Many of us know what the “law of diminishing returns” is, but we forget about this once we start a business. For those that have forgotten…the law of diminishing returns is when we eventually reach a point that additional work will not create a better outcome, or you become less efficient. For many of us that are entrepreneurs, this occurs often without us even realizing it. …if we work one more hour, take one more client call, finish one more project – we believe we are helping our business. This is when we hit diminishing returns. We aren’t as fresh, we aren’t as visionary, and many times can create stress to those around us because of it.
It took me many years to realize that I have to take time out for myself and not compromise personal time in order for my business to be as successful as possible. When I started my business, my minimum day was on average 12-14 hours long. If I allowed it, I could have probably had a day that never ended… but, did that really help? Could it not have waited for the next day so I could be fresher?
Don’t get me wrong, I still work a lot of hours (having a global job creates long hours by its nature) and have a good deal of travel, but I balance it. I do that by blocking out time in my calendar each day that I do not compromise for anything else. It may be really early in the morning, late at night or maybe just 30 minutes, but I commit to it. That time for me is to either exercise, paint or play guitar. I actually get some of my best ideas when I step back from what I am doing and completely change gears – for some reason, problems get solved in my head without me planning it or I come up with ideas that I wouldn’t had thought of if I had not taken that time away from work.
I have found that this is necessary for me to be the best version of myself with my family, in business and with people I work with. It helps me remain creative and clear headed. This is being gentle with yourself. This may seem strange to be gentle with yourself as a business owner because most of us are really hard on ourselves. That’s exactly why I call it being gentle – it is what we need to be whole, not necessarily what comes natural. We strive to succeed and its never enough. There always could be more success and new opportunities around the corner. But, we often do not step back in our day and appreciate what we have accomplished and the gifts we have within.
Working should not be the end all and be all – it can stagnate or burn you out, as well as those around you if you are not taking time away from it. Being gentle is not a weakness, it can actually allow you to achieve more. I got to that point of burn out when I didn’t take time for myself to commit to something besides my business. If you don’t immediately know what activity would be of interest to you – try thinking back to your high school or college years – what hobbies did you have that you really enjoyed that you could recreate as an adult? If you are not much of an athlete anymore – but enjoy the sport still – can you coach or mentor children in that sport? If you have children or a good friend, commit to an activity with them so that you have a “buddy” that keeps you accountable. There is always a way. I had not painted in years – My first step was making the commitment to start again – I went into Michaels and bought the paint and the canvas. Step two was blocking my calendar and just jumping in! I always wanted to play in a rock band – so instead of always saying that I missed that opportunity younger – I signed up for guitar lessons with my son and got started. Taking the first step and making the commitment to do it is key.
Finding a passion outside of your business can provide you time to clear your mind so that you can step back from the business and ensure you are focusing on the right things or new initiatives. There are days when this can be hard to do – really committing to it and taking the time dedicated to do it each day can be challenging. There are days where you block the time and don’t feel like doing it. Do it anyway. Just like you wouldn’t pass up a sales call for your business, you can not cancel the important things that feed you. There are many days I don’t feel like running, but I do it anyway, and the majority of time I am happy that I made myself so I could feel great as I took on my day.
When you were a child, you went out and tried new things without a second thought. Try bringing that back into your daily life as an adult and see what impact it can make on not only your business, but your state of mind. Its a commitment to yourself. It will prevent you from getting to the point of diminishing returns and allow you to create space for new ideas and innovation. Taking the first step and blocking time on your calendar to get started will go a long way – from there, it takes on a life of its own. It will benefit you, not only with your business, but with those around you.
Amy Vetter, CPA.CITP, CGMA is the Global VP of Education and US Head of Accounting for Xero where she is responsible for the execution of the education strategy for accounting partners and customers worldwide. Amy previously owned AV Accounting Services, Inc. and was a Partner in a regional CPA Firm. She is a registered yoga instructor and owner of Drishtiq Yoga studio in Mason, OH. Amy writes for many accountant and small business publications, and has a blog on wellness and business at https://thedrishtiqcpa.blogspot.com/
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