easier it would all be if I was alone. If I didn’t have a husband who wanted my attention or children to breastfeed, and then wean, to play with, to take to the park, to pick up from nursery, and then school.
Imagine everything I could get done! I wonder sometimes what I did with all the time I had before my two children. I sometimes think that if I had it again, if someone gave me back all that time now, after I’ve been running a business for six years during naps and squeezed-in hours between preschool mornings, I could build an empire. I could run a multi-million pound corporation.
So yeah, if your goal is size and money and quantity and financial success…I think it’s harder when you have a family. But if your goal is a balanced life where you have friends and take care of yourself? I think being single might be a little harder.
Simon has a good friend that I’ll call Rob. He’s single and in his late 30s, and is a very successful management consultant. When they first met, Simon came home and told me Rob works four days a week, and only ever signs contracts for four months at a time.
He works four days a week because he wants those three-day weekends to do the things he enjoys. He works the same freelance contract for four months, so that he can take a month off before starting another one.
Rob values his time. He has set up a business model that allows him to do the things he enjoys, and to rest, because he values life. He could make more money, yes, if he worked five days a week and took on longer contracts, but he has decided how much is enough, and he sticks to that number because he’s happy with enough.
When Simon told me this, I was so impressed with Rob. Impressed with him for choosing enough over more, and for putting boundaries in place for himself.
Because I have single friends who work too much (I mean, I have married friends who work too much too, but…), and I feel for them. Because I think it’s harder for them to say no.
For me, I can say:
“No, I can’t do that because I have to pick my kids up from school at 3 o’clock.”
“I’m sorry, I don’t answer my phone on the weekends because I’m having family time.”
“I’ll get to your email tomorrow because I spend the evenings with my husband and kids.”
It’s much easier for me to say no, because I have people over here demanding – not always verbally, but merely by their presence and the fact that I love them – that I put boundaries in. That I spend time with them.
But I have single friends (a lot of self-employed creatives, ahem), who find it harder to say no because they’d only be saying no for themselves. And I’m guessing, maybe, that feels like a luxury?
So I see them on Instagram, saying, “Yawn, I stayed up till 3am editing last night. #hustle”
Or, “Just booked my 50th wedding for next year. #livingthedream”
And maybe a few people have commented, “Wow! Wish I could book 50 weddings!”
But I’m over here like, “Honestly? That is the opposite of living the dream.”
Unless your dream is exhaustion and burnout, and being so busy working that you don’t have time to hang out with your friends or go for a run or go out for spontaneous drinks or plant a flower garden or you know, sleep.
If you only pay attention to one thing in this entire blog post, let it be this: You have permission to take care of yourself. You have permission to say no. You have permission to say no because your friendships matter. You have permission to say no because you’d rather go to the lake. You have permission to say no because you want to spend the evening watching The Goldbergs. You have permission to say no because you want to spend 20 weekends a year doing absolutely nothing, or just waiting to see what happens, or what you get invited to.
This is your permission slip.
Don’t wait until you’re burnt out and on the verge of – or in the middle of – a nervous breakdown to build boundaries for yourself.
And don’t wait until “one day” when you get married/start a family/whatever. Because honestly? A) We don’t know for sure if that day will ever come, and B) You are selling yourself short. You are worth taking care of now, in your current state. Don’t think you need someone else to take care of before you can start slowing down, saying no, deciding on enough. You are worth taking care of.
Feeling overwhelmed? Wondering how to start? Here are just a few ways you can begin building in boundaries for yourself.
- Raise your prices. Say WHAT? That’s right, you heard me. And you’re welcome. Start valuing yourself. Get paid what you’re worth. And then…
- Figure out your Enough. And when you’ve hit your Enough, stop. Don’t book any more weddings/websites/events this year. Tell people no. But you need to know what your Enough is, so that you know when you’ve reached it.
- Keep office hours. Honestly, nothing made me feel more legit than setting my own office hours (Mon-Thurs, 9:30am-2:30pm). And then turn on an auto-reply on your emails that tells people who email you when your office hours are and that you’ve received their email and you’ll get back to them as quickly as possible. And then…get this…if someone emails you outside of your office hours – DON’T REPLY. Wait till your next office hours. It’s okay. No one will die.
- Put your phone away. I know how it is – you pick up your phone to check Instagram, but then – completely out of habit and without you even telling it to – your thumb clicks the Gmail icon and and your work emails pop open and there it is: an email from a client about something they think is AN EMERGENCY. And it’s 8pm and you’re trying to have a glass of wine and read a book, but all the sudden all you can think about is this one thing you’re going to have to do tomorrow and they’re already stressed about it so you might as well just turn your computer on and fix it now. NO. Stop it. Put your phone away. Or take your work emails off your phone. Because you will open your work emails, and they will suck you back into work when you are supposed to be enjoying your actual life.
- Get some sleep! 7-8 hours a night. Do what you have to do to make it happen.
And when your inner voice tells you you could just take on one more client, because it doesn’t really matter if you don’t sleep or see your friends for a couple of weeks, tell it to shut the %&*@ up. Because it’s a slippery slope back to the Land of No Boundaries, and you are worth far more than that. Just as you are. Right now. Today.