If you’re in private practice like me, that makes you a business owner! Yep, we’re those small business owners you always hear politicians talking about. By now you’ve probably figured out that a lot more goes into running a business than just seeing clients. There’s a lot of business know-how that you had to learn along the way. If you’re like me, then you subscribe to a lot of websites and forums for entrepreneurs. And if so, you’ve probably noticed a pattern.
What I get from these entrepreneur websites is that apparently a lot of us are procrastinators. All I see are headlines and comments like “Get it done!”, “Produce!”, and “Get off your butt and make something!”. But what if that’s not your problem? I’ve never had a problem with finding the motivation to work. I got my first job as soon as I was legally old enough to work and happily worked 60 hour weeks during school vacation. In a lot of ways I’ve never stopped. I still work 60 hour weeks now. This isn’t to say that I’m seeing 60 clients every week, but even when I’m not seeing clients I’m still working. I’m doing paperwork, I’m responding to email, calling people back, writing, etc. Being productive and getting things done has never been a problem for me.
Despite enjoying what I do and having a successful practice, that’s not all there is to life. I don’t want to be 88 years old and look back on my life and say “Well, I sure did work a lot”. Being a therapist in Boston, I see a lot of high-powered clients: doctors, attorneys, executives, and other entrepreneurs; all people who work a ton of hours. I see clients so busy with work that they have nothing else in their lives and are so stressed they are just barely holding on. When any mention is made of working less, there is always justification: “Well, I’m going to work a lot now but then retire early” or “I need to work this much to pay the bills, to pay for our lifestyle”. But is that really accurate?
The thing is, I find that a lot of people deal with their stress by spending money. They reward themselves with shopping or an expensive vacation. They try to balance the scales by going out or drinking after work. They work so much that they have to spend lots of money just to deal with it. Despite what they say, they’re spending too much money to ever retire early. They could afford to have a much less lavish lifestyle if they worked less and were far less stressed out. Does any of this ring true for you?
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that I think it’s important to lead by example and to practice what you preach. With that in mind, I’ve been making some changes to the way I work. If you’re stressed and over-worked, you’ll want to read these and add what you can to your own life:
1. I changed to a Google Voice number: Google voice is a free number that sends calls to whatever phone you want (or to all of them!). You can easily block numbers if you get prank calls and you get an email transcript of every voicemail. But what I really like about it, is that you can set a schedule for when your phone rings. My work phone will only ring Monday-Friday 8am to 8pm. If someone calls any other time it just goes straight to voicemail. This has been a major game changer to me. I’m one of those people that if I hear the phone ring I feel compelled to answer it. Now I wont.
2. Set up an email auto-responder for the weekends and while you’re on vacation: Like the phone, I also feel a need to reply back to emails. The good thing with an auto-responder is that I don’t have to, the computer will do it for me. This way my clients get a response and I get to enjoy my weekends. My auto-responder simply reminds people of my office hours and lets them know I’ll get back to them on Monday. How easy is that?
3. Give yourself an evening off: Doesn’t sound like asking for much right? After all, don’t most people get off of work at 5pm? It may not sound like much to most people, but I haven’t had an evening off in as long as I can remember. But I’ve finally decided that enough is enough and I’m giving myself Tuesday evenings off. Yes, my clients were mad at me but sometimes my mental health needs to be a priority too.
4. Stop working on the weekends! Yes this means client emails too! It took me way too long to stop working on the weekends. Up until two years ago I used to see clients on the weekends. I decided to stop seeing clients on the weekends once I realized it was never going to be enough. It wasn’t enough to offer appointments on Saturday mornings, they wanted Sunday evenings too. There was no schedule flexibility that was ever going to flexible enough to satisfy everyone, so I stopped. But I didn’t really stop. I would still take calls and respond to emails on the weekend. Then last January I actually had a client fire me because I didn’t answer his email during the Super Bowl. That’s when I decided enough was enough and had a strict “no work on weekends” policy.
5. Do something afterwork to unwind: As I mentioned earlier, a lot of people de-stress by drinking after work. That’s really not good though. What me and my husband do is we actually put some music on and practice our dance moves after I’m done with work. It’s just 20 minutes but it really helps to take my brain out of work mode. What is something different you could do after work?
6. Do something in the middle of the day as well: If you work long days, you need to give yourself permission to do something mid-day to recharge. What I do is I’ll go for an hour walk, I’ll practice my dance moves, or I’ll do some stretching. They are a lot of great videos on youtube that you can do to distract yourself from work and do something good for yourself.