I’ve recently learned that when your kid starts lying it’s a sign of intelligence. A big cognitive advance worth embracing. My son must be really smart. He most certainly would fail a polygraph at three and a half.
Teaching Easton what it means to be trustworthy has been an interesting journey. How do you explain the concept of honesty to someone who still wears a pull-up at night? This is one of those phases we’re supposed to chalk up to “normal childhood development” and hope he re-calibrates before he ends up in a correctional facility.
When you’re teaching your kid why it’s important not to lie, you start to think about whether you’re a shining example yourself. After some slight self-reflection I’m afraid I fall a tad short of perfection.
It’s not like I’m a compulsive liar. In fact, I’m pretty much tipped a little too far on the transparency side of the scale and could probably learn to be a bit more discrete. It’s more the little white lies side that are concerning. It’s the equivalent to the seemingly harmless “I washed my hands with soap mom! I’m telling the truth!” fabrications. For me, it’s the tiny commitments I’m continually breaking with myself that are starting to take a toll.
Admitting there’s a problem
A couple weeks back, I had lunch with my husband (who is undeniably and unconditionally my biggest supporter) and he made a casual comment that he can’t tell the difference between when I’m working and when I’m texting with friends or looking something up online. It was a subtle wake-up call that there really isn’t much of a difference in my life these days. I’ve been working all the time.
I tell myself these little lies about how it’s just the stage we’re in as a company. It’s just because we’re short-handed on the team right now. I’m just writing this one email so that I’m not obsessing about it all night (or all weekend). I’m just jotting down a few thoughts in Evernote real quick. I’m just going to schedule this one more meeting even though I’m already overloaded this week.
Every single one of these small exceptions ends up in a teetering stack at the top of a very slippery slope that eventually collapses into absolutely no separation between “life” and work. No breaks. No downtime. No room to breathe. No space. Which ultimately results in less and less time for me to fully be present, in the moment, and enjoy some sort of life outside of work.
For two years it’s been time to re-introduce some boundaries. Setting them isn’t the hard part. It’s trusting myself to stick to them.
Making some space
A few months ago I hired a personal assistant. I wrestled with this decision for quite some time. When you’re a small (but mighty) team and you have limited resources, spending the money on a personal assistant just doesn’t seem like the best use of our cash. I’m extremely glad I took the plunge.
Her first priority was to help me introduce some boundaries into my schedule. So we put the no meetings block rule into place. This meant that my “work day” would be made up of two time chunks: 9 am to 1 pm and 2 pm to 5 pm.
If a meeting gets booked into the first block of the day, then immediately the second block gets closed. All meetings would then be stacked on top of each other in that first block so that I could get them out of the way. Then, once that block of time passed, my schedule would open up and I’d be free to work on the things that I needed to get done during real, actual work hours so that I could bring less work home and allow myself that gift of space.
At home my boundaries started with cutting off easy access to my phone. I put it away so that I’m not tempted to breeze by and pick it up. If I need to make a note about something for work I use my shit list.
I’ve cut down tremendously on how much I work at night and the time I spend on email (both at work and at home). When I leave work, I quit all email. I go to bed sooner and I get up thirty minutes earlier so that I can go through emails in the morning before the kids are up and before the team needs my feedback.
I’ve been adjusting to these new parameters and doing all of this good stuff at work and home for more than two weeks now. At first I was allowing meetings to creep into my no meetings blocks so I had to get that under control (and now my assistant fully controls my schedule so that I don’t even have to say no). It also took a few days to adjust to being away from my phone at night (I felt like a crack addict for at least three days). The shocker is that the work isn’t really piling up. No one’s dying. Everything is getting handled.
And for the first time in a long time I feel like I can breathe.
Looking out for myself
There’s a heaviness I feel when I’ve disregarded the boundaries I’ve put into place. When I’ve said yes too much. When I’ve given every ounce of energy away along with all of my empathy, patience, and compassion. When I’ve left nothing for my family and certainly not myself.
I’ve been learning that setting boundaries and being strong enough to keep them is a reflection of how much you care about yourself. I need to care enough about my well being that I’m willing to say no to a client, a colleague, or even a team member who requests a meeting during a no meetings block. I need to be able to trust that I will put my phone away at home and get in that play room — fully present — with my kids, just like I promised I would.
I’ve been learning to better recognize the intense cycles of this job as an entrepreneur. The extreme mental demand at all hours of the day. Apparently there’s a big disregard for personal space when you’re running a business which is why you’ve got to set boundaries and defend them like your life depended on it. These boundaries come in the form of small promises that you make to yourself and when you continually allow them to be broken, you quickly realize that you’re not only overwhelmed and headed for a nervous breakdown, but you’re cheating your family, your team, and chipping away at your best self.
I’ve got a lot to teach those two little nuggets of mine. I want their memories of me to be playing with them, laughing, and snuggling (I LOVE to snuggle) instead of working on my laptop, being glued to my phone, or always needing to get something done. And even if I didn’t have kids, prioritizing me above my work and keeping my commitments to myself gives me purpose and meaning. It reminds me that not everything that makes me feel alive, happy, and satisfied has to come from my work. Because it doesn’t.
So I’m setting some limits and cautiously standing guard. I need to be able to trust that I can actually have a life outside of Mack Web and keep my commitment to honor and take care of myself. When I actually do it, I prove to myself that I can, it feels really good, and I trust that as things shift (again) around here, I’ll be able keep myself in tact.