In 2009, while working full time, I started my organic skincare company S.W. Basics. I would get home at night and make products, write emails, pack orders and create long to-do lists. On weekends, I'd do all of that plus attend local markets to test selling products, always returning home with a new series of tasks for the following weeknights.
In 2011, I transitioned out of my job and into my company full time. But the hours didn't change. I continued working nights and weekends, and for the past seven years, my "vacations" have been business trips to places I wouldn't get to go otherwise.
I'm not complaining. I haven't been sad to watch S.W. Basics grow so much from the work I've done, and it doesn't suck to go to Paris on business. But recently, I've started to feel deeply fatigued. I have a hard time making decisions. Besides working, I don't do much of anything except lay on my couch. I have a short fuse and a bad attitude (at work and otherwise). On really bad days, I feel hopeless and like I can't manage my own company.
Related: How to Avoid Entrepreneur Overload
To combat this, my husband and I (we run S.W. together and our fatigue is mutual) recently designed new parameters to cut back. It's insanely difficult. We feel a lot like parents ignoring our baby, even if we just take a night to go to the movies. But I don't think us losing our minds will be beneficial to our business, so I'm thinking we're on the right track... finally. Here's what we're trying.
1. No business talk after 11 pm.
Sounds kind of ridiculous and easy, right? Not for me. This one is nearly impossible for me to follow, especially because I find myself to be the most brilliant at11 pm. But the middle of the night is never a good time to start talking about anything. For us at least, it's impossible to sleep after bringing up operations issues or stores we need to contact but keep forgetting about.
So at 11, or whatever time you start to wind down and feel calmer, don't bring up your business, try not to think about your business and definitely don't email people about your business.
2. Let emails sit for a few days.
This one is also basically impossible. I'm not sure if it's just me, but these days emails (and texts) are like real-time conversations. If I don't answer immediately, I have failed both the person who emailed me and my business. Except that's not true. When I rush to answer people, I don't take any time to think. I don't allow myself to get excited for an opportunity. It's like autopilot on speed. You might think you have to do this to make your business grow quickly but insanely fast growth is not all that matters (and it probably doesn't come from frantic emailing).
3. Take days off, go on trips, have hobbies.
Going to work out or meditate or reading self-help does not help. Trust me, I've tried. You need time away from the pursuit of perfection. Who were you before you started your business? What would you do on a Saturday if the business didn't exist? If you can't think of an answer or you can't remember, that is a problem. Figure it out. You'll be so happy, and your employees will like you better when you're suddenly happy on Monday. They'll say things like "You look so rested!" and you'll realize how bad it got. Not that I'm speaking from experience...
If you have entrepreneur friends you've probably been in conversations where everyone is bragging about how much they work. I have friends who sleep less than four hours, live in hotels, travel for business every few days, work through holidays, and are addicted to their phones. Entrepreneurs fetishize work--the more we do the more in control we feel of our [almost always insanely risky] businesses. Maybe we should stop though, it may help ensure that not only are we all successful, we also actually survive to enjoy that success.