The other day I was working on a project. But it wasn’t going too well.
You see – Writing. Each. Sentence. Felt. Like. Pulling. A. Tooth.
Without a hint of protest, I let any distraction pull me away . . . I checked my email every few minutes. I checked my Google Analytics for the second time. I tuned into Twitter.
I read blog posts about toddler tantrums . . . sourdough bread recipes . . . and how to make your own solar water heater. I went outside to check the chicken coop for eggs . . . surveyed the raspberries . . . filled the goats’ water bucket . . .
But write? Plow through the project I have to get done by the end of the week? Forget it.
Because here’s the thing.
Deep inside me I was feeding on a big myth. One that most of us mompreneurs (and dadpreneurs, too) have swallowed. And it’s tainted me through and through.
With the internet, the world opened up enormous possibilities. Because you could reach any market, you could carve out a niche that fit perfectly with your strengths and passions.
You could do what you love . . .
Follow your passion . . .
Work would no longer be work. It would be a joyous experience that you could barely tear yourself away from . . . and couldn’t wait to get back to.
These promises are enticing. And, sure, they hold some truth.
I’ve worked in a dozen kitchens, chamber-maided and hid out in a cubicle after an hour-long commute on the NYC subways. At one point I considered going into nursing which would mean long hours negotiating between my beliefs and hospital policy, conventional medicine and people’s pain.
I’ve watched my husband drag himself home after hot days of roofing and framing houses.
So I’m not knocking the fact that I get to read and write about health all day for my clients and my own health information business in the comfort of my own home
I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
But when I found myself struggling to get my work done, I realized I’d lost perspective thanks to some dangerous ideas I’d been feeding on. And I suspect I’m not the only one.
Because here’s the thing. Even if you love what you do . . . even if you’re following your dream . . . work is still often enough – well – work.
While sometimes you’ll be flowing . . .
You also need to be prepared to get stuff done when you’re not in the mood. You have to be able to get down to business when the last thing you want to do is get in front of the computer.
You need to develop good work habits and work ethics. Grit-your-teeth, I-can’t-wait-to-take-a-break work skills.
Sometimes work is hard. And mentally you have to be ready for that.
And the easiest way to do this is to not completely mix up your work with your play.
Because here’s what I realized when writing started to feel like swimming in mud . . .
If you start to think of work as not work, it’s harder to do it when it’s work. Even more so when it’s hard work. (Did you get that?)
As I stood in front of my computer struggling to keep myself focused on the task at hand I realized there were all kind of little voices merrily chipping away at my resolve . . . “Oh, I’m just not feeling ready for this.” “I’m not at my creative best right now.” “I’m not inspired.” “I should put this off until I’m mentally attuned to this project.” “Now’s not a good time.” “I’ll do this when I’m feeling up to it.”
Going a step further – as you’ve probably learned from reading a few of my posts – the opposite becomes a problem as well. The more you fall in love with your work with all your heart and soul, the less of you is available for the rest of your life – your family and your own complicated self.
See work can be seductively easy to love. Neatly fitting into schedules, it has clearcut ways of letting you know you’re doing well (called income). It’s not as messy as your inner soul or your relationships. It’s not as rife with ambiguity.
I grew up in a family falling apart from distrust, depression, and an absence of love where success in work was used to replace all of these deficits. It’s a trap I’m easily sucked into.
So I know how easy it is to turn to work when other aspects of your life seem harder to manage and “succeed” at.
But when you keep work in the category of Work, you help yourself focus on getting work done. So you can spend time nourishing the rest of your life when you finish up.
It doesn’t mean you have to hate work to love your family. It just means you have to watch where your commitments are growing and stay loyal to the ones who need you the most.
My Remedy For This Mompreneur Trap
So how did I get out of this mompreneur false promise that’s tainted my work ethic?
First, I recognized it was happening. I started being honest with myself about why I wasn’t getting work done. I acknowledged that that perfect time when I’m in the perfect mood to work on this project will never come. I shooed all those voices away that urged me to wait for the Muse to join me. And simply decided to strike out on my own after breakfast no matter how I felt.
I also acknowledged that some of my busy-ness keeping me away from family time wasn’t business but time wasted thanks to unproductivity. I renewed my commitments to myself and my family to get stuff done I was supposed to get done when I was supposed to be working on it. This would give me more time away from work.
Second, I went back to the tactics that had helped me build my business when I was full of doubts and fears. Tactics that helped me just do it:
- I made a to-do list each night;
- I used an egg timer to force myself to work in 3o-minute spurts;
- I set a schedule with deadlines and (pretty much) stuck to it.
- I made a point of shutting my office door, “unplugging” for big chunks of the day and spending time with my family.
- I put more of my focus on my life outside of work – noticing things that had been lost in the fog of business tasks and challenges swinging around in my head.
Inch by inch I started to get things done.
And – interestingly enough – with every aching inch of progress on my work, you wouldn’t believe what happened . . .
Work became easier to do.
And as it got easier, I got more done. And I enjoyed more success in my work as a result. This, in turn, has given me more freedom and flexibility to direct my businesses where I want them to go making them even more satisfying. And in turn, allowing me to spend more time with my family enjoying the rewards of success.
In fact – I’ll be totally honest with you – while I haven’t cheated on my family, I am starting to love my work again. And get it done.
Most days, I no longer feel like getting my work done is like pulling teeth.
Have you swallowed this myth and suffered indigestion when you have to work because of it? What were your solutions? Please share!