How to have a personal life and prevent burnout when you run a photography business

 

It’s really easy in the first 2-3 years of business (or more) to get completely consumed by your photography business. You work all hours of the day and night, taking client calls late at night and first thing in the morning. You run to client’s houses to drop off orders the night before major holidays, you are friends with all of your clients on Facebook so they know all of your personal business. You go to every event know to man. You throw yourself out there in every way you can in desperation to make money. Are you nodding your head here?

While it’s totally normal to be uber passionate about a new business for the first few years, and have new drive and energy you didn’t have while working for someone else, being completely consumed with your photography business in every way for a long period of time is a direct, fast road to burnout. I know, I’ve been there. People throw around the phrase ‘burnout’ like it’s a headache you get once a year, but it’s far more serious than that. You can usually only keep up that pace of intense prolonged drive for a few years and then you’re done. That’s why I always cringe when I see self-professed photography ‘experts’ who have only been in business for 2-3 years. Anyone can get to that place in their business still full of passion and excitement. But try making it to 5 years, 7 years, 10 years or more at that level of intensity. It’s physically impossible. Something has to give. And it’s usually not something, it’s someone.

For anyone who hasn’t experienced burnout yet, here’s what it feels like:

  1. You are completely, totally in every way- overwhelmed. And that, is an understatement.
  2. You start getting cranky, depressed, and just generally feel miserable most of the time. You have chronic physical pain. The stress is taking a real, measurable toll on you.
  3. You no longer find joy in the things you used to do- even doing photo shoots feels like a chore.
  4. You become very cynical and critical, yet hide it from clients, bending over backwards to try to be everything to everyone. You never say no, yet chronically feel deep resentment for the position you are in. You quickly become the ultimate martyr.
  5. You don’t have enough time for, well- anything. You don’t have enough time for your clients, for their orders, for all of your meetings, for all of the different marketing you are working on, for your blogging, for all of your events, for your partner, for your children, and last but not least- for yourself. Your personal needs come last. That prescription you’ve been trying to get filled? You’ve had the script in your pocket for ten days now. You missed your kid’s important ballet recital (again), and your back is killing you from the stress, yet you don’t have time for a spa visit, let alone a 30-minute massage.
  6. The final stage of burnout sounds like this: “I’ve HAD it!”. No, not even with the exclamation mark. Just, “I’ve HAD it.” said between gritted teeth in a voice that means business. You are done. Completely, totally, with every fiber in your being- done. It doesn’t matter if you have a great business that everyone loves, if you are successful and making money. Once you hit that point, it’s very very hard to come back from it. And it usually requires some immediate drastic changes to your business in order to move forward . Those drastic changes create even more stress and a painful growing period for both you and your clients, and it is much better to avoid needing to make those drastic changes in the first place than to be forced to make hard decisions when you barely have time to think straight.

I have been in this place, and I can tell you, it’s awful.

So how can you create a personal life while putting the time, money and energy into building a successful photography business?

Here are the TOP 10 ideas for how to have a personal life that, if enacted, will help set you down a long-term path without burnout.

NOTE: IF YOU DON’T HAVE TIME TO READ THROUGH THIS, YOU CAN JUST SKIP TO THE END WHERE I SUMMARIZE EACH STEP.

 1. Set clear boundaries between your personal life and your business life.

Some ways you can do this are:

a) Separate your business phone number from your personal phone number, and use different phones. Use a landline or VOIP for business, and keep your cell phone for personal use only. Or you can have two different cell phones or two different lines on the same phone. The point is to separate the phone number your friends and family are calling you on and the ones your clients are using. Sure you can still call clients from your cell phone if you are running late to a meeting or shoot, but this prevents those late-night calls from clients when you are in bed watching Seinfeld. Even if you don’t answer the call, you know you will be listening to the voicemail, and if it’s anything other than perfectly pleasant, it will continue to affect you for the rest of the night, a time which should be your personal time. Even if the call is pleasant, you may still think about it for the rest of the night. The key here is to shut off your business brain when you are in ‘me, friends and family time’ . I personally made this switch about two years ago and was shocked at how much stress I eliminated just from this simple change. Now my iPhone is for personal use only (and playing Plants vs. Zombies of course).  Now, this may be a little bit harder to do if your photography business requires you to travel regularly, but most pet and portrait photography businesses are static, so this change is easier to implement.

b) Separate your personal Facebook profile from your business Facebook fan page. Your clients don’t need to know you woke up with bad cramps, or that your kid has been vomiting all day. Even if you don’t get overly personal on your Facebook wall, you’d be surprised at how many judgments people can make toward you when they don’t really know you personally. A simple ‘like’ of a politician’s page that shows up on your feed could offend a potential client without you even knowing. Also, it’s very easy to blur the lines between between being familiar and being professional. When your personal Facebook profile is just for people who really know you, you can be free to be yourself. To vent about work, to get advice of a personal nature, to talk about your love life, etc. All things you really need when you are running a business. Because you don’t have time to see a therapist (although you wish you did!!), your close friends and family can become your therapy and really help you feel understood, appreciated and loved. Even a simple “I’m having a bad day :-(” post on Facebook can bring sympathy from those close to you, whereas that’s not  really the impression you want to be making on your clients, who might think it’s because of something they said or did. Making this separation means you still have the freedom to share personal information about yourself on your business Facebook fan page if you choose to- if you want clients to get to know who you are. Here- you are clearly separating your personal life from your business life. The old saying of ‘never mix business with pleasure’ really applies here. Yes, people will freak out when you unfriend them, yes it will be hard to know who to keep and who to delete, yes it may be harder to market through Facebook, yes it might not make sense to do this for some kinds of photographers (like wedding photographers), but once you get past the initial pain, you will feel much more relaxed. And honestly, most human beings are so self-absorbed they won’t even notice that you unfriended them. And if they do notice, and then send you an angry message, than they probably have some latent narcissistic issues that would preclude any kind of meaningful friendship anyway. I give you permission to go prune your Facebook friends list now. You can thank me later. 🙂

c) Create set work hours. Say, 10am-7pm, M-F. Or 8am-3pm, then spend time with the kids, then again from 8pm-10pm. Sundays off every week without fail. Holidays off. Pick a week every year you will not ever work. For me it’s the two weeks after Christmas, including 12/23, so I can have time to prepare for the holiday, and time to myself afterward. I don’t usually go on vacation, I just stay home, recharge, relax, and spend time with family and friends. When you work hard the rest of the year, you NEED this time off. Yes it can be scary to take time off when you only get paid when you work, but somehow, it always has a way of working itself out. Obviously, don’t take a week off during your #1 busiest time of year, but if you are dead in January- got for it then.

Also, if you are worried about taking every Sunday off, you can implement a new policy wherein, in general, you don’t work on Sundays because it’s ‘family time’, but you will for an additional $100/$200 or more tacked onto your sitting fee. Make it high enough to be worth you giving up a Sunday brunch with your family, and high enough most clients would rather rearrange their own schedule than pay for your precious family time.

Create a document filled with autoreplies that you can copy and paste from, so that when y0u are ready to take your week off, you just open the document, copy the appropriate reply, and paste into your email account.

“Hi,

Thanks for contacting LemonHeads Pet Photography.

I am out of the office until 1/10/13 and won’t have access to email or phone during that time.

But I promise to get in touch just as soon as I get back, and I look really forward to working with you!”

That little act of setting an autoreply is like finally sneezing when you’ve needed to for days. It is SUCH a relief. Of course, when you come back to the mountain of emails when your time off is over, that’s a different story, but the good news is that by that time you are refreshed, recharged, ready to return to work and can really focus and hit it hard and be supremely productive. If you don’t feel recharged and eager to get back to work, you may be in the beginning stages of burnout, and it’s something to keep an eye on and be really aware of.

d) Keep clients away from your home.

It can be really stressful to worry about whether the kids are running around in their underwear, or if your dining table is covered in last night’s dirty dishes when a client comes over. That frantic rushing around you do to try and ‘pick up’ before they get there can really take it’s toll. Lighten the load a bit by agreeing to meet them at a different convenient location for both of you. If you need to bring your dog(s) with you, meet them at a doggy daycare. If you need to bring your kids with you, meet them at a toy store or other business that has a play area.

The solutions for not being able to meet at home are really plentiful when you put your mind to it, and being able to treat your home ‘as your castle’ is truly invaluable.

e). Don’t let your business ‘junk’ mingle with your personal ‘junk’.

Even if all you have for your business is a little corner in your dining room, you can pick up an Ikea or second-hand armoire with doors on it and keep your computer, printer, and all supplies in it, and when you are done working- just close the doors. The Ikea catalog has fantastic ideas for how to create a workspace with limited room. So whether you have a small spare bedroom, or an oddly-shaped basement, or a corner of a dining room, you can make it work for your business and not take over your life. If you have more stuff than will fit in an armoire, designate a closet in your house or apartment for ‘business junk’. The idea is that you don’t see it all over your home, where you relax and play and take care of you.

I have a small home office that is blessed with two amazing closets, but I still have crap that doesn’t fit in there, so I designate part of my garage to ‘business crap’ like all of the various boxes I ship in. Sure it’s a pain to go get stuff from the garage every time I need to package products for a client, but it sure beats eating dinner next to a pile of work boxes.

Even if you have a studio outside your home, you may still be bringing crap home with you. The point is, you don’t want to see that crap when you are trying to go about your personal life! Find a closet for it, or if you don’t have room for it, find a relative’s house you can store stuff at that you don’t use regularly. You’d be really surprised at the mental toll your business junk takes on you when you are not working. Not having to see it all the time makes a huge difference.

ALSO!! You’d be really surprised at just how LITTLE you really NEED in order to run a photography business!! Try paring way way down with your ‘junk’. Find ways to outsource, sift through that huge box of cords you’ve accumulated over the years, lose the things you only use ‘every once in a long while’, drop-ship to clients- whatever it takes to have a more streamlined business that doesn’t take over your life with it’s ‘junk’.

2. Create business boundaries and policies and stick with them, and don’t make exceptions.

a) Implement ordering deadlines. If your clients are taking too long to order, and it’s resulting in too many orders coming in at one time when you are already overwhelmed, implement an ordering deadline for each client. Whether it is 4 days, 7 days, 2 weeks or a month, knowing how much time each client has will help you manage your schedule better.

b) Create set turnaround times for products, so you know how much time you have to fulfill client orders. Add an extra week on each turnaround time for ‘life stuff’. It’s always better to under-promise and over-deliver than the inverse.

c) Create a policy that you don’t give arbitrary discounts, and apply that policy to all clients. Giving arbitrary discounts when asked, can lead to resentment over time, which is a harbinger of burnout. If you do ever discount, give less in return (smaller, shorter, fewer, etc), so the impact on you is lessened.

d) Set a schedule for meetings. If you only want to do client meetings (phone or in person), in the mornings, or early evenings, come up with a general time range of when you would meet a client. (Say Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6:30pm). Having this policy means you are not available at 8pm on a Friday night when you’d rather be at a movie with your best friend.

3. Know your personal limitations as far as your business goes. BE COMFORTABLE SAYING NO. 

This is hard, because it takes time and experience. You may think you can easily work with 20 clients at a time, but in practice this theory may fall apart. Ask yourself how many shoots you can *reasonably* do each month, and then don’t go over that. If you aren’t making enough money at those numbers, raise your prices, or add additional or constant streams of revenue. Here’s a tip: things usually take three times longer and cost three times more than you think they will. If you think doing a 30-minute mini-shoot for a single client will only take you 2 hours of total time from phone call to shipped order, it will probably be more like 6 hours (or more). Remember there are only so many hours in a day.

You simply can’t keep adding things in and adding things in and piling things on and piling things on without the whole system crashing and burning at some point. One of the best gifts you can give yourself is learning to say no, feeling confident in saying no, and understanding what you want to say yes to and why.

YOU CANNOT BE ALL THINGS TO ALL PEOPLE AND YOU SHOULDN’T TRY.

If you think that by you saying no to a potential client’s request to do something you don’t really want to do means they won’t get their needs met, and then you feel guilty and sad, then learn how to refer them to others who can meet their needs. Remember you are not the only photographer in the world. Knowing that there are other photographers who can work with people you say no to is very freeing. I only work with a very small subsection of pet owners and I can’t count the numbers of potential clients I have ‘referred out’, for one reason or another. I just explain that I don’t think I’m the best photographer to meet their needs for xy and z reason, and tell them I want them to be really happy, and refer them to another photographer who will meet their expectations.

On the topic of saying no, I am approached very regularly by non-profits seeking donations. All different kinds of non-profits send me email pitches for donations. I decided a long time ago that my primary passion is animal welfare and rescue. My policy is to never turn down a pitch for a donation for an animal-related organization, but if it’s anything else- anything at all- a children’s hospital, a battered-women’s shelter- anything, regardless of how much my heart is bleeding for the recipients, I always say no. I even created a little text file reply that I can copy and past and send to anyone asking for a donation that doesn’t help animals. You can also do this for different kinds of shoots. i.e. you don’t do mini shoots at pet stores, or you don’t doing any studio shoots, or you only do studio shoots and don’t travel, etc. Decide what you really want in your business, and what you are capable of, and stick with that. You will quickly learn that making exceptions always comes back to bite you in the booty.

4. Schedule time for YOU.

You remember you? The one who likes to take long walks in the park and breathe in the fresh air and smell of the leaves and moss around you? The you who loves to see Sunday matinee movies with your spouse? The you who lives for mani-pedis at the local nail salon? The you who really just wants to go sit in a coffee shop by yourself for an hour and just do- nothing but watch people go by? Remember that person? That person is working so hard on this little photography business they have completely forgotten themselves.

So how do you get them back?

You schedule time for YOU.

Every week, put it on your calendar. Something- anything. It could be your favorite TV show you absolutely have to watch no matter what kind of work is looming. It could be that long walk in the park with your pooch. It could be an afternoon of thrift-store shopping. It could be a long nap. The key is, you have to put it on your calendar and treat it just like you would a photo shoot or a sales meeting. If you are in the middle of work, or with a client in a shoot that has gone over, you politely excuse yourself because you need to ‘get to your next meeting’. Nobody needs to know that your next meeting is with yourself. 🙂  Respect that time you have scheduled for yourself. You. are. worth. it.

This is one of the most important things you can do to prevent burnout.

5. Schedule time for friends, family and partner.

There will be many nights, many days, many mornings, when you have made plans with family and friends, when, at the time you should be getting ready, you say “but I’m just so tired….”, with a sigh.

Yes, you are tired. No- tired doesn’t really cut it- you are- exhausted. The last thing you can think about is putting on some stylish clothing and going and meeting friends for brunch.

BUT!!!

I want to tell you a little secret.

IF you do, if you go to that brunch with friends, if you have cocktails with your sister, if you meet your dad for coffee, it will reward  you in ways you had long forgotten about. Remember that thing inside you? Your SOUL?

Not only does your mouth get fed over brunch/cocktails/lunch- but your SOUL does too.

So maybe you text your friends and say “warning, I’m showing up in sweatpants this morning”, just to be able to make it happen. Maybe you leave the kids in the hands of your less-than-capable mother-in-law, who is prone to starting fires on the stove when on watch.

You NEED this time with your friends or family to: just. be. you. To just laugh, to just listen, to just be heard. To just express an opinion that has nothing to do with work. To be a friend, a sister, a brother, a spouse, a sibling, a son, a human being.

Even if it’s just for an hour or two, spending time with family and friends (assuming they are loving and supportive human beings) can have a deeper impact on your spirit and soul than a week-long vacation can, and you owe it to yourself, regardless of your position in life (mother, father, husband, wife, friend, grandparent, lover, etc), to spend time with people who care about you. REGULARLY.

If you don’t already have one, create a category on your calendar for ‘friends and family (and spouse/partner if you have one), and make sure there is something scheduled in that category every week. You don’t have to be hanging out with your homies every night, but at least once per week, you should have something- anything– scheduled with a friend, family member or partner.

6. Take vacations.

I know, I know. “WHAT??” “Are you crazy Jamie??!”. Sometimes, yes, I am. But I’m really serious here.

Let me pre-emptively answer your battle cries.

“I don’t have time!!!!!!”

I know, I get it, but you really don’t need that much time.

Even three days can be enough to unplug and get away from work long enough to prevent burnout and have some semblance of a personal life.

The key is to make the vacation feasible. Not extravagant- feasible. We’re not going to Fiji here. We’re doing something reasonable.

If you have NO time, here are some options for you:

1. Pick a vacation spot within a 90-minute drive of where you live. 90 minutes is about long enough for an overworked, stressed-out person to handle in a car. But for most people, 90 minutes can put you in a place that is very different from your home environment, which is the whole point.

I personally am busy. Very busy. But I realize the importance of getting away regularly and recharging, so 2-3 times per year I pack my dog in my car and drive for 2.5 hours to a little beachside town called Seabrook, and once there, I do whatever the hell I want for 3 days. I go during the off-season, and always take advantage of sales (I subscribe to their mailing list to be notified of sales), and it keeps it very affordable. My busiest season as an outdoor pet photographer is summer, so in fall, winter and spring I am keeping my eyes open for sales in my favorite beach town.

2. Offer to house-swap with a local friend. It may sound crazy, but sometimes just being in someone else’s house (that you have all to yourself) for a few days can feel like a vacation. Make sure you don’t get their wi-fi password from them, and you are set. “Oh my gosh! What am I going to do with myself for two whole days without internet??”. 😉

3. Have a stay-cation. I mean, like a “stay exactly where you are” -cation. Don’t leave your house, but tell your friends and family you are going on ‘staycation’. Turn off your cell phone. Set your autoreplies for email. Find someone who can watch your dogs and kids for two nights (away from home). Make a list of Netflix movies you plan to watch. Pick up a yummy dinner from a local takeout place. Draw the blinds. And then do whatever the hell you want.

To make this truly feel like a mini-vacation, don’t just pick a weekend to do this, when everyone else is relaxing too. Start on a Sunday evening and go through Tuesday or Wednesday night. You will have time off during the work week, going to lunch and clothes shopping at the local mall, when everyone else is working. You will feel so guilty and you will love it. 🙂

“I can’t afford it!!!”

Pick the time of year that has really cheap airfare or when the gas prices are low. Why do you have to drive to the lake in the middle of summer when gas is $4.50 per gallon? I promise you you can have just as much fun in February when the weather is stormy and dramatic, playing monopoly board games and drinking spiked hot cocoa with your family. (Doesn’t that sound GREAT?).

Maybe you won’t be flying to see aunt Mildred for Christmas, but the week after instead, when everyone else has already flown home for the holidays and the airfare has been cut in half. Auntie Mildred is going to be much more relaxed at that point anyway, after her white elephant gift exchange with her bridge club is over and there are no more plates of cookies needing to be delivered.

Try and think outside the box when it comes to timing for travel, and it can end up saving you a lot of money.

“My spouse won’t get on board!!”

Because we are doing something feasible here, at a reasonable cost, that is relatively close, you can sell your spouse on the idea of a ‘trial run’. Just do it once. If you find that it doesn’t drive you to bankruptcy or kill your kids or pets, you may just be onto something that can become an annual tradition. And when you run a business, you really need one of those.

“No REALLY- we have NO money and NO time”

Go camping.

I’m serious.

Find the nearest campsite that is within a short-ish drive of a Starbucks or other retail location that has both a cellular signal and/or wi-fi, so you can check in with work/family/kids/pets every day, and plan it during the off-season (for god’s sake, not labor day or memorial day weekend!), when you can get a campsite for a song and the gas prices are low, and go!

Middle of winter and you need a break? So what?! Pack ALL of the clothing you have, layer, bundle up, grab the sweater for the dog, and go camping. You may find that you have the most fun time of your entire life with your partner or friend when you are both dressed like the Michelin Tire Man.

And if you end up having a horrible, miserable time, because the tent leaks, or you were relegated to the car because of bees, or you ate ‘marshmallows’ instead of ‘s’mores’ because the fire kept going out, it can provide much-needed laughs in the weeks ahead. “Remember when I set your pants on fire on that camping trip?”.  Sometimes the very best and most heartwarming stories we have to tell in life are about when things went awry.

You NEED this levity when you work as much as you do.

7. Make time to REST every day.

Oprah Winfrey. Perhaps the most famous person on the planet. More balls in the air than a circus clown. The woman probably only sleeps 4 hours a night. You know how she gets her rest every day? On the toilet, in the bathroom, fully clothed, just sitting, and relaxing, for ten minutes. Yes, I said, on the toilet. Not taking care of business- just sitting there, on top of the closed toilet seat. No phones, no iPads, no magazines or newspapers. Just- sitting, and relaxing.

Why does this matter? Because, along with sleep, human beings need to relax every single day. This is not a luxury. This is a need.

Yes, you are relaxing when you are sleeping, but this is not enough: you need to relax when you are awake too. Even if it’s just for a short time- like 15-30 miutes. Push away from the computer. Go sit on your porch for 15 minutes, and just relax. I promise you the world won’t come to an end because you have checked out for a few minutes a day. Try it and see what happens.

If you are a reader, a great way to relax is to get some good book reviews from friends or online, and then purchase a few books to have on hand. Once you have gotten sucked into a great book, it’s all you can do to finish work so you can go lay down and pick up that book. Let yourself do that. That’s your reward for working hard.

If you can teach yourself how to meditate and tune out all thoughts, this is the be-all-and-end-all to relaxation, and will mean that all challenges in your life will become easier.

8. Be active.

It’s really truly sad that the human beings we have become are ones who spend most of our lives inactive- sitting behind computer screens, standing in one place for a job- just generally not moving around much anymore.

The reason why this is sad is because moving around is GOOD for us, and makes us feel better. In every way.

Have you ever gone for a run, or a brisk hike, or had an intense game of Twister, and afterward, though “that felt so GOOD”? It’s because we need that. We forget that we need that.

Now, I am not naive enough to think you have two hours every single day to devote to gym time, like I desperately wish I did.

Being active can be as simple as running down your stairs or driveway to get the mail instead of walking, heading out to run errands in two trips instead of one, parking three blocks away from your client meeting instead of one block. Or just a quick, 15 minute walk around the neighborhood with the dog. The next time you are working in front of your computer, and stressed- like REALLY stressed, like, ‘about to leave a crazy post on your blog about how ungrateful and crazy clients are’ stressed- try this: push away from your computer. Leave your house (grab the dog or your baby or whatever- or just you!), and go outside for a walk. Go for 10 minutes, 15 minutes or more if you have time. Walk as hard and as fast as you can. Let your anger fuel your walking. Come back home when you are out of breath, and thinking more about that weird and amazing bush you just saw than that nasty email you got from your client.

9. Practice Cognitive Behavioral Psychology.

This is the hardest tip I am giving in this entire post, no question.

Cognitive Behavioral Psychology is built on the premise that:

Your thoughts create your mood…..

Which influences your behavior….

Which affects your environment (people, things, etc)

Your environment in turn affects your thoughts…

Which influence your behavior…

and so on….

This cycle happens in all of us, and it’s really true. Our thoughts have SO much power over us and our lives. If you are like me and easily become obsessed with your thoughts, it can become crippling.

A disturbing phone call or negative Facebook comment can throw off your whole day. Or, if you are already on the road to burnout, and/or your personal needs are already being completely neglected, you may have chronic cynical thoughts and be in a constant state of self-defense mentally. You may be so completely unaware of your thoughts that you can no longer see how they are affecting the world around you.

Most people are aware of what they are thinking and when. If you are not, here’s something you can do to become more in tune with what you are thinking:

Listen to your body.

Are you on a 30-minute drive to go drop off a client order and notice that you have a stress stitch in your side, and you keep sighing, because you are short of breath? What are you actively thinking about? It may be something that you feel doesn’t have a resolution, or something you are viewing negatively because you are generally stressed and depressed. It may be almost a subconscious thought, but if you ask yourself “what am I thinking right now?”, and go back over your recent train of thought, you should be able to figure it out.

IF, in that state of mind, you can recognize what you are thinking, and see how it is negatively impacting your environment (the people around you, the work you need to get done, etc), then you are in a position to change it for the better.

How do you do this? By training your brain to replace the thought you are thinking, with a different, more powerful thought. I know, it’s crazy. Welcome to Cognitive Behavioral Psychology.

It’s so incredibly hard, and takes immense focus and concentration and willpower, but if you can learn to harness what you allow yourself to think and dwell on, it can change your life. And that’s no small thing.

I’m not telling you to “think positively!!” with a smarmy smily-face tacked on for good measure. I’m telling you to try and replace unhelpful, negative, obsessive thoughts that serve no purpose, with other more constructive, intentional, beneficial thoughts.

Here’s an example for you of what this process looks like:

Over the past 6 weeks I’ve been having some serious issues with my neck. At the moment I’m in a lot of pain. It hurts to move, it hurts to not move. It even hurts to sleep.

So last night I got a massage from my massage therapist, who is wonderful. But it hurt like a mother. He didn’t want to push me to the point of “oh my god I’m seeing stars and I might throw up”, but close. My job was to breathe, and not tense up but relax instead, while in the height of the pain. Way easier said than done.

I realized that cognitive behavioral psychology would come in very handy. Instead of thinking “Oh my god that hurts, it mother*&&%ing hurts!”, I decided to try and remove myself from the situation mentally. I replaced the immediate thoughts of pain with other, equally powerful thoughts, which for me involve being in Palm Springs- my new favorite place. I saw myself going to lunch with friends, renovating my (future) house, and relaxing poolside with friends and loved ones. I got into as much detail as possible in order to escape from the pain.

The key to making this work is this:

When you are thinking thoughts that are damaging, crippling, negative and don’t provide any kind of benefit whatsoever outside of enabling you to ruminate, you must replace those thoughts with EQUALLY powerful thoughts- preferably of a neutral or positive nature.

Let your mind wander, and think about things that really please you. You may be surprised to realize that the most powerful thought you have is of your grandpa giving you a foot massage, or of studying the labels on the cans of soup at the grocery store, or cleaning out your attic. It doesn’t matter how weird the thought it, is you can think it, and stay with it, and it’s powerful enough to command your attention long enough to get rid of the other thoughts, and, it isn’t negative- go for it.

My ultimate thought during my painful massage last night was this:

Me in my future swimming pool in Palm Springs, gently kicking my legs with my arm on the side of the pool, with a sweet cocktail in my hand, throwing the ball for my dog into the pool with the sun shining over us, with nothing else to do. It was very simple. But in these thoughts, I felt no physical pain, I felt weightless, and some of my favorite things were involved. It was very powerful, and it was just one example of cognitive behavioral psychology. I know that anytime I need to gain control of my thoughts, I can use this visualization to change this cycle of my thoughts influencing my behavior and environment and relationships.

10. Introduce comedy into your life.

If you have time, go to a comedy show. If you really want to live on the edge, go to an improv show and become an ‘audience participant’.

If you don’t have time for any of that, try starting your day by opening the DYAC (Damn You Autocorrect) app on your phone and reading through it for 10 minutes. The laughter you experience is incredibly healing and works wonders on relieving stress.

Create a bookmark folder in your browser called ‘Hilarious’, and whenever you feel like you might be headed down the path to burnout, take a look at some of the links contained in the folder. This is your time to be YOU, just a human being having a laugh.

Just like a vacation and daily rest, y0u need this time of laughter to help you physically, mentally and emotionally.

Ok, whew!! There’s your list of what y0u need to do!!

IN SUM, THESE ARE THE THINGS YOU NEED TO DO TO HAVE A PERSONAL LIFE AND PREVENT BURNOUT:

1. Set clear boundaries between your personal life and your business life.

a) Separate your business phone number from your personal phone number.

b) Separate your personal Facebook profile from your business Facebook fan page.

c) Create set work hours every day and week.

d) Keep clients away from your home.

e). Don’t let your physical business ‘junk’ mingle with your personal ‘junk’.

2. Create business boundaries and policies and stick with them, and don’t make exceptions.

a) Implement ordering deadlines.

b) Create set turnaround times for products.

c) Create a policy that you don’t give arbitrary discounts.

d) Set a weekly schedule for meetings.

3. Know your personal limitations as far as your business goes. BE COMFORTABLE SAYING NO.

4. Schedule time for YOU. Put it on your calendar every single week.

5. Schedule time for friends, family and partner. Put it on your calendar every single week.

6. Take vacations. Regularly.

a. Pick a vacation spot within a 90-minute drive of where you live and go for 3 days during the off-season.

b. Offer to house-swap with a local friend.

c. Have a stay-cation at home.

7. Make time to REST every day. Read a book. Lock yourself in the bathroom for 15 minutes. Sit on the porch. 

8. Be physically active, even if it just means running to the mailbox instead of walking.

9. Practice Cognitive Behavioral Psychology. Replace bad thoughts with good ones. 

10. Introduce comedy into your life. Start your day off with laughter. 

If you have anything to add to this list as far as things that have helped you stay human while running a business, please share! If you have learned important lessons of what NOT to do, please comment! If you have any thoughts, ideas or  things you want to say, please don’t hesitate to comment. I hope this helped someone out there! 🙂

November 16, 2012 - 6:47 pm

Joanna Reichert - Couldn’t agree more and it helps seeing it all laid out. Bullet points rock. Have a lovely weekend! 🙂

November 17, 2012 - 9:51 pm

Kaylee Greer - “Remember when I set your pants on fire on that camping trip?” hahahahaha. Jamie, you crack me up. (Also – this post is awesome!)

November 18, 2012 - 4:00 pm

Charlotte - What a fantastic post Jamie with some really great advice. So helpful! Thank you!

November 19, 2012 - 3:45 am

Caitlin McColl - I actually got a bit teary reading this Jamie (?!) Couldn’t have come at a more perfect time! Thanks for the advice!!!

F a c e b o o k
B l o g   C a t e g o r i e s
B o o k
T w i t t e r