Have you ever gotten a call in the middle of your day, only to find you couldn’t get back into your work afterward?
Or maybe a family member always gets home and wants your attention right when you’ve entered that miraculous state of ~flow~.
When you’re a solopreneur, oftentimes the only work that gets done is the work you do with your own two hands. And that means your ability to produce is one of your most important assets. Here are some methods and tools I use to keep my energy throughout the day and ensure I can bring my A-game (nearly) 100% of the time.
Get some sleep, kid
You can’t protect your energy if you don’t have energy to begin with.
The most impactful step I’ve taken in getting enough sleep is keeping a consistent bedtime. Even on weekends! Yes, sometimes it really sucks. My husband’s a night owl and I don’t love going to bed earlier than him. It makes me feel a bit like a granny. But then I remember that I kind of AM a granny (at heart), and I think about how much I love clear-headed mornings more than I care about lazy evenings. So I go to bed.
Tools I love:
- Fitbit Alta – In addition to tracking my steps and activity levels, it also tracks my sleep and gives me a detailed analysis every morning on how long I spent in different sleep stages. SO COOL.
- Brooklyn Bedding – My husband hasn’t slept well in a year and a half. So we finally got a new mattress and he’s doing much better. Now, a new mattress can be super expensive, and if that’s not in the cards right now there are still some great solutions to look into. A mattress topper can make a hard mattress feel new. If you feel like you’re sleeping in a bowl, slip some flat pillows under the mattress to recreate a flat surface. Oh shoot, was that flat thing your only pillow? Replace it with something like this. We worked these pillows into our Brooklyn Bedding deal and I slept SO WELL last night. You can remove some of the foam to adjust it to the height you like best!
- Headspace app – It’s a meditation app, which is great for clearing your head during the day… but also BEFORE SLEEP! The guy’s voice is so ridiculously calming that I’m usually nodding off within 10 minutes.
Keep a low-decision routine
There’s this effect called decision fatigue that essentially says that the more decisions we make, the worse each decision becomes. The brain gets tired.
A consistent morning routine can keep you focused on the decisions that actually need your attention—how to respond to a client email, for example, or what to post on your Facebook page.
My typical morning involves rolling out of bed and putting in my contacts. I make exactly 2 pieces of toast (or sometimes a bagel when I’m feeling edgy) and my coffee. Then I amble up to my workspace and munch away as I take stock of the day’s to-dos. By the time the bread’s gone (a sad moment), I’m fully awake and ready to dive into my work.
Tools I love:
- Food for Life’s Ezekiel 4:9 Bread – It’s a super-healthy bread that’s in the frozen section. It’s got a nuttier flavor that takes you by surprise, but it’s great with butter. I always feel like such a healthy, responsible adult when I eat this. I rotate it with Dave’s Killer Bread. And, you know, bagels, because life’s too short to not eat bagels.
- Alternative Apparel and PACT – I do my best work in comfy clothes I don’t need to stress about. Both of these brands have a focus on producing ethical, eco-conscious apparel, and they’ve got some really solid basics.
Exercise when you get tired
If I hit a slump, sometimes it simply means I’ve been in one place for too long. Three times a week I do a short (like pathetically short, guys) kettlebell workout right before lunch. Other days, I’ll pace around the house like a lunatic—but at least I’m getting my steps in!
If I’ve had a particularly stressful day, a walk around the neighborhood with a good podcast in my ears settles my brain.
Tools I love:
- Kettlebells – They’re way more fun than running. I mean, everything’s more fun than running in my opinion, but you get my point. Plus, Tim Ferriss says you only need to do 75 kettlebell swings twice a week to stay fit. Granted, he’s swinging 53 lbs., and I’m swinging 15… but it’s a process, right?
- Being Boss Podcast – Because if you’re not listening to Emily Thompson and Kathleen Shannon, who the heck are you listening to?
Set proper expectations with family AND clients
Personally, I try to schedule all client calls rather than letting my clients keep me on speed dial. This makes the experience better for both of us—I can keep control of my schedule, and my clients know that our conversations will always be highly focused and valuable to their business.
As for family, I’ve worked out of my parents’ house (back when I was a new grad), and now I work with a husband who has a partially remote job, so he’s around the house most of the time. It was much harder living with my parents, who worked different hours than me and (totally understandably) wanted to spend time together when I was home. Now, my husband Rick and I have a system—he knocks on my door to check if I’m a client call before coming in, and since his workspace is in the living room, I move quietly when I’m rummaging in the kitchen for snacks. Easier said than done. Chip bags somehow become extra loud when you’re trying to be quiet. Sorry, husband.
Obviously, I can only speak to my experience. I don’t have kids. If you have kids, do what you have to do. There are tons of self-employed moms who can offer far better advice than I possibly could.
Tools I love:
- Skype – Instead of interrupting each other for non-work stuff, oftentimes my man and I just type messages to each other over Skype. It’s a LITTLE silly when we can technically hear each other, but it’s way less intrusive than shouting across the house.
- Grasshopper – It’s a phone number service for entrepreneurs. I haven’t signed up myself (yet), but it looks awesome—you could set up a business number that you can conduct all client calls on, along with a professional voicemail so you can respond to unexpected calls at your leisure.
Don’t argue on social media
At least, not during the work day. I’m a very thorough debater, personally—if I oppose you in a Facebook argument, you can bet I’ll be researching for at LEAST an hour to ensure I have a rock-solid stance. I actually consider it my duty; there are enough ill-informed folks arguing based on whatever memes they happened to be exposed to that day. But I digress…
The point is, your work hours are for work. A bad conflict online can throw off your whole day. It’s just not worth it. If you want to influence people with your politics, there are far better ways to do it.
Tools I love:
- Daily Stoic – Stoicism could be summed up in that famous prayer, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Stoicism is considered the most practical, real-world branch of philosophy. I’m a total newbie student of the world of Stoicism, but I’ve subscribed to Daily Stoic for bits of guidance in my email every morning.
- The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck – This link goes to the article by Mark Manson that eventually inspired his book of the same name. It details the idea that we have limited number of fucks to give, so you’d better pay attention to where you’re giving them.
- And by the way, I know I normally star out “bad” words… But we’re adults, and I promise it’ll be okay.
Protect your energy AFTER work
The part that most solopreneurs forget is how to manage their day after the work’s done.
Specifically, a lot of you guys just decide the work’s never done and you keep going. And you know, there’s definitely a time for that—being self-employed means that sometimes you have to hustle toward your goals. However, hustling always has to have an end point, and when you reach it, you go back to something more sustainable.
After a hard day of work, I like to veg for a bit before engaging in anything else. This means at least half an hour of judgement-free scrolling through social media on my phone, reading a chapter of whatever fiction I’m working on, or taking way too many pictures of our dog.
If I’ve had a lighter day, on the other, I actually like to “wind down” by being more active. Doing a bit of yard work, going for a walk, or cleaning the house clears out my head and allows me to focus fully on whatever I want to do in the evening.
Because here’s the thing—after winding down and eating dinner with the man, I actually love to keep working. However, I’ve found that when I focus too much on one thing (i.e. my business), I wind up feeling empty and start questioning the meaning of life. They say that variety is the spice of life, so instead of heading back to my work, I’ve been devoting some time to side projects. Art, piano, studying Japanese—if I’m in a work-y mood after dinner, I channel it into activities that make me feel well-rounded and like a whole human being.
Tools I love:
- Youtube – For dog videos, yes (like this one), but also for continuing to develop my interests. I follow a few artists whose work never fails to make me want to get out my sketchbook.
- Home Depot? Can I say that? Is that a tool? I’m on a massive yard work kick and I feel like a total badass buying equipment I need like watering systems and these things called loppers for trimming shrubs. I used to be super intimidated by what I viewed as a heavily male-oriented space, but then I just owned it and realized that there are actually a bunch of women who are taking control of the physical spaces too through Home Depot’s products. It makes me very happy.
Alright, that’s it for today folks. But before you go, I want to know: How do you protect YOUR energy? Let me know in the comments!