A time to cry and a time to laugh. Tears and laughter – a thread running through my day. A client quietly expressing regret at not being able to cry when a close relative became suddenly ill. Tears, but also self-compassion, from another sitting with feeling “not good enough”. A meeting with colleagues, laughing together about being driven to tears by tax and accounts. Celebration with another client who for the first time was able to cry over a distressing experience without feeling guilty about “making a fuss” – and our shared laughter in that moment of warmth and connection.
Tears, my own this time, in my personal therapy, and the relief of being seen. Laughter, warmth, and social connection at a church event playing board games and card games with much-loved older and wiser members of the community. The deep joy of watching my youngest settle in at his first cub meeting, laughing, and joining in the games enthusiastically as I slipped out of the door. And then, afterwards, the familiar comfort of stories and cuddles at bedtime.
A day of running a business in balance with family life and community. A day when the thread felt easy to follow. And then there are the other days, when the thread is tangled and messy and pulling too hard makes it worse. So, what makes the difference?
Running a business in balance with family life and other commitments is not easy. Overwhelm, feeling not good enough, perfectionism, being pulled in too many directions and just plain exhaustion can get in the way. Those are the issues I’ve come up against but I’m learning what helps and what doesn’t.
Let’s start with what doesn’t help: telling yourself you should just do more, try harder, fit more into the day, get up earlier, stay up later, skip breaks, cut corners; all with the underlying narrative of, “I should be able to do this and everyone else manages better than me.” Not only does that not help, but it also makes life infinitely harder, sapping your motivation and making you feel like giving up.
So, what does help? These are some of the strategies that have worked for me:
- Play to your strengths. There will always be some things that just have to be done whether you like it or not (accounts spring to mind) but one of the great benefits of running your own business is the flexibility to do it your way. Don’t try and be someone you’re not. Make it work for you.
- Ask for help. You don’t have to be the expert on everything, but you can learn from others, delegate, and collaborate.
- Cut back on extra commitments where you can. Streamline your life. Does your diary reflect what you really believe is important, or do you say yes to everything, piling up more and more responsibilities and never putting anything down? Think carefully about what really matters and what you can let go.
- Have a realistic plan of what you can fit into the week. Prioritise what matters most, let go of the rest and adapt your plan as you go along. Break big tasks down into small steps and take at least one step forward on your highest priority tasks each day.
- Build time into your plan for things to go wrong, for unexpected demands to come up or for things to take longer than expected. Block out a little bit of empty space in each day to fill with what is most needed at the time.
- Make time to rest. It’s not an optional extra and you can’t function well without it. Planned rest is good; responding to your feelings of overwhelm with self-compassion and taking an unplanned break is even better.
- Recognise your successes. Think about what went well each day. Notice the small achievements as well as the big wins and celebrate them.
And whether today is a thread running smoothly day or a knotted, tangled messy one, be kind to yourself.
You have done your best. You have done enough. You are enough.