When you’re working by yourself, in charge of everything, it can be really hard to decide when to stop working, when to finish a product, when to say ‘I’ve done enough today/this week/for now’.
This has become a theme in recent conversations with clients, and having also made some headway myself on this, I thought I’d share some guidance on how to define ‘enough’ for yourself.
And I want to caveat this post by saying that I, too, am walking the line a lot of the time. I don’t do this perfectly. It’s a practice. I’m working on it.
And let’s work from a place where we all know that cultivating the belief that we are enough – good enough, wonderful enough, worthy of love and belonging – is vitally important to our wellbeing as human beings. Practicing doing enough won’t get you there all by itself – you also need to work on the fundamental belief – but it will help.
So. Let’s dig in.
Contrary to popular opinion, I don’t believe that enough is defined by an external measurement. Or at least, that’s the way to madness. If someone else gets to decide when you’ve done enough, or when you’re a worthy person/business, you’re going to spend your entire life hustling for someone else’s approval. And, seriously, that’s never going to bring you happiness.
Defining enough by other people’s standards or approval might look like:
- Being ‘enough’ when you force yourself to work 9 to 5 (or beyond) because you ‘have to’
- Being ‘enough’ when you achieve a certain number of sales per week, month or year (that rapidly increases when you get there)
- Being ‘enough’ when they like you
- Being ‘enough’ when you’re featured as much as other people
- Being ‘enough’ when you can say yes to every single opportunity that comes your way without struggling
These are just some examples. I think it’s important to note that defining yourself by a sales target is troublesome for me, because you’re ultimately relying on other people (customers, clients) to ‘approve’ of you, like your products, take an action that you can’t control.
And this is about defining ‘enough’ for you, within the realms that you can control, or at least significantly influence.
Last week, I announced on Facebook that I won’t be taking on any more clients until at least July. That decision was scary. I’d been thinking about it for about a month before I finally made the call. Yes, I was still scared when I put it out there. It’s brave. But ultimately it’s a decision that came with a whole bucket of relief, and has allowed me to feel like I’ve done enough each day since.
I knew that I was taking on too much work – way more than I could complete to my high standards. It felt like I was never at the end of the to-do list, that I’d never done enough at the end of each day.
So, I asked, what would be enough for me to do each day?
I’ve asked myself this before, when I started my business. But that was nearly a year ago. Some of the things I put in place still ring true, but my daily and weekly routines are much better defined now.
My daily enough has themes, but it changes from day to day. For example, on Wednesdays, I have three client calls, which is a lot for me. I have allowed myself to make those calls the minimum to reach ‘enough’ for that day. I don’t have to do anything else to have done enough. Sure, I often complete my notes as well, or get through some project work, or emails. But I don’t pile on the pressure to do any more than show up for those calls.
You might decide that enough is getting out orders for the day. Anything else is a bonus. Of course, you might get 50 more orders a day, and you can’t control that, so you might decide to define a number for yourself.
Here’s the thing…
How to define enough for yourself:
- Set the bar low. If you expect yourself to achieve too much within a given timeframe, you’re setting yourself up for failure.
- Focus only on the things you can directly control. I can’t control how a client is going to feel after a call. I can’t make it a success, or guarantee I’ll give them exactly what they need. All I can do is show up, without distractions, with an open mind and heart, with all my experience, and without judgement or agenda.
- Do not compare yourself to others. Their enough is not your enough. You cannot see the resources they have available, as much as you might like to think so.
- Start by defining enough for each day as it comes. Then collect the themes together. Sometimes each day or week requires its very own enough, rather than trying to cookie-cutter your enough definition amidst shifting circumstances.
Some additional questions to ask yourself:
- How many hours would be enough today? I typically don’t force myself to start ‘work’ – emails, phone calls, projects – until 10am. I spend a huge chunk of the morning reflecting, setting up my day, so that I’m settled and fully present. Low bar.
- What’s really, truly essential? Don’t let anyone else define, for you, what’s important to do today. Just because someone expects an immediate response to an email doesn’t mean you have to give it, especially if it’s not a priority for you.
- How will you respond to the unexpected? If your child is sick and you suddenly have to drop everything to take care of them, can you shift your ‘enough’ definition? Because you won’t be able to do what you usually do. And you’ll still have done enough, you’ll still be enough.
These are really just starting points on how to define enough. I think it is an ongoing practice, and inevitable is a personal practice, too.
My hope is that you’ll start to think differently about what you hold yourself accountable to. Feeling enough is something we all struggle with, and some of us it’s a daily struggle, especially when we’re caught up in society’s standards of perfection and a very specific picture of what it means to be ‘good at your job’, or even acceptable.
Please start to shake off those definitions created by other people who have no idea what your dreams are, what your challenges are, what you’re capable of.
Imagine defining enough as something achievable every day, and being able to end each day feel like you’ve done it all. You wouldn’t have to worry about the things you haven’t done, spending precious energy on something you can’t control. Imagine all the energy you’d have to slowly, consciously, carefully, do the things that really matter to you.
For me, it’s about making a significant difference in the lives of my clients. If I’m too tired to listen properly, or too overwhelmed to remember what we talked about last week, I’m not meeting my side of the bargain.
What do you define as ‘enough’? I’d love to hear!