The hustle. It’s part of every entrepreneurial story, mine included. Long hours, little sleep, no social life—yeah, I’ve been there.
I can recount 80-hour workweeks and working through vacations. I could tell of the months working all day as a teacher, then coming home to build my business for a couple of hours every night. I could describe the difficulty of helping build a national publication for a worldwide brand while completing my master’s degree—oh yeah, and growing a human. I was pregnant at the time.
I remember one night four years back. It was 11 p.m. on a Saturday night, and I was six months pregnant with my daughter. I’d been planning an awards ceremony and was putting the final touches on the trophies. As I sat on the floor, with trophies covering my coffee table and packing paper littering the floor, I felt a sense of both pride and conflict: I’m working hard. This is a good thing, right?
Man, was I tired. Straight up exhausted. I had little time for fun, and even when I traveled for enjoyment, it was hard for me to fully engage because I had so much on my plate.
If I’m being really transparent, I was pretty proud of the way I hustled. I might have even glorified it a bit, at least in my own head.
But now that I’m a little older and wiser, I’m finding out something important about myself: I do better work when I rest. Being in nature, spending time with my family and friends, running—these are important ways I disconnect from work, reconnect with the world, and recharge for the week ahead.
Probably the most important shift for me was the decision to stop working weekends. I made that choice shortly after my daughter was born and my husband decided to stay home with her. You see, we’d been running ourselves to the ground for the first five months of our baby’s life. I remember thinking, This is crazy. Why are we living like this?
I was exhausted, overwhelmed, and missing crucial recharge time each week. Most weeks, I would work all seven days, though “just” half days on the weekends, with little sleep thanks to our newborn. I was training for a half marathon amidst the craziness (which I think was my way of proving to myself that I could still handle it all). I needed to rest.
One day about three years ago, I told my husband, “I’m not going to work weekends anymore. And I’m going to stop responding to e-mails late at night.”
This felt like a bold move. I prided myself in my ability to hustle. I liked being known as the person who would respond right away and get things done quicker than most. Making this shift meant that I needed to reeducate existing clients and differently educate new clients. It meant people had to value me differently . . . and what if they didn’t?
Shortly after, I sent e-mails to my current clients, letting them know of shifts in how I’d be working. I gave them contact information for urgent matters and let them know that I wouldn’t be checking e-mail frequently during the weekends and would be trying to avoid working on those days, too.
That was a risk. I worried clients would be off-put, my income would drop, and I’d somehow lose my edge.
But guess what? None of that happened. In fact, quite the opposite: My income has grown substantially. Nearly every Monday, I’m refreshed and excited to jump back into work. Even though I haven’t been in my office during the weekend, I spend a lot of time thinking about my clients and work, so freeing up the space to think has been huge. I’ve also become even more productive, with increased creative energy.
Frankly, I’m just an all-around better entrepreneur, wife, mom, and friend.
Now, a few years later, I’m still going strong on not working weekends. Of course, once in a while, I do need to burn the weekend oil, but I’ve mostly been able to stick to my work-free weekend policy.
The hustle isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I can work hard without working all the time. I can commit to my work without letting work take over my life. Sure, the hustle was necessary for a while. But it served its role. I had to come to a place where I stopped glorifying the hustle.
How about you? What stage of hustle are you in? I’d love to hear your story.