I think you and I may be alike in a few significant ways. If you're reading this article, I think it's likely you're an entrepreneur. Or you're an employee who cares as much as an entrepreneur. This tells me you may set the bar of expectations quite high for yourself, are goal-oriented, and are always thinking of the next big move. This is what keeps us going, but it's also what drives some of us to be constantly overwhelmed.
As I sit healing from twelve breaks to bones in my arm and leg, I can't help but use my mind more; which is a tad disturbing since it's constantly going on a normal day. I've thought about ways to improve the wheelchair design for people who only have one arm to use and I've also dedicated some thought to tools that could be created to add efficiency to the nursing world. During my hospital stay I spent time reviewing how the management of those establishments could improve work conditions and quality of care while improving what tools and resources are available to the staff and patients.
As entrepreneurs, this is what we do. We analyze and take action to build or improve something. I was recently told I'm exceptional at taking constrictive criticism and using it. To thrive as an entrepreneur, I believe you must have this ability and use it to grow. However, constant improvement can be exhausting.
I believe everything happens for a reason, and the motorcycle accident may have occurred, aside from the obvious loss of control, because I needed something I couldn't fight or control to slow me down; to allow me to hold myself to a much lower level of expectations and deadlines. I have multiple businesses and many hobbies as well as a family. Busy is all I know. Sometimes I'm so busy that I can't focus on my tasks at hand, which dampens my productivity. This can become overwhelming and frustrating. For years I've tried to identify what I could do differently.
The biggest obstacle is I don't want to stop doing any of what I'm doing. I like all of it and I've worked so hard and so long at some of it that I can't (at least at this time) let go. I've tried. But then I can't. So after weeks of a wheelchair-bound life, I have used my brain to review options available. One option prevails: I need to lower my expectations and let myself make decisions for me once in awhile.
Rather than filling my "to-do" list with more than any human can handle in a day, I need to pick 2-3 main tasks to focus on each day. The goal is to mitigate that feeling of constantly overwhelmed and allow me to feel a sense of accomplishment. Next, I need to make, or take, time to enjoy my life and not just go through the motions of living. The day of my accident I had been invited to at least four different events. I never make what I consider to be a "selfish decision" and do what I want to do...but that day I did. I was sick of letting life pass me by so quickly that I couldn't even enjoy it.
So I made the decision to go for a ride on my Harley Sportster I had purchased two weeks prior after wanting my own bike for well over a decade. It was a feeling I can't describe to feel free of all obligation and do something for me. Riding allows me to stop the chaos in my brain and enjoy the moment; a day without anxiety or thoughts of what I should be doing. We all need to find something like this in our life.
I was life-flighted to a local hospital with two compound fractures (bones literally sticking out of my limbs). At the scene, it was uncertain if I had internal injuries. On my flight, the nurse was asking me basic questions and when I answered the information was correct but out of order. I couldn't help but wonder if I had scrambled my brain and those were my last cognitive thoughts. Turns out, I was likely in shock. After six hours of surgery, three units of blood, and many days in the hospital my brain is back to it's usual activity (thank goodness, I think).
When I was told I would be in a wheelchair for six to eight weeks before I could begin the process of starting to walk and use my arm again, I was terribly surprised at my response. "That's not so bad." I said. WAIT A MINUTE. "Six to eight weeks of being able to do nearly nothing? Then followed by physical therapy and probably months before I can do my normal tasks? And I'm ok with this?" Of course I am. I'm alive, not permanently injured, and my mind is intact.
After all this I realized not allowing myself to take a day off to spend on myself is a problem. I can take six to eight weeks off to recover from an accident so what is one day here and there to give myself time to enjoy life? I'm guessing you can relate to that feeling. The feeling that says every minute counts. The one that tells you customers are making demands and others are bombing your email with questions. I have taken fewer days off from my own company than the average employee does from most jobs. And when I do take a day off, it's generally to do tasks I have to do; not ones I love to do. Yet the reason I started my own business was to make decisions for me; to not be bound by a certain number of sick days and days off. I wanted flexibility. Never did I invision becoming so consumed by the business I grew that I would work night and day at it. It's easy to do when you like your job and it's your company.
So here is my final point. If you can relate to any of this please learn from my situation. You can live for you and limit your responsibilities to within reason. If your customers can't understand then you don't need them. The loyal customers will understand and the others are of little consequence in the big picture. Set the bar high, but give yourself plenty of time to get there. Quality of output is of higher concern than shear quantity.
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