I read a study about small business owners that included the statistic that only 1 in 5 small business owners take a regular break from work when needed and that taking time off work didn’t guarantee being rested. How can that be? Today I’m diving into the topic of rest for solopreneurs and small business owners to explore what rest truly means and what type is best for our mental health.
Taking the coveted long vacation away from work does not prove restful in many cases. Often we find ourselves working more ahead of the vacation so work doesn’t pile up and then scrambling to get back on top when we return. The stress doesn’t leave. We don’t truly rest. So, then, what do we do in lieu of big vacation breaks?
I want to talk about three key things: business friendships, integrating rest into day-to-day work, and setting the necessary time aside to teach when delegating. In exploring these three ideas – and note I did not include taking time off as a key rest point – I have found ways to incorporate rest and increase well-being. That’s what I want to share with you today: redefining how we approach rest so that it truly becomes restful.
01:19 The study on well-being in small business
10:39 The importance of business friendships
14:05 What it looks like to integrate rest into your daily routine
- Rest means stepping completely away from the phone, emails, and team issues
- Half of small business owners struggle with mental health, poor sleep, and financial worries
- The notion of active recovery can be a key component of daily rest
Contact Kari Lotzien | Be the Anchor:
Kari Lotzien: [00:00:01] Welcome to Be the Anchor the Podcast. I’m your host, business and leadership coach Kari Lotzien. When the seas of life get stormy, and they always will, it is not up to us to captain anyone else’s ship or to try to calm the waters of the ocean. It’s up to us to set our own destination for what we really want, and to learn how to navigate those waves of life together while finding that place of security and stability with others. I call this being an anchor. If you are a dreamer, a visionary, an entrepreneur, whether you have an idea, big or small, that you think might just make the world a little bit better, kinder, gentler place, you are in the right spot, my friend. We are going to talk about everything from big ideas to mindset and strategy, and sometimes just how to get through the day. I don’t want you to miss an episode, so be sure to follow and subscribe to the podcast so that we can stay connected and keep doing this journey of life together. Thanks so much!
Kari Lotzien: [00:01:10] Hello my friends. I’m so glad you’re here. I want to tell you today about a couple of studies that I came across this week. The first one is from a company called Xero, and they surveyed 4600 small business owners over seven countries, and they looked at the well-being of small business owners and different factors that were related to the sense of well-being. Now, there were some things that didn’t really surprise me, such as 45% of small business owners feel stress from work invading their personal lives more than half of the time. Not a great statistic, but also not particularly surprising. They also reported that managing employee mental health reduced the business owner’s well-being in 44% of cases. That supporting their employees and their team members with mental health was a challenge of the small business owner, and a lot felt they didn’t have the resources or know how to best support their team members. Here was a statistic that took a bit of a twist for me. Not surprising, only 1 in 5 small business owners take a regular break from work when they need to. And they talked about just that relentless pace of a small business owner always working. And even when they were taking time off, they were also still having the challenge of being available to their business.
Kari Lotzien: [00:02:52] Here was the part that I found really interesting. The ability to take time off work when needed didn’t guarantee restedness. In fact, far from it. What they revealed is that in some countries, South Africa and Singapore, business owners in those countries felt rested and refreshed despite being able to take a step back from their work. Whereas in the US and Australia, what they found is even when owners were able to take regular breaks from work they didn’t feel rested. Now, when I read studies like this, I always ask myself why? What’s the story behind the data? And I don’t know exactly what the reasons are for small business owners showing the data in this way. But when I started to think about it in my own business and what that looked like for me, I started to get curious because I think so often we are told we need to delegate, that we need to hire out, that by having team members that it’ll allow us to take a break from our business and just get away. And I think there’s a myth that when we get a break we’ll find this sense of rejuvenation and reset. When I thought about my own business, I thought, you know, I kind of do understand this because often when I would take a break, I would take a vacation, I would try to prepare ahead of time, working intensely for the weeks ahead of the vacation to try and prepare so that there wasn’t as much of a glitch when I wasn’t there. I was trying to manage all of the potential things that could go wrong, or get ahead of some of the the tasks that needed to be done during that week. And on the flip side, often when I would come back from holidays, I would spend a few days sometimes catching up on all of the things that were going on in the business while I was away. And that added to the fact that rarely did I truly step completely away from the business during my holidays, I was still checking emails at least once a day. I was still responding to client issues or team issues when I wasn’t there. Sometimes more than others, depending on what was happening on the front lines.
Kari Lotzien: [00:05:31] And I think this idea of kind of being one foot in a holiday and one foot out of a holiday, it doesn’t give our nervous system that sense to exhale, drop our shoulders, relax, and just be truly away from the business. Now what about the other side of it? So the people that aren’t taking true time away when they need it, but are still finding this feeling of being well rested? How is that working? What I wonder is in those situations are people focusing on integrating rest into their day to day activities? Are they better at not having the ebb and flow of being so busy and then trying to take a break completely away for a few days or maybe a few weeks, but have they found the ability to take small breaks within the ebb and flow of the daily tasks in the business? I’m just curious, and it’s something that I think is worth looking at as business owners, because the truth is, we want to be in this game long term. We don’t want to be short bursts of energy and then have our business completely decline when we need to step away. And I’m going to be really honest with you, I think we often hope and kind of have this silent prayer that we never get sick, that we never have to completely step away for things like surgery or something catastrophic happening. In reality, this isn’t the case. You’re human. I’m human. And there is going to be times in your life where you need to step away from your business, whether it’s family priorities, your own health, maybe something comes up that just really needs your focus and attention and you will not be able to do both at the same time. We have to set ourselves up to be able to truly step away from our business if needed.
Kari Lotzien: [00:07:51] I want to also address that I think there are times where small business owners are feeling that stress, or they’re feeling the, I’m not going to call it burnout, but we are singed. We’re fizzling. And many high performers can exist in this state of being in mild burnout for a very long time. And I think we ignore the symptoms in our own bodies around lack of sleep, having challenges with our eating or digestion. That maybe we find our nervous system has a hard time when we do take a break from our business, that we’re not able to relax, that we stay in this high, intense, energetic position because it’s like our bodies forget how to relax. And how to just shut off. A study out of the National Health Service in England talked about over half of small business owners have experienced poor mental health in the last 12 months. Reporting things like I was talking to you about struggles with sleep. Many surviving on less than five hours of sleep a night. They talked about business owners not being able to take leave again. They talked about financial worries, feeling that pressure of the cost of living increasing and food prices, that the financial worries and I think the stress of your employees, your team members just making ends meet, takes a toll.
Kari Lotzien: [00:09:38] The thing I want to talk about is, okay, what do we do then? How, if we’re not going to take these long breaks away from our business, because potentially that’s not going to give us the sense of reset and relaxation that we need to fill our energy buckets back up so that we can come back into our business and carry on. Then what is it? What are other ways that we can take this sense of survival of ebbs and flows in our business so that we can sustain this long term. What might that look like? The first thing I want to acknowledge is I’m not going to talk about taking time off. I’m not going to talk about delegation as a one end all, be all, solution. I’m going to talk about different things. I’m going to talk about friendships. Do you have a group? Do you have a network of business friendships? Now, the reason I’m calling it a business friendship is because this isn’t marketing. It’s not networking in its surface level sense, where we are merely sharing our service and products, and we’re looking for opportunities to collaborate. We’re looking for affiliate partners or referral partners. That’s not what I’m talking about. What I’m talking about is, do you have people in your world that know how you feel, that know the pressures of running and operating a small business? Who can sit with you during those times of stress? Who might be able to share ideas or suggestions if you’d like, but they’re able to be that sounding board for you, they know how you feel, and they’re able to join. They’re able to truly be a friend in those moments.
Kari Lotzien: [00:11:42] I think often small business owners, especially if we are solopreneurs earlier in business, when we network with other business owners, we tend to armor up and we talk about being grateful, but things are busy. But it is really good, right? We almost have this sense where we protect our truth that maybe things aren’t that good. Maybe you’re having a hard time making payroll this month. Maybe you launched a product or a service that did not receive well from your customers or clients. Maybe you’ve got a parent that is struggling with their health and you really want to be there for them, but you’re feeling just such pull between your personal life and your business. Business friendships, where you have this space where you can just drop the armor, where you can take off the mask, and you can have those connections that are vulnerable and truthful with people who get it can offer a huge lifeline during these times. And what I know is that when you open up a little bit in those situations, what you’ll often find is that people that you thought had it all together and looked really good from the outside, they’re going through stuff too. We’re all struggling to just make our way through it, and sometimes when we can show a little bit of vulnerability, it opens the door for other people to do the same thing. I think we have heard about vulnerability in leadership with our teams and with kind of being able to open up what’s going on with us. What I’m talking about is a little bit different than that. It’s not about opening up within your own team, which you can do, but there’s also a limitation there, because the people on your team are not the ones who are captaining the ship. They’re not at the helm. They’re not the ones that are necessarily navigating this with you. Their experience is a little bit different. And by having other business owners to join with you in this, they understand the nitty gritty of what you’re feeling.
Kari Lotzien: [00:14:05] The second thing I want to address is integrating rest into your day to day work and what that looks like. When you look at your day, when you look at what takes time in your day, ask yourself, Where do I rest? Where do I have white space? If your day is filled with task after task after task and just going through this never ending to do list, your mind and your body are experiencing a stress state all of the time. You’re always in this place where your body is being flooded with chemicals that say you have to keep going. You can’t rest. These things must be done. And there’s a pressure of what the consequences will be if that doesn’t happen. What I know for sure is that when we are up against challenges, when we are facing stressful situations, if your mind and body are in that state, it is almost impossible to come up with the best solution. What can inevitably happen is we get hyper focused on the problem, and it can be difficult to see the different opportunities that might be available or the different solutions to a problem, because our minds are almost cramped up. It’s like when your muscle gets tight, there’s no space for movement because it’s cramped and it’s stationary. Your mind is the same. It needs rest, or what I would call active recovery, which means you might be going for a walk. Or taking a longer lunch break. So it’s not necessarily that you’re just completely shutting down watching Netflix and zoning out for hours on end or scrolling social media. It’s not that you’re sleeping and completely shutting down. But this idea of active recovery can come with gentle stretching, yoga, going for a walk, taking your dog outside. When we pair space and movement, it can help relax our mind at the same time. And you can do this in a 5 or 10 minute walk a few times a week. It doesn’t have to be these big, extravagant getaways where you need to book hotels and spend a lot of money and go to a beach somewhere, although that is really nice too. But when you can integrate the rest into your workday, this allows you to sustain long term.
Kari Lotzien: [00:16:47] In previous episodes, I talked about my challenge, my issue with challenge culture, that idea that we need to be pushing and hustling and going harder and doing one more and just that hustle and grind and that that is the only way to get ahead. That does not work with your nervous system. Your nervous system needs to rest. Business ownership is a long term plan. There may be times where you’re going to really narrow it in, and you are going to hyper focus, or you might have less rests because you’ve got a big project to knock out, but you still want to be introducing small rests into your day, especially if you’re doing a big project. I actually listened to an influencer this morning who did a multi-million dollar project, and she was talking about how in a two week period, the focus and attention and what her team was doing was taking, you know, often 12 to 14 hour days. But she said my non-negotiable during that time was I made sure that I had a rest. So sometimes I napped for 20 or 30 minutes mid-day. Sometimes I just shut everything down and went and closed my eyes and laid down for 20 minutes. And she said, I know that without that rest, I would not have been able to do the level of work that we did in that short period of time. So introduce that. Is it going to a workout class? Is it going to a spin class? Is it going for a walk? Going to enjoy your kids hockey game. Whatever it is, how can you integrate rest into your day? How can you truly step away, shut off those distractions. So in these short bursts, you also don’t want to be available. It’s only a half an hour. But this is a time where you’re shutting off your phone, you’re shutting down your email, you’re truly not available. You’re giving your mind that idea that I am protecting this space and time.
Kari Lotzien: [00:18:59] And lastly, I do want to touch on the idea of delegation, because I think there is a myth that is buried here that is hurting us. I think we have an idea, especially moving from solopreneurs into building our teams, that there is more hustle and grind required as a solopreneur than there is as we build our team. And in my experience, it’s not true. When I was new in my company and I was doing all of the marketing, all of the bookkeeping, I was providing the front line service, I dealt with every customer that came in, every client who got service received it from me. I answered the phones. I returned all the emails. But I had found a rhythm in that where I knew what had to be done, and I just needed to set aside time to do it. Sometimes that was late at night after my kids had gone to bed. There was times where I would provide the service all day, I would take a break, have dinner with my family, and then come back and do some of my admin tasks at night. There were a lot of times where I would spend a few hours on the weekend. But I did have mostly a flow and a rhythm. The times that it didn’t work were when I wanted to look at growing my business, and I needed to look at how was I going to be able to dedicate more time to revenue generating activities in my business? And my first move was that I started to delegate the admin tasks. What I didn’t realize, and I think what a lot of my clients don’t realize, is how much time it takes to delegate well. You need to have time and space longer than what it takes you to do the task yourself to teach it to someone else and to teach it well. This is where we can get caught up, because when it takes us longer to train someone than it does to just do it ourselves, do you see how we just slide right back into doing it ourselves? Because we’re more efficient and we know what needs to be done, and if it’s costing us money to train someone, we can convince ourselves that this is not a good investment long term.
Kari Lotzien: [00:21:16] I use the word investment because when you do take the time and you have space in your schedule to say, I am going to invest this amount of time, more than it would take to do it myself, to teach someone else well, all of the moving parts of this particular role or responsibility, then we slowly shift that balance between doing it all ourselves to someone else, not only completing the task, but taking the responsibility for doing it well. They take over managing any timelines, any challenges that come up. They’re the ones that can see the big picture and how it connects. This is the part that truly takes the time off of your schedule and puts it onto someone else’s. But it’s an investment. And I want to make sure, especially as you start to delegate, that we do it in a really strategic way so that you’re not trying to train three new team members and you’re finding that same experience where now it’s taking you twice as long to do the tasks that you were able to do on the weekend or in the evenings especially, because these people may not be available during those times when you are typically doing that task. When we look at your wellbeing and we look at making that investment long term, what I just want to make sure of is that you are setting yourself up for success.
Kari Lotzien: [00:22:44] So let’s come back. Is rest overrated? No. We do need time and space to be creative, to move our businesses forward, and to create the life that we really crave, to do the things that matter to us, but we need to move out of that idea of it’s all work or all rest, and taking large vacations or time away from our business that many of us don’t get. Number one, find yourself a network of business friendships, people who understand what you’re going through, where you can be vulnerable, and you can share some of the stressors and the experiences that you’re having, as well as the joys with people who truly understand. Number two, integrate rest into your day to day world, whether that is short walks, having little bits and pieces where you can join a gym. If it’s spending time with your dog, or just stepping outside to enjoy a little bit of nature. Doesn’t have to be big, big things, but having time and space dedicated to just slowing down every day is critical. And number three, when you move towards delegating, recognize that there’s a bit of a slingshot effect where it is going to take you more time, more energy, more focus as you shift to delegation. It will be more work to start delegating than it was to just do it yourself. Recognize that, plan for it, have a strategic plan in how you’re going to implement that shift in responsibility or task. I believe these are three major things that will help to get your wellbeing in a place that feels more solid.
Kari Lotzien: [00:24:39] Thank you so much for being here. I wish you all the very best in integrating rest into your business so that you can truly launch and do the amazing things that you were put here to do. Stay awesome. I will see you next week. And hey, if you haven’t liked and subscribed to this podcast yet, go click on the link. Do it. And even better, if you know someone who’s being stretched and their mental health feels like maybe they’re fizzling, they’re starting to burn out, share this episode with them. These are easy ways that we can connect, and that we can help support the people who have chosen entrepreneurship as their journey and to just build together. Thanks so much for being here.
Kari Lotzien: [00:25:32] Please know that this podcast is meant for entertainment purposes only. It is not a substitution for medical or professional mental health advice. If you require support, please do reach out. Thanks so much.