Balance

On Pendulum Swings and Finding Ease in My Work

I’ve noticed a disturbing trend lately and it doesn’t show signs of changing anytime soon.

I almost feel like I need to lower my voice to a conspiratorial whisper as I confess this to a whole bunch of fellow dogged, hard-working entrepreneurs. Are you ready for this?

Here it is… I don’t really feel like working lately. 

After more than nine years of perpetually running uphill with our multiple businesses, birthing three more babies (in addition to the two we already had), backpacking around the world for 12 months, buying a fixer-upper in a new community upon our return, then backpacking around Europe for three months the year after (while pregnant) and then literally moving across the country this past summer, I hit my wall. 

And a big whopper of a wall it was. 

(Sorry, American friends… is it too soon for a wall metaphor? Ugh… but I digress.) 

Here’s the thing: I’ve been running hard and working long and sleeping little for most of my life. I’m not necessarily proud of all of those things, but when I look back and assess honestly, I can see that it’s true. 

It started in my teen years as I began holding down regular jobs at the tender age of 13, and by 17 I was taking university-credit classes my senior year of school, applying for scholarships, playing in city orchestra, volunteering at church and working two part-time jobs. 

It’s never really changed since then. I mean, sure, life has ebbed and flowed. 

University. Living overseas as newlyweds. Having babies while trying to pay off a lot of debt. Dealing with a serious illness. Starting one business, then another (and then another).

It doesn’t seem to matter what the season of life is. I figure out how to push hard and get er’ done. Failing isn’t an option. Neither is stopping. 

plan-on-windowsill

Until this year. And suddenly, all I want to do is stop. 

Stop pushing myself beyond unreasonable physical limitations. 

Stop expecting unrealistic things of myself. 

Stop living right at the edge of what I can actually get done in any given day or week or month. 

Stop enviously watching others do nifty things like rest and have fun and relax, while I bow subserviently to my never-ending to-do list that demands I do the responsible thing and just. keep. going. 

But you can’t keep going like this forever. At some point, a rest-less, hectic, too hard-working life inevitably turns into an exhausted, broken-down, weary and empty-souled life. 

I didn’t really see it coming, not quite like this. I knew I was burnt out and that I’d been bemoaning it for too many years. I knew this past year and a half had pushed me to the end of myself. I knew that a sea change was coming and boy, did I need it. 

I just didn’t expect that when I finally stopped long enough to catch my breath, all I’d want to do was lie down on the floor and keep belly-breathing, trying to somehow make up for years of lost oxygen and this deficit of leisure time and idle moments and days where I didn’t actually do much (horror of horrors!).

screen-shot-2016-11-23-at-7-08-53-pm

This fall, our Q4 goal at Ultimate Bundles (the business Ryan and I currently run together) has been to increase operational efficiency by 20% by the end of 2016. 

To that end, we’ve been mercilessly examining our repetitive tasks, processes, methods of communication, and any needless or ineffective practices we find ourselves doing. There’s a lot of eliminating, a little delegating, and definitely plenty of “efficienating” going on (yes, we made that term up – who says “efficient” can’t become a verb?). 

It’s working, too. Between these smart work changes we’re realizing are long overdue, and the help of a personal assistant my darling husband convinced me to hire a few half-days each week, my work and home load really is getting lighter. 

For the first time in oh-so-very long, I’m feeling my heart rate slow to something resembling normal and in that place of greater ease, I’m able to take the kind of deep breaths that felt too luxurious to even pause for previously. 

flowers-and-laptop

There’s a wonderful woman at my new church who I’ve been talking to lately. She and her husband have four school aged kids, and they’re in the process of starting a new business. His hours are crazy long and she’s running ragged caring for the family mostly by herself, and when they do see each other they’re like ships passing in the night. 

As she related it to me, I had so much empathy because I vividly remember those early days for us and how much we wanted all of this (the big family, the freedom and flexibilty, the business success, the travel and adventure), but at what a cost it came. 

It was worth it; don’t get me wrong. I don’t regret what we’ve done.

But now that we’re not in that tenuous place anymore, I’m finding my relentless 100-mile-per-hour drive has petered out and all I’ve got left in me is a leisurely Sunday afternoon jaunt. 

I’m ready for big change. Ready to stop and actually taste and savor my beautiful life. Let myself be more human and needy, rather than tough and robotic. Let being present in the moment win out over being responsible. 

A wise friend once told me that when people change, they tend to do a full pendulum swing.

All the way from the far side of one way of living, right over to almost the opposite of whatever it is they’ve been doing. 

It’s like a visceral, gut reaction. Once we realize something is no longer working for us, we can’t seem to get far enough away from it. 

Eventually, at some point, we stop swinging violently to an extreme and usually find our way to a more comfortable middle. 

I think I’ll get there at some point. But I’m not there yet. 

mug-of-tea

I don’t want to take a quiet, free evening and use it to work ahead on an important project. I want to paint my toenails with my girls and read a novel by the fire with a mug of tea. I don’t want to discipline myself to get up early, hit the ground running, and use my golden morning hours to squeeze in more time for the book I’m writing. I want to sleep longer and wake when I feel ready to greet the day and then saunter through breakfast and my morning coffee. 

And I think that’s ok. I think it’s part of the process of slowing down and learning to just be. I’m working on assessing myself and my worth simply on who I am, and less on what I do or accomplish. 

I don’t know who needs to hear this message today. Maybe you’re stuck where I’ve been these last few years and you’re tired and reading this makes you want to ugly cry or maybe throw your laptop across the room in frustration. I’ve been where you’re at and I feel you. 

I don’t want to tell you to give up or stop pressing forward or stop being responsible or not to reach for your dreams.

We have seasons in our lives that are tiring, and they’re hard, and they require us to reach deeply inside of ourselves and find what we’re made of. Maybe you’re in one of those seasons. I believe in you and that you have what it takes to make it through to the other side. 

But here’s what I’ve learned: you also have to recognize when that season is over and then let it go

Do what you need to do, yes.

And then stop making excuses for why you’re still there, still yanking on those damn boot straps when they’re already on your feet. 

There’s a moment when you pause and say “Wow, I did that. I got through that difficult season. I accomplished that thing that really mattered to me. I invested what was necessary and now I can reap the benefits of my hard work.” 

And then do it. 

(And I’ll be right there with you, sipping on my tea while my pretty painted toes warm up by the fire.) 

Are you exhausted from working so hard? Or have you ever realized that you were still pushing hard when it was actually time to stop?

Images from unsplash.com or my Instagram feed.

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Podcast: Our work schedule (and how to come up with your own) via EntreFamily.com

Podcast #20: Our work schedule (and how to come up with your own)

Balancing work time between spouses, especially when you’ve got a family to take care of, can be more than a little tricky.

We’ve written previously about our work schedules and daily/weekly routines (here and here). They’re an ever-evolving thing for us, and yet the longer we do this dance of both of us working from home while sharing family and homeschool duties, the better we get at it. 

It’s a frequent topic in our EntreFamily Facebook group, and a continual conversation with other EntreFamilies we know in real life. We’d be willing to bet it’s a topic that matters to you, too.

Hard as it can be, it is possible to find rhythms and routines that allow you to both keep on top of your business, do your most important work AND care for your family intentionally in the midst of it all.

So join us as we share how it works in our home, what we’ve learned about ourselves and each other, and the key things to take into account as you create your own shared work schedule.

Ryan's work setup. Blocking out the world with his noise-reducing headphones and enjoying his MANY screens.

Ryan’s work setup. Blocking out the world with his noise-reducing headphones and enjoying his MANY screens.

In this episode, you’ll hear:

  • How we devised our weekly personal and work schedules, and how we make it work while homeschooling our five kids (note: this podcast was recorded before we put our kids into school temporarily).
  • Why our schedules perpetually evolve and always will.
  • The three parts of our work day and why we divide it up that way.
  • Creative ways to get more work done when you’ve got kids in the home (hint: the work force you might not have considered).
  • How your personal routine (or lack thereof) affects your work routine.
  • The invaluable effects of personal reflection.
  • Key things to consider when creating a schedule that will work for you.
  • Why it’s important to understand your own values and personal mission (as well as those of your spouse).
  • The practicalities — work responsibilities, kid’s schooling, extracurricular activities, personal rhythms and productivity, mealtimes and bedtimes and the pillars of your day.
  • Why you should keep trying when scheduling gets frustrating.
Mischievous but adorable munchkins playing by mommy's desk.

Mischievous but adorable munchkins playing by mommy’s desk.

Resources from this podcast:

Quotable:

“Intentionality is the main thing.” -Ryan Langford

Find Ryan and Stephanie:

Ultimate Bundles

Entrefamily

Entrefamily on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

Go ahead and listen by clicking on the play button right here at the top of the post.

Or, listen directly through iTunes or Stitcher!

Thanks for joining us for today’s podcast!

All photos from my Instagram account.

Why running a business blog is hard… when you’re still running a business

You may have noticed a lack of posting and podcasts recently. We’ve keenly noticed it, too.

In fact, we’ve particularly missed both writing for and interacting with this community here at EntreFamily.

It’s something that Ryan and I have increasingly grown to enjoy and value, since it can be so hard to find a tribe of others that really, really get you. (Which we feel that our readers here really do. Get us, that is.)

Back when we were in the planning stages of the EntreFamily website, we talked a lot about who we were, who we hoped our audience would be, what we thought we could offer them, and what our message would focus on.

Over and over in those conversations, we landed on these two points:

  1. We’re not gurus, experts, or anything of the sort. We might be a few steps or years ahead of some of our readers (and probably behind some of them as well). But we always wanted to be in the trenches with you all. Running the same race. Still on the journey. And sharing it all with you as we go.
  2. That meant that we needed to stay actively involved in our own business pursuits, aside from this site. We never want to become those people that only want to teach from a pedestal, while not living this stuff out in our actual day to day.
During our very last week of three months of travel... here we are freezing our tails off at Gullfoss waterfall in Iceland.

During our very last week of three months of travel… here we are freezing our tails off at Gullfoss waterfall in Iceland.

Which leads me to our absence…

We’ve been working, y’all.

Really hard.

Read More

Our new schedule, what it is, why it’s working

They say a change is as good as a holiday.

Well, this past month, we used a working-holiday as a grand opportunity to change up what we were doing with our family’s schedule.

Our plan was to settle ourselves in a small, non-touristy village in France, where we could truly just live for a month (out of the 11 weeks we’re traveling), while also taking time to engage with the culture, get out and explore the area, and work on our French skills. (And that top photo is the street on which we’re living in said village.)

We’re excited to say it feels like we’ve accomplished that goal. Although we had several extended periods of time living in one place while on our one-year trip, we never managed to get into such a solid, balanced routine, nor had we found one back home that was really meeting our family’s needs.

So we went ahead and made a brand new schedule, with the changes motivated by specific things like:

Read More

Why I’ve never considered myself to be lazy (until now)

“Doing less meaningless work, so that you can focus on things of greater personal importance, is NOT laziness. This is hard for most people to accept, because our culture [American] tends to reward personal sacrifice instead of personal productivity.” Tim Ferris

I’ve never considered myself to be a lazy person, and if you knew me, you’d probably agree.

I often work longer hours than most people I know. Sometimes, when it seems necessary to meet a deadline or complete an important project, I’ll even pull all-nighters – working 30-40 hours straight without so much as a break for a proper meal.

If you’re anything like me, you take a certain amount of pride in being the guy/gal that’s willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done. Nothing short of excellence (perhaps even perfection) is acceptable.

When it comes to your work, you are consistently reliable, infinitely available, and doggedly indefatigable.

If you’re anything like me, you’re probably pretty proud of yourself right now, too.

Not so fast, cowboy.

Read More
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