I am sitting down to write this article the weekend before it’s due.
Not because I forgot about it or because I’ve been “too busy” to focus on it, but because one of the many lessons I’ve learned from my self-care discovery this year is that I do well with deadlines.
Pending deadlines used to worry me, I’d spend weeks and weeks thinking about things I didn’t need to do yet, only to complete them on time.
This lesson came to me when I was sitting in my therapist’s office telling her how many presentations I’d written the night before the deadline, or in the extreme case that there was no deadline, the night before the speaking engagement.
She smiled and said, “but that’s how you work best, stop worrying about it.”
And with that, I realized I could grant myself permission to meet my deadlines without feeling guilty that I didn’t beat my deadlines.
This is one of the many lessons I’ve allowed myself to learn since opening my agency back in 2017.
I had broken my leg, my role has been “eliminated” from the agency I worked at, and in the midst of it all, opened a business from my bed.
I was learning how to become an agency owner while learning how to walk again.
The very fear of failure that had always prevented me from opening my own business became the fear of not being able to provide for my family.
I look back at the events and the chaos of that year with an immense sense of gratitude. My injury served as a catalyst for every client I serve today.
This year, I’ve finally been able to look back and recognize how much stress and anxiety I endured as a result.
Agency ownership is the job I’ve always wanted, and it took an immense amount of hard work. I now have an amazing team and clients across the globe and I am thankful for each and every one of them.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that my learning curve was steep.
Before I was able to start hiring my team, if I was awake, I was working. If I was asleep, I was waking up in the middle of the night thinking about deadlines.
All of this took a toll on my physical and mental well-being. Hindsight is always 20:20 and stopping to think about this journey has given me the chance to consider some of the lessons I’ve learned along the way.
It Takes a Village
I have always found the SEO community to be abundant with friendship, kindness, transparency, help, and knowledge.
There are conferences I attend annually because the camaraderie feels like a reunion.
I’ve found myself my very own “Twitter-village” of friends, peers, and mentors, and we keep in touch between conferences and events.
We’re there for each other if someone needs advice on a strategy or a friend to turn to.
Twitter has become my social network of choice.
Another way I’ve created a village is by bringing #SEOBeersKC to life. If #SEOBeers isn’t active in your city yet, I’d recommend making it happen.
I can’t take credit for this idea, it’s all Matt Lacuesta, and through this, I’ve made some friends and connections.
I Found a Mechanism for Accountability
Twice a month, I meet with the Agency Owner’s Accountability group that I was invited to.
Some of the group have physical offices, other teams are fully remote, just like mine.
The person who put this group together framed this as being each other’s “Board of Directors” and we hold each other accountable with business and personal goals.
We also have a framework for asking each other questions about strategy. Or if we like our accountant. Or which software works well for a specific goal.
From the outside, we could be seen as competitors, but that’s not what this is about. Our support for one another has lead to growth for everyone that partakes in our meetings.
I Learned What to Delegate
This is the year that my team really took shape.
Massive kudos to them for keeping up with my pace, and keeping me in check.
I learned where my time and energy was best spent.
This was hard for me, but ultimately, I really enjoy strategy and I have a team that can execute it.
In August, I took my youngest daughter to England to visit my family.
For the first time since I opened my business, I was able to step away from the office for 10 days and it was business-as-usual for our clients.
The entire trip felt like a massive trust-fall, and my team didn’t let me down.
I Found Self-Care Regimens That Work for Me
This is probably the biggest thing I needed to learn, and the hardest lesson for me to accept.
It is probably the thing that I needed to pay attention to the most, and still struggle with.
When I was struggling the most with work-life balance, the thing I needed to do was invest my time here.
Until recently, I struggled to place any value in self-care.
My mind races to the next thing on my to-do list.
I’d prioritize client work or requests from other people and assume there’d be time for me later.
Later never came, until I stopped to create it.
I was rarely able to be fully present, walk away from my phone or stop.
As I’ve found ways to “fill my cup,” I have been able to set boundaries to prevent myself from working evenings and weekends. Most notably, I’ve stopped feeling guilty about taking time for me.
So, how did I find a self-care ritual for myself?
Pottery came first. One night a week my hands were on a wheel of clay. If I wanted to touch my phone to check a tweet or an email, I would have to balance that with cleaning my clay-covered hands.
I tapped into a creative outlet that didn’t need WiFi.
As much as I love this newfound creativity, I ran out of room for all my new plates, cups, and bowls and took a break from this hobby but I know it’s there if ever I want it.
Therapy plays a role, too.
I found a therapist I can relate to. I also found a hypnotherapist that helps me meet goals that I’m struggling with.
I find that hypnotherapy gives me 30-60 minutes of the deepest relaxation I have ever known. When I wake from the short rest, I can breathe deeper, think clearer, and meet goals that I’ve set for myself.
There’s a physical element to self-care, too.
I see a tonal chiropractor to help me try and minimize stress and anxiety. This isn’t the bone-cracking quick adjustment I’ve experienced from other chiropractors.
He specializes in slow movements of the body during a 30-minute session in a meditative environment. He has helped me reduce the symptoms of chronic inflammation from my leg injury, which ended up presenting as severe stress and anxiety.
I’m learning French.
I’d long wanted to learn a third language (English and Hebrew are the first two). I’m using the Duolingo app and I’m almost at a three-month streak.
This had a two-fold effect.
First of all, I am achieving something I’d be thinking about doing for years. The added benefit is rather than mindlessly scrolling through a black-hole of social media, I put the Duolingo app in the space Facebook used to occupy.
There was a muscle memory that happened at first. Swipe, swipe, click… and my language study was open. Now the 10 to 15 minutes I spend on this a day has become a welcome activity as I transition between tasks.
Have I Found the Secret to the Perfect Work-Life Balance?
The lessons and tools I’ve outlined here have helped me find a sense of balance.
Each of these has been a valuable piece of the agency ownership journey I’ve embarked on, and if I’m being completely honest, there are many ways I can improve my work-life balance further.
My biggest tools in finding this balance are the permissions to do seek balance itself, the willingness to try something new, and the friends to turn to on the days when everything feels like it’s a little too much.