Confessions and Lessons from an Out-of-Kilter Entrepreneur

Like in my most recent article about the “Great Resignation”, paltry engagement is often cited as a major culprit contributing to employees exiting their current jobs. As you know, I’ve authored articles that discuss the inextricable bond between life balance and job performance, motivation, and success. However, writing about what it means to be out of balance is one thing, but experiencing the struggle to maintain one’s wellness is quite another. Emerging from my own three-month battle to protect my wellbeing, I wanted to share lessons intended to help readers steady their own teeter-totters. 

True Confession

When I became immersed in Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Small Businesses program the week of September 6th, I became a member of the overwhelmed club. I now know what it feels like when a seismic shift in routine upends mental, physical, and emotional stability. Meeting our clients’ needs while attending five hours of online classes and completing 15 hours of homework each week squeezed personal time to zero.

Having enrolled in the 15-week program with eyes wide open about relinquishing personal time, I thought this temporary dry spell would be easier to handle than it actually was. Therefore, I’m trading in the metaphor I’ve often used likening balance to the pleasing sounds of an orchestra for how an out-of-balance washing machine behaves—convulsing until it eventually stops, waiting for its contents to be rebalanced.

Now that the program finale is in sight (presenting my growth plan in NYC this week), I can honestly say the growth I’ve experienced made the personal sacrifice beyond worthwhile.

Step One: Self-Awareness

Health experts advise that awareness is an important first step in managing stress. Knowing that by year end my current load would be lighter was certainly a bright light at the end of a dark tunnel. Nonetheless, I was rightfully concerned about the long list of potential stress-induced effects that could affect my health: elevated blood pressure, headaches, sleepless nights, and more. Put your knowledge to work in monitoring your physicality and mood.

Step Two: Action

To prevent concern from churning into anxiety (another byproduct of stress), I shifted some perspectives and practices. I constantly looked for shortcuts to conserve time and energy.

  • Although meal planning is easier now that my empty nest no longer has children’s palates to consider, I’m a stickler about nutrition (a tool for coping with stress). So I tried to avoid too much takeout and packaged foods. Preparing large batches of easy-to-make dishes with extra servings to freeze is not a new concept, but it still works. There were many breakfast-as-dinner and grilled cheese/tomato soup evening meals. Parents, don’t feel guilty about mac and cheese with peas or veggie of choice tossed in.
  • Forcing myself to go to bed earlier required far more discipline than I realized (streaming services be damned). Yet when I was able to snag an extra hour, I was rewarded with renewed body and spirit.
  • Longer showers, extra walks (even 15-20 minutes is a game changer) helped a lot.

Step Three: Boundaries

I believe that the most effective strategy (and highly recommended) I used for managing stress is recognizing and honoring my capacity limits. I said “no” more often than I ever thought I would (or could). In addition to leaning heavily on my husband to take on more chores, I cut way down on just about everything (volunteer work, time with children/grandchildren, friends). None of these time-saving strategies felt good, because these are ways I show love and stay connected. But I rationalized my choices by acknowledging that they preserved my sanity and health so I could resume those activities in the near future for the long term.

Managing Change 

After December 16, I’ll breathe easier. However, I am painfully aware that often the responsibilities people shoulder might feel like a choice and come with stressful decisions. Whether to return to the office or continue working from home, or accepting “special projects” toward advancement that will take time away from family and the like. While choices bring uncertainties, I think primary issues of well-being and work/life balance are important, as an employee think through your situation. On the other side of the equation, employers concerned about retention and engagement share these same concerns.

The path to creating and maintaining a fulfilling, engaging work experience is dialog.

Employees: Be proactive. Let your employer know how you’re feeling and what is important to engage you in the work experience. Remember “boundaries” when assigned new projects and deadlines, keeping in mind that success is everyone’s goal.

Employers: Provide clear communications about the organization’s decision and expectations. It’s important to focus on:

  • why;
  • what’s required of the employee;
  • how it will affect the employee;
  • recognizing commitment with a tangible expression of appreciation;
  • and what outcome(s) is (are) expected.

What’s your plan for creating balance your balance in the office? We’re here to help…

As always, I love learning from you. Please drop me a note or give me a call 952-933-8365 to let me know how you and/or your team are working to create balance in the office. I truly enjoy connecting with each of you.

If you need outside resources to guide your connectivity and balance engagement with safety that will boost your employees’ experience, let’s start a conversation. You don’t have to go it alone.

*10,000 Small Businesses is a $500 million initiative that provides entrepreneurs who actively want to grow their businesses with educational resources, business advising and enhanced opportunities to access capital.