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The Balanced Hustle: How you can work your ass off and still not run yourself into the ground

If you like hip hop, you’ve heard about “the hustle”.

If you’re on any social media platform you’ve seen quote after quote about “the hustle”.

If you’ve been an entrepreneur for any sort of time you’ve lived some version of “the hustle

The hustle can be defined as:

“It’s a commitment to get ahead, no matter what, and never give up when faced with insurmountable challenges. It’s a resourcefulness and creativity in finding new methods of success. When you adopt and embrace the many facets of the hustle mentality, you’ll set yourself up to succeed beyond your wildest dreams.”-Sujan Patel

But it’s also become a glorified sleepless, restless, helpless pursuit of dreams.

As a society, maybe we needed this mind shift, a reminder of the sweat and tears of the “American dream”, a kick in the pants that said “hey this isn’t easy, stop whining and get out there and do!”

Regardless, I have a love/hate relationship with “the hustle”.

If I listen to some Gary Vee, I get inspired and hyped up like “f-yeah, I’m gonna punch sleep in the face and work my dream!”

But if you heard my short story on the Bizbuilders Podcast about my crazy ass minute by minute schedules where I hustled every single moment of my day, then you’ll also learn how I tragically lost a chunk of my life in return.

So I am in the midst of a mind-shift.

I am in pursuit of the balanced hustle.

As a new wife and a new mom embarking on this new digital nomad adventure, I now have to learn to present as a wife, a mom, business owner and traveler.

Now I had a balanced hustle not that long ago. Young 30 something, I would meet with friends, go to the gym, meditate, go to festivals and then I could bust out a 72 hour work-a-thon huddled up in my home office and accomplish great things.

With a young toddler, I don’t get to hole up in my office for days on end. 
I don’t bounce back from staying up until 3:30am and waking up at 6:00am with the baby alarm.

So all my old ways, that were balanced for my life at the time, don’t work anymore.

Am I doomed to fail? Will I ever be able to become a success?

Here’s the thing. Anyone that tells you the 24/7 hustle is the only way to success has zero invested in your physical and mental health.

All the inspirational quotes on Instagram, all the motivational speakers, they don’t care if you flame out, burn out, lose your family or end up in the hospital or rehab.

And guess how much work you’ll get done if you end up there? 
ZERO!

Now I’m not saying I don’t need to work hard. 
I’m not saying that I’m going to completely avoid late nights or missed time with family and friends. 
Hell there might be a month of sleepless nights, missed work outs, and jugs of coffee.
There will be sacrifices

What I am saying is that it can be the exception and not the norm.

Your success story doesn’t have to come with the line “I almost lost everything”.

And right now where the #hustle is glorified beyond belief. More people are losing themselves in that very hustle than they are actually finding success in it.

But can you be a hustler and have balance?
Can you do whatever it takes while still tending to your needs, your family, your hobbies?

Well it turns out that doing these thing actually push you forward in your business success rather than holding your from it.

The fastest way to move forward in life is not doing more. It starts with stopping the behaviors holding you back. -Benjamin Hardy

So what can we stop?

Stop neglecting sleep and downtime.

We think more work, means more output
While that may be true for machines. It unfortunately doesn’t work that way for humans. 
Science proves that well rested people do better work. A rested brain is more creative
Have you ever worked on a project and you’re just stuck?
You might be trying to force something to happen for hours. 
Then you walk away for a bit and when you come back you are able to resolve it in a matter of minutes?

“When you do things like go for a long walk, your subconscious mind keeps working on problems. The experience of having the mind slightly relaxed allows it to explore different combinations of ideas, to test out different solutions. And then once it has arrived at one that looks promising, that is what pops into your head as an Aha! moment.”-Alex Soojung-Kim Pang is the author of: Rest, why you get more done when you do less.

Your brain needs that rest, that break, in order to perform better. 
 
 So walking away from something technically means you’re still working on it. (It’s just on the subconscious level)

It’s time to change our mindset about rest as this passive-giving it all up- wasting time type of thing.

You are actively restoring your work ability. You are actively recharging for your next stint of great work. You are actively refueling your brain to produce more ideas and solutions. In essence, you are working.

Stop doing shallow work

Cal Newport, Author of Deep work, Rules for focused success in a distracted world says:

Shallow work is common. It has low value. It’s replicable-anyone can do it. 
Deep work is rare. It has high value. It’s not replicable.(not easy to copy or outsource)

Deep work is the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task.

We get to deep work by Eliminating distractions
Turn off your notifications. 
You choose when to pay attention to those items. Not the other way around.

Try the Pomodoro technique
This is where you work in 25 minute uninterrupted intervals with 5 minute breaks at the end of each interval. Then start again. After 4 pomodoros you take a 30 minute break. 
 The idea of focusing and ignoring that Instagram notification for only 25 minutes, feels less daunting than going cold turkey for 3 hours at a time. 
 It’s amazing what I can get done in 25 minutes when I don’t allow any interruptions. Honestly I’ll even put off a restroom break if there are only a few minutes left on the pomodoro countdown.

I use the pomodoro phone and desktop app for this. The desktop app actually freezes your desktop, making sure you stop and take a real break. 
It’s pretty much the best thing ever.

Stop focusing on tasks

Work on your goals. Does the work your doing bring you closer the bigger goal at the other end or are you filling it with stuff and things (shallow work)?

This was a hard one for me.

Often I would come down to the kitchen to grab some water and 20 minutes later I had cleaned the dishes, wiped the counters, swept the floor.

Sure it was a task that eventually needed to get done, but it wasn’t work that was getting me any closer to my bigger goals.

We need to start doing what’s important not urgent.

And honestly my clean kitchen was neither urgent or important at that moment.

But we do these things all the time.

We immediately wake up and check our email, putting us in a reactive state rather than proactive state-Benjamin Hardy

He describes email as a website full of other peoples agendas for you. 
Why do we jump to that first? Why do we start our day with other people’s agenda for us? 
We do it because it’s easy. It’s shallow work and we can trick ourselves into believing we are being productive. 
Instead we need to be engaging with the important.
That can range from doing your daily meditation and journaling to working on that book you want to publish. It may not be urgent, it could be put off until tomorrow, but it’s certainly important to you and your goals.

And while we’re mentioning email…

Stop the email overwhelm

I used to be so obsessed with inbox zero that I would end up spending all day going through each and every email. Reading every link, watching every video, going down every rabbit trail offered in an attempt to get it all “out of the way”. But all I was doing was getting in my own way of accomplishing what was actually important for me.

I suggest choosing certain days to check your email. 
Days?!? You may be thinking. Yes, days. 
If you must check it every day, then scan it for the truly important items and let the rest wait until your scheduled email day. 
If you are fighting this idea and absolutely must be responding to email every day, then pick a certain time of day to do this.

A “go with the flow” attitude will not serve you well in dealing with email. 
It will be disruptive and eat away at your ability to do deep work and be productive.

Once you choose your day or time of day, start teaching others your schedule. 
Instead of saying “sure email me anytime” start saying “great, I get back to emails on Wednesdays” or “I respond to emails after 3pm”

This allows people to know what to expect and takes the pressure off of you to respond immediately.

Another way to reduce email overwhelm is to have an “unsubscribe-a-thon”
Useful information can be distracting. 
 
 I used to be subscribed to Self Magazine emails (I still am, but now they go to my personal account) Before that, I had them coming to my business account for some reason.

I would be going through my emails and I’d see their catchy subject header. They were always something like “5 make ahead healthy breakfasts for an easy morning” It was useful information, I mean, I want an easy morning, I like healthy breakfast, but it wasn’t something I needed to know right now.

But then I’d think “I can just check it really quick and then get it out of my inbox”

So I’d click on it and I’d be skimming through the pictures of beautiful breakfast muffins and overnight oats and inevitably (I swear it always happens like this) my husband would walk up right behind me, see my screen and say “is this why you’re so busy all the time?”

And the truth is, those 5 minute distractions add up fast. If that email wasn’t coming to my inbox, I wouldn’t need to get it out in the first place. 
Though I may very well add overnight oats to our breakfast regimen, it was distracting from what was important at the time.

“It’s so vital that we treat our inbox the same way we are supposed to treat our bodies, like temples. We should only allow what is truly helpful, beneficial, forward moving, and important to our success fill up in there.”

Take a few hours one day, schedule it on your calendar, and have one big ‘ol unsubscribe-a-thon. 
 
Eliminate distractions and the allure of well written subject lines that take you away from working on what’s important. 
 
The truth is, when you really need that information someone is sharing, you’ll be able to find it. (Thanks Google!)

Stop having more than one priority.

We tend to have several goals. And that’s ok. That’s normal. 
 Sometimes there are lots of important things to do. 
 Yes, that’s life. 
 Where we get into trouble is when we make them all priorities.

You can’t have 10 priorities.

A priority is the singular top thing that has to be done. If you want to be productive and you want to meet your priorities, the key is to understand what is most important to you — and what activity will provide the greatest leverage to getting there — right now.
 
 Once you meet that priority, then you move the next one into it’s position at the top.

“I always start with the most important thing on my priority list. If you didn’t spend your week working on the most important thing, it was a week wasted” -Randy Gage author of Risky Is the New Safe

Stop letting your day happen to you

You need to have a plan.
 I don’t mean a 3–5 year goal. 
 I mean for the day.

It is critical to organize your day.

It doesn’t have to be a crazy minute by minute thing, in fact it should not be. But you do need blocks of time set aside.
Make a schedule that includes downtime. 
Make a schedule that includes family time.
Make a schedule that includes your exercise of choice.
And of course make blocks time to get work done.

It’s easy as entrepreneurs to get disorganized and pulled in several directions when we don’t have someone telling us when to do what. 
Our day isn’t structured 9–5, so we end up all over the place. Sometimes we think we have more time than we really do or vice versa.

It’s essential to know what your next day looks like. It’s important to find how you can fit balance into your day. It’s crucial to know what to expect for your day and week.
 
I had a position once as the Chief Marketing Director at a start up company. The CEO was also my mentor and asked me “What time can you be here for work”

As any go go getter would say, I answered “Whatever time you need me here”

He said: “Just be here when you can get here”

I told him again “ I can be here at whatever time you need me, 5am, 8am, 2pm…”
 
He just kept repeating himself “Just be here when you can get here”

He could see I was getting frustrated.

And I was, I had no idea when I was supposed to be at work. I started to think this was some kind of test and I wasn’t catching on to the rules.

So he explained to me that it was important to him that I have personal plan and morning routine that puts me in the best mental position before I come into work.

He made walk through an ideal morning for myself.

At the time that consisted of waking up, making my health drinks, breakfast, meditation, checking my email, going for a work out, coming home to shower, getting ready for the day, and eating a snack. 
 
I had never actually had a morning like that, but that would be my ideal morning at that time in my life. 
 
 We calculated the time I would need to attain that kind of morning and when I would need to wake up, get ready, and actually leave for work. 
 
 Guess what time my work day started? 
 
 11am. 
 
 It felt like the most slacker type of thing to do. Start work at 11am? That crazy. But you know what?

I was so damn productive between 11am and 5pm and it felt so good. And even much longer days didn’t bother me. Every day it felt good. I didn’t hate my work day or dream of better ways to be spending my time.

I was present and productive. I owned the day on my terms each and every day. 
 
Your mornings are so precious. Yet too many push sleep to the last minute and then rush in chaos to get to work. Where’s our time? When do you tend to you?

Having a daily plan is so important. Survival mode is not a long term method.

People would laugh at me when they saw my planner and find that I had my bedtime written down. But I knew what my day would look like. I knew how much rest I would get (and not get based on my choices throughout the day). This practice is so important, that I require my clients to go through a planning & scheduling workshop as the first step of working together.

So yes my friends. There can be balance in the hustle. 
There can be a “kind grind”
There is a place for mind, body, hustle.

When we tend to ourselves, we produce better work. When we actively participate with our day (instead of fighting for control) we can bring about the highest productivity.

I haven’t mastered this yet, but I keep trying and get better each day. After all, practice makes perfect.

I have organized mornings, I work hard, I spend time with my family, I exercise and I get rest. (most of the time-I still have a toddler) In any case, it’s sure as hell better than the alternative.

So try some of these things out this week. Let me know in the comments how it works for you. Or maybe you have some tips of your own-please share them-don’t be stingy with your wisdom!

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