When I was in a full-time job I spent most of the time feeling exhausted.
Being based in an open plan office with a jam-packed diary ensured that I spent little time alone. Instead I often found myself surrounded by noise, chatter and around 50 telephones that were never quiet for long.
For an introvert who needs regular solitude it was completely and utterly draining. With no time alone or space to breathe, day by day, bit by bit, I felt every bit of energy pour out of my body till I had little left to give to the world or the people I loved.
And I knew I had to escape. I knew that for my own health, well-being, creativity and relationships, I HAD to get out. And so I did. I started a business. A business that would allow me to work from home and find as much alone time as I so wished. It was complete bliss!
BUT, soon enough I realized something – it’s not always that easy.
Yes, I was able to work from home. But what about all those hats I had to wear? You know…the marketing hat, the systems hat, the customer service hat….
And what about all the things I had to learn?
And all the people I needed to connect with?
And all the events that I couldn’t possibly miss out on?
There was just SO much that needed my attention. And once again, I felt the familiar sense of tiredness and exhaustion creeping back into my life.
And THAT is the moment I realized things really needed to change. I needed to slow down. I needed to start looking after myself. And I needed to start protecting my precious energy.
When you first get started running a business it can be so incredibly tempting to say ‘yes’ to everything. And I get that – it’s totally where I was. I didn’t want to miss out and I didn’t want to lose work, so I simply did everything.
But the consequence of saying ‘yes’ to it all?
You can soon find yourself attending tons of meetings and networking events, working late into the night to get projects done, and generally juggling a million things in the air at all times.
It amazes me how much effort so many of us put into looking after our customers, but when it comes to our own health and well-being? Often that can get neglected.
So here are some home truths
YOU are the most important tool in your business.
If you don’t protect and maintain your energy levels then your ideas, creativity and motivation will soon suffer. And without those? Well, your business is worth nothing.
So, let’s start today.
I’ve learnt that by giving yourself a little bit of TLC and setting yourself some boundaries, you’ll be able to run a successful and thriving business without feeling exhausted and drained all the time.
So, here are my top tips for embracing your introversion and protecting your energy while running a business.
1) Keep certain times work-free
Running a business can be all-consuming if you let it and it’s so easy to get sucked into the ‘I’ll just do a bit of work at the weekend’ mentality (only to find that Monday comes around and you’ve spent pretty much the entire weekend working).
It doesn’t matter how much you love your work or how much you want your business to succeed – you’ve got to give yourself regular breaks or else you’ll soon find yourself running on empty. Set yourself some rules of when you’ll have time off to do other things. For me, keeping the weekends free has become part of my routine. If I’m feeling particularly overloaded with work I may do a few hours on a Saturday, but Sunday is strictly no-go for work. Think about what your own personal boundaries will be and then get into the habit of taking breaks.
2) Book in some time for solitude
It can sometimes feel strange to think that you need to actually book in time to be alone, but if you’re an introvert who needs regular quiet time, that’s exactly what you need to do. This is particularly important if you know you have a hectic couple of weeks coming up. Schedule in some down-time both before and after that busy period so that you can use that time to reflect, re-energise and process your thoughts.
3) Put a limit on meetings
Get to know what your natural capacity is for meetings and networking events, then set yourself a limit for how many you attend a month. Spending all your time bouncing from one meeting to another without any time in between to reflect and re-energise can soon become exhausting – learn what works for you and then stick with it.
4) Make the most of your energy patterns
Are you a morning lark or a night owl? Learning when your energy peaks occur throughout the day means that you can effectively use those times for the tasks that need your most active brain cells. Often we have ups and downs throughout the day, depending on what our natural patterns are. There are always going to be factors that affect your energy such as exercise, lack of sleep or nutrition – however recognizing when you have your natural energy highs, will allow you to make the most of those times and work productively.
5) Step away from the computer
A change of scene can do wonders even if only for 10 minutes. If you feel a bit like you’re ‘walking through treacle’ then stop doing what you’re doing and try something else. Getting out for a walk in the fresh air is my go-to activity when I feel stuck or tired. Just getting away from the computer can be enough but teaming that up with some fresh air and exercise, always tops up my energy levels and gives me a well needed boost to keep me going.
Are you an introvert? What tips do you have for protecting your energy? I’d love to hear in the comments below.