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You don’t work for Henry Ford

“Can I start work at 1pm?” a client asked me recently.  Entrepreneurs are blessed with the flexibility to choose our own schedule.  Work 10 hours one day and then take the next day off.  No one is watching.  Who cares?  As long as we meet the needs of our clients and customers, there is nothing holding us back.

Or is there?

The 9-5 Monday through Friday schedule was designed in 1914 by Henry Ford.  He discovered that an eight hour work day, which had been a concept for years but never guaranteed by any employer, was the optimal work period.  He saw production go up, and the weekend time off mentally and emotionally benefitting his workers.

Study after study has shown that at least one day off a week is necessary for mental health.  Even zoo animals need time away from their visitors in order to stay healthy.  In this video I describe just how you can harness your freedom by making your own work schedule.

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How to be a Badass Business Woman with Depression

Many women who deal with mental health conditions like Depression or Anxiety find it necessary to leave their jobs in exchange for the control of Entrepreneurship.  It is extremely difficult to work a strict schedule and in specified circumstances when mental health is a factor.  I, myself, have PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) and PMDD (pre-menstrual depressive disorder), and would likely find it impossible to productively work for an employer ever again.  With my own business, I can allow myself my Down Days without self loathing, and then make up for them when I am feeling better.

I’ve built a lot of systems for working around my own mental health.  I even teach a workshop called Self Care for Entrepreneurs.  Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way.

The Rule Of Three

When I’m down, it’s like pulling teeth to work any sort of productivity out of myself.  But the world is still turning, and clients or customers may need things from you.  I find that reducing my own expectations of myself to baby steps helps me still get something done.

This is what I call The Rule Of Three.  If I wake up bumming, I coax myself into choosing three things to accomplish that day.  Just three goals.  They could be as simple as order business cards, apply to a speaking event, and follow up with a client.  Often I find that I’ll end up doing more than three, simply because there were adjacent tasks at hand.  But if not, I still accomplished my goal of three items and that can feel like moving a mountain on Down Days.

The 24 Hour Rule

I love this rule.  I teach it to everyone I can.  The 24 Hour Rule is releasing yourself from responding to any messages (email, instant message, or phone calls) for twenty-four hours.  This is a good rule for simply staying sane at work.  It helps ensure a level-headed response when heated messages come your way.  It also relieves me of the impulse to clear my inbox throughout the day instead of check emails only twice — morning and afternoon.

When down, keeping up with messages can be exhausting.  Since I always practice The 24 Hour Rule, I already feel comfortable ignoring much of what comes through during the day.

The only messages I do respond to are emails marked Urgent from clients or employees.  Usually my team can handle it, but they may still need guidance.  I offer what I can so the issue doesn’t get hung up on me, and then release myself from the task of completely clearing the rest of my inbox.

Self Care

What self care have you done today?  Any?  It’s so easy to do a self care routine when we’re not down, but when the feels hit, things get really hard.  The last time I was down I thought to myself, “I haven’t even showered…  but did I even try?”  I was beating myself up for not even having had taken a shower, but I also hadn’t tried!  This is the way the depressed mind works.

I write down my morning routine so I can’t ignore it.  It gives me something to point to and say, “Ok, this is what I try to do every day — so let’s try.”  I coax myself into doing yoga, even if all I actually do is child’s pose; to take a shower, even if it doesn’t happen until mid-afternoon; and make myself some tea.

I also try to listen.  I texted a friend one time and simply said I was in a funk.  He replied, “Have you tried meditating?”  Well, no, ’cause I’m depressed and the couch is my best friend.  But he’s right.  Meditation is part of my self care routine and I totally skipped it.  So I got upright (but still on the couch) and meditated.  The Universe will try to talk to you through others to coax you back to good, but you have to listen.

Who’s In Your Corner?

It’s taken me years to build a compassionate and safe friend group, and another few years to allow myself to feel vulnerable enough to reach out to them when I’m down.  Yet, as you saw above, they are so helpful!

Even if you’re not ready to post to Facebook requesting backup, try texting your best friend, partner, or someone else you trust.  As you read, the response may be simple, but it also might be the thing the Universe is trying to tell you.

Recently I simply posted “No energy — bring food.”  Guess what?  Three separate friends stopped by with food!  Again, my friends are very understanding, many of them also having experienced mental health conditions, so I felt safe doing this.  Even though I know my friends are compassionate, I was floored by their generosity.  Another prime example of how silly depressed brains can be (because of course I would do the same when I feel good!!!).

What Do You Love?

I know that when I’m really down, I want to read.  I also read to wind down for the day, and to help me fall asleep at night.  Reading is as important to me as breathing — which is why my bookshelves are overflowing and I have a Little Free Library in my front yard so I can cycle books faster.

When I’m down but I want to get something done, I read one of the business books that is waiting for me.  That way I’m still educating myself about growing my business and good business practices for my clients, but I’m doing something that is comforting to my brain.  These books are on my ‘to do’ list anyway, so I actually am accomplishing something for my business, just not quite what I had meant to that day.

Start with this brain dump:  What do you love to do, and how can you integrate it into your business day today?  Maybe being outside helps your depressed brain.  Can you work on your business outside?  Bring your laptop out, or a book, or your mind map?  Could you write the next chapter of your book outside?  Maybe going for a walk helps you.  Steve Jobs would go for walks to come up with new ideas for Apple.  Can you bring a notepad and jot notes as you walk?  What else makes you feel good?  Get creative about integrating it into your work day.

Above all, forgive yourself.  Forgive your brain.  It is doing the best it can, and you will feel better, soon.

Need managing your depression, PTSD, ADHD, or anxiety as a business leader?  Get on my calendar!

Why I Always Change Into Yoga Pants After Work

I admit it.  Sometimes I wear yoga pants to work, too.

Yes, I practice yoga.  But not at the end of the day after I’ve been working.  I do yoga in the morning to wake my body and prepare for a busy day of doing what I love.  It level sets me so I can be mentally present for my clients and serve them as best I can.

When you’re doing what you love, it can be hard to stop at the end of the day.  But you must!  Otherwise what you love will soon be what you hate.  You’ll find yourself mentally exhausted, antsy, and displaying avoidance behavior, even though you love your work.

Yoga pants are a symbol for me.  In donning them, my mind automatically switches into ‘lounge mode’.  I no longer feel like I need to be on point and focused.  I can go for a walk in comfort, garden, cook, sit in funny positions, and whatever else strikes my fancy.  My yoga pants create the mental space to just be me.

I’m not suggesting you do the same if it doesn’t fit your personality — although, I do suggest you find a similar practice.  How might you punctuate the end of your busy day so you can wind down and relax?  In the past I’ve used evening showers, going for a walk, or meditation to cool my jets and tell my mind it’s time to stop working.

This does have a caveat.  You see, when you love what you do, you’re likely to be inspired by just about anything in your life.  Though your evenings and weekends should be ‘non-work time’, it’s important to leave space for that inspiration.  However, there’s a difference in reacting to that inspiration.  During work hours it’s appropriate to follow the rabbit hole to see where it leads.  But when you’re at home, whether alone, with your partner, children, or friends, it’s important to stay present.

Create a system for capturing the inspiration and ideas that come your way.  Write them down, put them in Evernote or another app, or leave yourself a voice memo.  Whatever you need to do to have the peace of mind that the idea is secure.  Then, return to your evening.

Want help creating a badass work / life balance?  Get on my calendar!