If you took a look at the Instagram feed of a creative entrepreneur, you might think you have their day all figured out. Quiet mornings at a clean desk with a cup of coffee in hand, no commute, taking time to answer emails and catch up on social media wearing stretchy pants. Spending the day editing photos, writing blog posts, and sketching. Occasionally switching things up a bit with a workday at the coffee shop. Setting a customized schedule with built-in vacation days. Seems pretty ideal, doesn’t it?
What you don’t see behind the pretty pictures are the extra hours and lack of sleep that comes from the pressures of running a business and bringing in an income.
Vacation days are few and far between because a creative entrepreneur is never truly off the clock; there are always things that need to be taken care of and a full inbox to return to. The ability to set hours doesn’t mean setting less hours; it often means working 12 hour days, 6 days a week (and maybe even 7, if I’m honest). And the hours that aren’t spent working are often spent thinking about work and all of the things that need to get done in order to receive a paycheck at the end of the month, after all of the expenses and taxes have been taken care of.
And if you’re a type-A perfectionist and a business owner, the pressures only magnify. I speak from experience.
This past year has been both a blessing and whirlwind for us with Elle & Company. Jake and I are in a season of life where we’re able to pour into this business and wholeheartedly pursue some of our long-term goals. But it hasn’t come without a lot of hard work and late nights of strategizing, implementing, blogging, collaborating, networking, designing, and marketing.
I’ve been pushed and stretched in these past 8 months more than I ever have before, and it’s been rewarding to see our efforts pay off. One of the best motivators is experiencing some level of success, and it gets to be almost contagious; the more you’re able to accomplish, the harder you work to reach new goals.
But it’s also easy to run yourself ragged. The late nights might not seem so bad at first, but months of little sleep begins to wear on you. 60+ hour workweeks can be draining when they become routine.
And that’s why it’s more important than ever to schedule breaks. Not just quick 15-minute breaks within your daily routine, but extended periods of time to shut down the laptop and step away from the inbox.
That’s what I’m up to this week: 7 consecutive days of rest for the first time in a year and a half. Other than one scheduled blog post and a couple social media posts set up on Buffer, you won’t see much else from Elle & Company this week.
Rest is essential to running a business. And here’s why.
If you’re constantly pouring out without filling up, your well will run dry
Especially if you’re in a creative field. The strange thing about creativity is that you can never really predict the moments when it will strike; some days are easier than others. But I do know that for myself, those moments don’t often come when I’m at the end of my rope.
In order to pour into my work, my clients, and my audience, I have to take time to fill up. For me, this looks like sleeping 7-8 hours a night, reading a book for fun, baking, spending quality time with friends and family, taking long walks with Jake, and watching reruns of The Office while playing a mindless game on my phone, all without feeling guilty that I could be getting ahead on blog posts or catching up on emails.
You may be successful, but you aren’t invincible
“According to the Division of Sleep Medicine at the Harvard Medical School, the short-term productivity gains from skipping sleep to work are quickly washed away by the detrimental effects of sleep deprivation on your mood, ability to focus, and access to higher-level brain functions for days to come. The negative effects of sleep deprivation are so great that people who are drunk outperform those lacking sleep.” - Entrepreneur.com
It’s easy to brush off those statistics and think that they aren’t applicable to you (or maybe that’s just me). But at the end of the day, you’re human; there is only so much time and energy you can offer before it begins to take it’s toll on your health and your relationships with others.
Rest often leads to more motivation
For many creative entrepreneurs, their business stems from a passion for their trade. But it isn’t long before those activities that started as stress relief - design, photography, calligraphy - become the source of stress. Sometimes taking a step away is just the thing that triggers reminders about why you started in the first place.
Design isn’t always a joy for me, but keep me from it for a couple days and I’ll be itching to dive into a client project. Blogging isn’t always my favorite pastime, but when I sit down to write after a few days off, it feels like an outlet again.
Rest allows you to start fresh
I don’t know how it happened, but for some reason I’m able to tune out everything around me and zone in on a project and lose all track of time. While this often helps me plow through projects, there are many times where I hit a wall and start working in circles. I’ve learned that in order to get anywhere, I have to step away and take a break. Whether it’s eating lunch away from the computer screen or making a quick Starbucks run (my preferred choice), taking a step back and approaching it with fresh eyes can make all the difference.
The same is true on a larger scale, too. By taking an extended break from your work, you’re able to approach it with a fresh perspective. Are you stuck in a rut? Is there a problem in your business that you just can’t find a solution for? Taking a step back may be just what you need.
You may not hear as much from me around here this week, but rest assured that this time off will be well spent. In the meantime, take a look at some of my favorite posts from the archives: