You pour all of your blood, sweat, tears, and sanity into your business. Your dedication is admirable. You worked hard to build your company, so it only makes sense that you’d continue to invest in it wholeheartedly—even in those moments when you’d rather be doing anything else.
But, here’s an encouraging sentiment: You may absolutely love your business, but that doesn’t mean you need to love being a business owner 100% of the time. Entrepreneurship is no easy gig, and it usually involves cringe-worthy tasks, late nights, weekends and vacations spent working, and more missed soccer games or dance recitals than you’d even care to admit.
Having any complaints about being an entrepreneur is usually enough to inspire a hefty dose of shame. However, rest assured that your feelings are completely normal and relatable.
As a small business owner, it’s important for you to have strategies, tactics, and mental frameworks that provide the basis of your decision-making and help you consistently make all sorts of important choices—particularly in those moments when you’re feeling stretched a little too thin by the demands of your business.
The Overjustification Effect: More Money, More Problems
When you introduce the factor of needing to get paid to do something, it understandably shifts the entire dynamic—that’s what separates your hobbies from your work. Expectation of payment changes your business from a passion to an obligation, and as a result, you might just love it a little less.
Does that make you a half-hearted entrepreneur? No, it’s human nature—as evidenced by something called the overjustification effect. Getting paid to do what you love switches your motivation to be externally focused (meaning it comes from money and other rewards) rather than from your own internal feelings of enjoyment.
Yes, your business is rooted in passion. You found a problem that had to be solved, a market that was underserved, or a need that had to be met—and your business was born.
But, that passion aside, there’s still a lot of less-than-glamorous stuff involved in keeping things running. Whether you hate managing your inventory or dread dealing with the inevitable customer complaints, not every aspect of running your business is the stuff that entrepreneurs’ dreams are made of.
On top of that, pressure is another unavoidable thing you need to deal with. You’re the owner of this business, and the weight of making it a success (and earning money!) lies solely on your shoulders. These things aren’t fun, but they’re the realistic side of running your own business.
So, in short, don’t feel guilty in those moments when you’re dreading rolling up your sleeves and getting to work—it’s perfectly normal.
Enjoy the Journey: Your Destination is Always Changing
Being an entrepreneur can often feel like a constant upward climb. You dig your heels in and continue to trudge your way up the side of that mountain.
For many of us, there’s a specific milestone or goal that’s perched atop the crest. Maybe you want to achieve a certain dollar amount. Or, perhaps you’re eager to bring another employee onto your team.
Setting goals in your business is key—it’s what keeps you and your employees moving in the right direction. So, you should absolutely continue to establish objectives.
But, here’s the important thing to remember: You shouldn’t treat those goals as the finish line you need to cross before you ever allow yourself to take a step back.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you need to keep running yourself ragged until you reach that supposed end—because that’s the only point when you can finally take a breath and find some better equilibrium between your work and personal life.
However, here’s the big problem with that approach: Your business is always evolving, which means that as soon as you reach that elusive goal, another one will likely slide in and take its place. Now instead of $1 million in revenue, you want to reach $2 million—and so on and so forth.
So, instead of waiting to reach that entrepreneurial promised land that you assume comes when you finally achieve that major milestone, it’s better to focus on maintaining adequate work-life equilibrium right now—regardless of what else is on your plate.
Forget the Balancing Act: Create Work-Life Equilibrium
You’ve probably heard all of the chatter about the importance of work-life balance. But, let’s replace that phrase with work-life equilibrium.
The concept of balance seems sensible at first. But, your business and your life aren’t two static entities. There will be days when your work requires more attention, and then there will be days when you need to drop everything and attend to family matters. Striving for the same perfect balance between the two day after day will likely only add more stress.
If you want to create better equilibrium for yourself, it all starts with some awareness of your current habits.
Have you heard of Parkinson’s Law? There’s a lot of theory behind it, but the concept is this: Your work expands to fill the amount of time available. So, if you dedicate 60 hours per week to your business, you’re always going to find enough work to fill those 60 hours.
Setting positive constraints for yourself will be your saving grace here. As a business owner, the word “constraints” likely has a negative connotation—that any sort of rigid rules will limit your ability to “think outside of the box”. However, these constraints usually have the opposite effect.
“They give us structure, forcing us to think more clearly around something specific,” says business author, Stephen Shapiro, in his blog post on constraints, “But it also sets a tone for what we need to get done. If I’m committing to completing certain things every day, and I can do those activities consistently, that’s very valuable.”
Go through the process of setting some non-negotiable positive constraints for yourself—whether that means taking a break to have lunch with your employees every Wednesday or vowing to leave work by 6PM each day. These expectations will give you much greater clarity. And, before long, you’ll begin to fall into better habits and find an equilibrium that works for you.
So many small business owners feel a level of shame when they step away from their work—like they’re not giving their company the time, energy, and effort it requires.
“I love what I do!” you tell yourself as you spend yet another late night blurry-eyed and exhausted in your office. Having that passion for your work is admirable. But, that passion won’t change the fact that running your own business is just plain tough at times.
In those moments when you feel frustrated or stuck—and then eventually guilty for feeling that way at all? Rely on these three mental frameworks to get you through. And, remember, you aren’t the only entrepreneur to ever feel that way.