“You work from home? You’re so lucky!”
As entrepreneurs, we tend to hear this a lot.
Most 9-to-5ers envision entrepreneurial life as sleeping in past noon, then lounging around all day long munching on bon bons and daydreaming about some grand, unattainable goal we slyly call our 5 year plan.
Of course, we know better.
We know that most entrepreneurs are non-stop go-getters who’ll happily work around the clock in the pursuit of following their passions. Sure, entrepreneurs have the freedom to set their own schedules, but this freedom often leads to more hours on the clock, not ones of greater convenience.
Let’s face it: the life of an entrepreneur is no picnic. Yes, it’s empowering and fulfilling – and it’s usually a whole lot of fun! But it’s also tough, really tough. You’ve probably heard the saying, if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. It’s supposed to be inspiring, but it’s really just annoying – and false. Doing what you love is stressful. It’s stressful because we care so damn much.
We get burned out. We get so exhausted that we feel as though we can’t form a single coherent thought, let alone write an inspired one.
So what do we do to recharge and reclaim our inspiration?
Most of us have neither the luxury of time nor money to embark on an Eat, Pray, Love adventure of a lifetime. Heck, most days I don’t even have the two hours to spare to sit down and watch Julia Roberts do it for me.
The internet is flooded with cute illustrated lists and infographics about ways to take a break. I must admit that I tend to like these (at least the pretty ones!) But I usually find that most of the suggestions err on the side of fantasy.
For example, if I lay outside on a grassy hill and stared at the sky all day long, I’d probably see looming deadlines in the clouds, rather than hoppity bunny rabbits. It’s supposed to be therapeutic — I’d find it stressful!
And really, who actually flies a kite? Or finger paints? Or picks their own herbs then concocts them into a homemade aromatherapy brew that they then go on to sniff all day? Maybe Mr. Rogers or Beaver Cleaver, that’s who.
Easy, realistic ways to take a break, find inspiration, and boost creativity (each under two hours!)
1. Go to the library: The library is truly a magical place. Not only because it’s filled with the words of the greatest, most iconic writers and thinkers throughout history, but because there’s something so quaint and nostalgic about the tradition of borrowing and sharing old musty, dust-jacketed books. My daughters and I take weekly trips to our local library. Right now, we are currently on a mission to read through the 339 books referenced on Gilmore Girls, one of our all-time favorite shows.
2. Go to a bookstore: Yes, I’m giving this a separate category from going to the library. Why? Because bookstores have charming gifts and home goods like stationery, greeting cards, wrapping paper, scented candles, calendars, puzzles, board games, arts & crafts projects, stuffed animals, pretty pens, mugs and tableware, journals, sketch books and oodles more fun stuff to fawn over! Granted, not all bookstores are created equal. In fact, not all franchises of a chain of bookstores are created equal (the Barnes and Noble near my Upper West Side New York apartment made Disneyland seem like the Suckiest Place on Earth. It was 5 floors of a book lover’s paradise. In the winter, when it snowed, my daughters and I would literally spend the entire day there. We’d lounge on the oversized striped cushy chairs with our piles of books and our treats from the upper floor’s cafe, and we’d just read and talk and laugh and sip and munch, and watch the snow fall from the store’s gigantic windows; Conversely, the Barnes and Noble by our condo in San Diego really was the Suckiest Place on Earth — OK that’s an exaggeration. But the single floor, no cafe, no comfy chair unfortunate ugly cousin of the NYC store we’d grown accustomed to was such an enormous disappointment.) Moral of the story: If you’re fortunate enough to live near a great bookstore — whether it be a tiny, hole-in-the-wall independent one like Meg Ryan’s The Shop Around the Corner in You’ve Got Mail or a modern, dreamy, deluxe mega-chain — Tom Hank’s Fox Books — for goodness sakes visit it often!
3. Go garage sale-ing: You can find more than knick knacks and polly-wacks at garage sales — you can score real treasures. I’ve found everything from original Disney animated films on VHS (Cinderella, Lady and the Tramp, Snow White etc.) and first edition children’s books, to a vintage 1950s Singer sewing machine and a designer Grace Kelly-esque gown from the same era. As a storyteller, it’s fascinating to get an anthropological perspective by exploring other people’s stuff and imagining the stories behind each and every keepsake.
4. Have a picnic…in your own backyard: There’s nothing more idyllic than a good old-fashioned park picnic, complete with a red and white checkered blanket, a wicker basket and a twirl-worthy sundress. But if an outing of this nature is out of the question, recreate the sentiment in your own backyard. Dogs understand the beauty of being outside. Of course Ivy would prefer to folic at a park, but she also loves hanging out in her front yard and backyard, sunbathing belly to the sun, listening to the chirpy birds sing their songs, sniffing a gentle breeze, and watching passersby. One of the joys of living in Los Angeles is the weather. Many days, I’ll take my iced tea (unsweetened, extra lemon) and a handful of dark chocolate almond clusters and I’ll go outside and sit with Ivy on the lawn for a spell.
5. Bake a cheesecake: Like the Golden Girls, I truly believe that cheesecake makes everything better. I make mine with goat cheese and lemon I pluck from our neighbor’s tree. PS: Watching an episode of The Golden Girls can’t hurt, either! It’s one of Ivy’s favorite shows!
6. Watch an episode of Ally McBeal: There’s nothing like watching the life of a fictional character fall to pieces to make you feel better about your own. When I think train wreck, I think Ally McBeal. Indeed, after 45 minutes of watching Ms. McBeal fall victim to one misadventure after another, I count my blessings and feel a level of rejuvenation usually reserved for a weekend spa retreat.
7. Go to a diner: Some people find diners depressing and I get that. But they can also be more Luke’s Diner — the quaint neighborhood joint occupied daily by Gilmore Girls’ coffee-obsessed Lorelai and Rory — than early-bird special sad sack dive. I love my local diner. It’s a much more laid-back alternative to an uppity coffee shop. And since I prefer french toast to french press, a diner is the more logical choice.
8. Read a Dr. Seuss book: Dr. Seuss inspired my lifelong love affair with words. Reading a page or two of a whimsical Dr. Seuss tale is a great reminder that life should never be taken too seriously.
9. Go to the farmer’s market: I can make a meal out of the samples at a great farmer’s market. There’s something about free fruit on a tooth pick that really makes my day.
10. Walk your dog (or borrow someone else’s): KOTAW loves its canines! For those who don’t know, the KOTAW name and brand philosophy was based on the love story of two dogs. And I’m proud to call Ivy, my sweet red nose pittie, KOTAW’s Brand Ambassador. Ivy inspired my passion for using the KOTAW platform to advocate for all Pit Bulls. This year, Ivy opened her heart (and her home) to two new permanent KOTAW family members: she adopted a stray neighborhood cat (the sweetest kitten-cat girl in the whole wide world, who we call Doosis) and a 11-year-old sometimes-persnickety Poodle Doodle named Lucy, whom my daughters and I love with all of our hearts. Ivy inspires me to stay curious, love wholly and embrace all of life’s unexpected gifts. I believe that dogs (and some very special felines!) truly understand what life is all about and that us humans can learn so much from spending time with them. So I’ll leave you with this, a quote from one of my all-time favorite KOTAW articles: “If I get so caught up in chasing goals that I forget to savor the moments along the way, I visit a puppy who reminds me that moments are the only things that really matter.”
What are YOUR favorite ways to relax, unwind and reenergize? As a busy entrepreneur, business owner and/or passionate career person, how do you achieve work-life balance? Please share your tips and experiences in the comments section below!