If It Hurts, Stop Listening

Let us imagine that you have or are growing a business.

Let us further imagine that it takes up a considerable amount of your time.

Now let us last imagine that there are lots of people out there telling you how you should be spending that time.

Not too difficult to imagine so far, right?

If you read – and clearly, you do – you’ll know that there are a lot of people in the world trying to tell you what to do.

If you read about small business – or productivity, or finance, or health and wellness – you’ll know there are a LOT of people in the world trying to tell you what to do.

There are a lot of things that the experts will tell you need to be done.

There are some things you kind of have to do. Get your marketing calendar organized, for example. Change your oil. Brush your teeth.

There are some things that some people have to do if they’re looking to achieve a certain result. If you want to get dates, you should probably bathe, for instance.

There are still other things that, if you’re looking for me to tell you how I like to do it, I’ll do so, but your mileage may vary. I get my customers and clients through writing this blog and The Letter, but I’m not going to tell you that you need to do that. If you’re a misanthropist who can’t write your way out of a wet paper bag, I’m hardly going to tell you that your “pillar content” has to be “epic” and “engaging” for your “community”.

One of the things that has been coming up in my reading and teaching lately is the idea of balance.

You need to balance work and the rest of your life.

You must spend lots of time on radical self care.

You need to get eight hours of sleep a night no matter what else has to slide.

These are business experts saying this stuff. I’m not getting this from Oprah, I’m getting it from business blogs.

I will spend a lot of time telling you what you might want to do with your business, yes. That’s why you’re here, and that’s what you signed up for. I’ll talk about how you should email your list, or how to double your revenue or how to manage your objectives so you don’t sabotage your business.

What I will NOT tell you is how to spend your leisure time.

How you spend the time you are not working on your ittybiz is not my concern, not my purview, and none of my business.

But a lot of business experts seem to think that it IS their business. They seem to think that because they know how to write great advertising copy, they know what’s best for you and the rest of your life.

This peeves me.

As the owner of a small company, I am often told that I should, for example, wake up earlier. That I should close the office door at six. That I should never answer emails in bed.

I’m sure you’re told these things as well.

Take time EACH DAY to work on your hobbies.

Take a day off EVERY WEEK to nourish your soul.

Take baths! (It’s always baths, never showers. Obviously, if you don’t have a bathtub, you will never succeed in business. Oh, and they must be hot baths, with bubbles. If you have a skin condition or you overheat easily, you should probably just go ahead and cancel your merchant account now.)

Read a novel. (Sorry if you prefer watching documentaries.)

Oh, and stop watching Lost.

Basically, it seems like there is a way that The Liberal, Educated Brahmin Elite likes to schedule their work and their play.

If you don’t do it just like they do, or, God help you, if you don’t LIKE the way they do things, you are injuring yourself and ruining your future.

As I said, this peeves me.

I have had several students literally crying lately because they feel like they’re not doing “it” right. They know they should be taking time to relax, they know they should be scheduling some time off, but they’re in a big situation and they feel like they just don’t have the time.

I really don’t like it when self-proclaimed business gurus make my people feel like crap about themselves.

So, if you might be having a bit of a balance conundrum, may I give you my perspective?

Microbalance vs. Macrobalance

Jamie likes to balance his activities most days. He likes to be well-rounded. (He’s a Libra. Hippies, try to contain your shock.)

He spends a couple hours on schoolwork, an hour on the phone with a friend, 20 minutes puttering, a couple hours on work stuff. He watches a lot of TV, plays a lot of video games, paints a lot of miniature models, and gets a lot of work done.

He takes the same length shower at the same time every morning.

Fantastic.

I like, well, not that. I like total immersion. I like to lose myself in things for weeks or months at a time. (I’m a Pisces. Hippies, ditto.)

I do have hobbies. Kind of. I write a book start to finish, non-stop, and then spend three weeks hooking a rug. I spend 18 weeks teaching a class and then spend as much time as I can get away with engaging in scandalous behavior in Las Vegas.

I don’t shower for six days and then I spend six hours in the bathroom exfoliating and buttering myself to a surface texture of melamine.

Also fantastic.

If you spend four hours working hard, and four hours kinda working, and four hours playing, that’s a balance.

If you spend four months working hard, and four months kind of working, and four months playing, that’s also a balance.

Microbalance.

Macrobalance.

Different strokes for different folks.

If you’re in the microbalance camp, the Four Hour Workweek concept of mini-retirement is going to sound absurd. Impractical, unfeasible, and frankly, undesirable.

If you’re in the macrobalance camp, stopping at six to read a nice novel is going to sound absurd. Boring, counterintuitive, and frankly, dangerous.

And if you’re in startup or turnaround, both are going to feel like suicide.

Yes, you need balance.

You can’t just work until you die.

But YOU get to choose what balance works for you.

If I tell you to spend a week in Vegas doing unmentionable things, there’s a pretty good chance that won’t work for you.

If Jamie tells you to spend an hour a night painting Lord of the Rings figurines, there’s a pretty good chance that won’t work for you either.

I don’t know you. Jamie doesn’t know you. We don’t know what you’re like, what your life is like, what your resources are like.

So my advice on balancing your life?

Trust yourself.

And the guru with the fabulous life telling you that you’re doing it all wrong?

They don’t know you either.

Sometimes listening to expert advice can make you uncomfortable.

But advice shouldn’t make you HURT.

If it hurts, stop listening.

About the author: Naomi Dunford started IttyBiz in 2006. In her free time, she likes to… ha! Free time. You’re adorable. Learn more about her here and catch up with her on Twitter or Facebook.