When You Hit the Wall
© 2016 Elena Fawkner
You know that episode of Seinfeld when Jerry or George
asks Newman why it is that so many postal workers suddenly
go off the deep end and blow their coworkers away with a
semi-automatic? Newman's answer (in suitably
melodramatic tone): "Because the mail ... never ... stops."
Running an online business is a bit like that, so be prepared.
You don't feel like that to start with. Oh no. If so, we'd
twice before cashing in our day jobs to do this full-time at
home. No, in the beginning it doesn't feel like work at all.
It's, well, fun.
After a while, though, the novelty starts to wear off and it
begins to feel a little less like play and more like real work.
That's OK though. You'd still much rather work for yourself
than your old boss so you figure you're onto a good thing.
But then it happens. One day you wake up and realize the
thought of switching on your laptop makes you feel ever so
slightly sick in the stomach. Whereas once your routine was
1. get out of bed, 2. stumble into the study, 3. turn on your
computer and 4. start your morning mail download BEFORE
5. feeing the cat (and if you're owned by a cat or two you know
just how significant this priority really is), now you find yourself
beginning to put off downloading your mail, feeding the cat
becomes first priority as does almost anything other than
sitting down and actually starting work for the day.
You suddenly realize that an online business is always just
that. Online. All the time. No such thing as weekends
this business. Email continues to trickle (and often flood) in
every day of the year. Every single day. Think about that.
It doesn't stop just because it's the weekend. Or Christmas
Day. Or because you're on vacation. It is relentless.
Sometimes you will know how Newman feels and even begin
to have moments of sympathy for him.
Once you get to that stage, you have, my friend, Hit The
Wall. Congratulations. You are now officially running an
So, what can you do about it? The wall, that is. Here's
tips that will help.
1. PREVENTION IS BETTER THAN CURE
Well, obviously, the best thing is not to let it happen in the
first place. Easy to say, tougher to do. After all, it's
you know there's a wall there you CAN hit that you stop to
think of ways to slow yourself down before you get there.
How do you avoid burnout in a traditional paid job? Balance
and moderation in all things. By working a set number of
hours a day and no more, taking time for things you enjoy and
not just work and the preparations for and recovery from, work.
Enjoying some "down" time, in other words. Taking a break
from your responsibilities and having some FUN for Pete's
sake. Life wasn't meant to be easy but it wasn't meant to be
all work either.
But, as I said, you have to know the wall is there before
you can avoid hitting it. If it's just too late for you, here's
how to get back on your feet again.
2. TAKE A TIME OUT
Set up an autoresponder for all your mail notifying everyone
sending you mail that you are away from your office for the
next two days (or however long you can comfortably take
without damaging your business). If you must process
orders manually, take care of them but let everything else
On your time out, the object of the exercise is to mentally
break from your business so you can get some perspective.
This means taking a whole day off, and not thinking about
what you should be doing or what isn't getting done. Just
focus on taking the day off. Do something you enjoy but
haven't done for ages. Go for a walk in some nearby
gardens, go to the ocean and sit on the sand and ponder the
horizon. Meditate. Go for a long drive in the country.
whatever you want that's enjoyable for you but nothing
related to your business. Something that gets you out of
your own head for a while.
By the end of this day, you should have cleared away most
of the cobwebs and relaxed your mind. Once you're in this
state, your thinking will be clearer and you should be able
to take a step back and look at what you're doing with your
life and your business with greater perspective and
The day after your day off, think about how you are running
your business and how you might restructure your habits so
you are more productive but still have something of yourself
left over for yourself ... and others. You may realize, for
example, that you're never free of the ball and chain (how I
affectionately think of my laptop) because you're in the habit
of checking your email compulsively 30 times a day and have
somehow got the idea into your head that you must answer
your mail within 30 minutes of receipt. Says who? Just
because email is a near instantaneous form of communication,
that doesn't mean your response needs to be instantaneous.
Now, I'm not talking about letting a week go by. Obviously
running a professional business requires that you respond to
your mail (online and off) in a timely manner. But it can
certainly wait a few hours until the time you have set aside for
next reading and responding to email. So don't let your
computer become an anchor dragging you down. It's a tool to
assist you in your business. It is there to serve you, not the
other way around.
3. MAINTAIN FOCUS
One of the main reasons for burnout whether you're running
an online business or work in a more traditional paid "job" is
allowing work to become all-consuming. The internet, in
particular, can become addictive if we don't watch it. How
many times have you found that an entire day has gone by
while you've been "busy" on your computer but, when that
day is over, you have a hard time identifying anything
particularly productive you have done with that time?
It's extremely easy to lose focus online. You go online to
research a subject for an article you need to write for this
week's issue of your ezine. Along the way you see
something that catches your eye and before you know it two
or three hours have trickled away like sand through your
fingers with nothing to show for it.
When you sit down at your computer to work, work. If you
want to do other things online, schedule time for them.
4. TAKE REGULAR TIME OFF
No matter how much you enjoy your online business, spend
enough 18 hour day/seven day weeks and you'll burn out. No
When you work a traditional full-time "job" you have time off.
For most of us it's the weekend, for others, such as shift
workers, that time off may fall at different times. But the one
constant is that when you work, you need time off to rest,
recuperate and regenerate your body, mind and spirit.
The same holds true when you run an online business.
Just because you CAN work 18 hour days/seven day weeks,
does this mean you should? Even looking at it from a purely
business perspective, do you really think you're doing your
business any favors by working yourself into the ground?
Where are you going to find that 'zen' time when you have
your most creative ideas? When are you going to plan for the
future growth of your business? Certainly not when you're up
to your eyeballs in 'busy work'. You can think much more
easily, clearly and effectively when your mind is relaxed and
calm. Who said that thinking time can't be spent at the beach
or in the hammock in the back yard?
So take time each week for you. Your business will be better
for it and so will you.
5. SET FIXED WORKING HOURS
Working at home can be a challenge. Many people think
that the real challenge lies in the temptation to goof off when
you should be working. We know that reality is different.
reality, the nature of business online, the instantaneous
communication, the order that may be sitting in our mailbox
even now as we write this article, means that the temptation
is more to spend every waking hour hooked up than goofing
off. This can quickly lead to a spiral of compulsive work
habits and an inability to set work aside for the day.
For this reason, for most people it is a good idea to set fixed
working hours and stick to them. This will help you bring
more focus to your work knowing you only have a limited
number of hours today to devote to your business and this
will mean that you are at least as productive (and probably
more so) in your 8 hour work day than you ever were in your
16 hour marathons when you were so tired half the time you
felt like your eyes were going to fall out.
6. ... BUT NOT FIXED ROUTINES
Another good way to keep things fresh and avoid burnout is
to stir things up a bit every now and again. Sure, there are
some routine things that have to be done day in, day out but
that doesn't mean you have to do them at the same time every
day unless that works for you.
If your habit is to check your email first thing in the morning,
maybe your first order of business should be to write that
article or sales letter you've been putting off and checking
your mail after lunch. Not only do you avoid the boredom of
the same old routine day in, day out, getting something
difficult out of the way upfront acts as a kind of springboard
for productivity throughout the rest of the day. Who knows,
you may even be able to knock off early!
7. PLAN YOUR DAY
Nothing is more certain to create stress and anxiety than the
feeling you have so much to do you just don't know where to
start. Or, more importantly, where to finish.
To avoid this waste of valuable time and energy, plan each day.
Doing this a week in advance is a good way to ensure a
productive week. Sure, you won't know exactly what's going
to come up on a particular day but there are certain tasks that
you know have to be done. So allocate days and times to them
in writing. Cross them off your list when you're done.
you a sense of accomplishment when you complete set tasks
and necessitates that you prioritize your activities. What is
important will get done. Knowing this frees your mind of the
worry and anxiety about what may have fallen through the
cracks and leaves your mind clear and calm.
8. BREAK THE HABIT OF COMPULSIVELY CHECKING EMAIL
As I said earlier, it's easy to become compulsive when it comes
to checking email. After all, as that little voice in your head
insists, there could be an order waiting for you. How many times
have you been sitting at your computer thinking about starting
something that's going to take some effort (such as writing an
article or a sales page) when, ding!, the "You've got mail"
message pops up and off you go, to see what it is. While
you're there you read a couple of newsletters, check out this
or that new affiliate program someone's just sent you a sales
pitch about and, before you know it, that quick mail check has
turned into three hours you can't get back. Bad habit.
very bad habit.
So resist the temptation. Close your mail program until the
time you have designated for your next mail check. Work on
the tasks you have assigned yourself for today. Your mail will
still be there in three hours and a whole lot more of it besides.
9. SEGREGATE YOUR BUSINESS AREA FROM YOUR HOME
In addition to segregating your time between work and non-work
activities, another good way to segregate your business and
non-business lives is to physically segregate them. A
dedicated room in your house that you can use as your office
and close the door on at the end of the day, separate
communications systems that you can turn off at the end of the
day, reinforces in your mind that once that door is closed, once
that answering machine is turned on, your work is done for the
day. Go home!
Never before have so many had such an opportunity for
independence in their working lives. Never before has the
potential for self-employment been easier to realize. But the
freedom from the control of others that we seek when making
the break from paid workforce to full-time online business is
something we must protect lest we substitute one form of
servitude for another. There is, after all, nothing so confining
the prison we build for ourselves. An online business is one
way to achieve financial freedom and independence in our
working lives. Understand the terrain and you can be as free
as a bird, in control of your own destiny. Fail to understand
and be grounded. The choice is yours.
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Elena Fawkner is editor of Home-Based Business Online.
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Thursday, 23-Sep-2021 07:05:03 CDT