Routine, Rest, and Rejuvenation
For small business owners, personal and professional time is often fluid. Finding ways to set boundaries can be challenging because there is always more work to do, and many of us do some or all of our work from home. Burnout is real, and it can have lasting negative effects on your business, creativity, personal life, and more. The trick is to find the things that work for you and prioritize them fiercely. Below are some ways we try to find time for ourselves, stay engaged with our work and set realistic boundaries.
Morning routine: I have a morning routine that I love. Early morning is my favorite time of day. First thing I do when I get up is make coffee. That first cup is such a treat. That probably sounds corny, but it’s true. I try to make sure I don’t have to rush out in the morning. If I have to go to work early, I get up extra early, around 5:00 a.m., just so I can peacefully drink my coffee, read the New York Times, do the Wordle puzzle of the day, write in my journal, and do a short walk on the treadmill while listening to a podcast. All of this takes about an hour. This time is special to me because it helps me start the day slowly. I had years and years of starting the day fast, eating on the run, running to the bus—feeling crazed right out the door. Those days are mostly over, and a slower early morning helps set the tone for the day.
Schedule time outdoors: Mondays and Tuesdays are generally days I don’t go into the shop to work. I’m still working at home on emails, invoicing, ordering flowers, and a million other things, but I can structure my day the way I want. I work for a few hours in the morning, then Eric and I go biking or hiking (and get donuts!), then I work a few hours at night. Having time together outside of work where we can be outdoors and exercising is a priority, and it’s time I’m careful to protect. I often get requests for work meetings or even social dates with friends (including from Laura Beth) and I almost always say no. Of course, if it’s something special, I’ll make an exception, but mostly I keep this schedule because it helps me disconnect and clear my mind.
Playing with flowers: One thing I try to make time for every week is playing with flowers. Even on weeks when I’m exhausted and feel really run down, playing with flowers lifts me up and gets my creative juices flowing. Obviously, I do floral design much of the week, but that is design for other people, for customers who have expectations about what their arrangements will look like and how long they will last.
Playing with flowers is just for me. I combine this time with cleaning out the cooler so I’m mostly using leftover blooms from the week. And I just make whatever. Whatever I feel like. Sometimes it’s hideous and sometimes it’s magic. It doesn’t matter. The purpose is not to have an end product that is Instagrammable (although sometimes I do share it on Instagram), the goal is to choose colors and textures that I like and try something new or make something comforting or just design while my mind wanders. So much of the joy in this work comes from the flowers, so that’s where I go to get reinspired.
I learned to overwork early on. I wanted to be a musician, and played the flute at all hours, always pursuing that elusive 4+ hours a day of focused practice. As a teenager, I’d get up early to play scales, and escape to dingy basement practice rooms every free period. I even got a special exemption from chemistry class so that I could spend more time in the practice room—which is why I have zero understanding of anything related to chemistry!
Pursuing music allowed me to be free. I was in charge of my time when I worked on it. No awkward high school social life, no boring classes, and best of all, no after-school sports. Looking back, it’s no shock that I burned out at eighteen years old. I had a successful music career in front of me, but the will to do it had gone up in smoke. That experience made me wary of overwork. I swore I would be more careful when I found my drive again.
As you all know, farming is an overworker’s dream job. So I have to be really careful; if I want to keep farming, then I have to counterbalance work with rest. Watching TV or going for a walk have to be just as high priority for me as weeding the zinnias.
I’ve broken rest into four categories: physical rest, rejuvenation, laziness, and hobbies. Here are some ways that I find them in my life:
1. Physical rest. I go to bed at around 8:00 or 8:30 every night during the high season, and get up around 5:30. Getting more than 8 hours of sleep is a real luxury that I know most people (parents!) don’t have. I’m very lucky to be a fairly good sleeper, so this one’s easy for me.
2. Rejuvenation. This one is a harder nut to crack, as what rejuvenates each person is different. For me, seeing dear friends is a great way to recharge. Being around friends reminds me that there is a world beyond my world; laughing and enjoying each other brings me so much pleasure.
Another activity that rejuvenates me is going for long walks—but they have to be off the farm. That’s important! Pre-pandemic era, I’d also spend a lot of time reading or writing in coffee shops. This is an activity that I really miss, and when the pandemic happened it was tough to let it go. Usually rejuvenation happens on days off, but sometimes it’s nice to sneak in some friend time or a walk after a work day, too. We have a dog, so I also get to enjoy recharging throughout the day by cuddling him!
3. Laziness. For me, this translates to TV time. More ideally, I think I would nap or just lie around letting my thoughts wander, but that always ends up causing stress as my mind slips into list-making mode. Television helps me to think about nothing at all.
After work, here’s my routine: I come inside around 3:30. I finish up with emails around 4:30, and then I make dinner with the TV on. My husband and I often watch a show while we eat too. I always think of Matilda and feel guilty watching TV like her horrible parents did during dinner; but truly this screen time relaxes me, and it’s a chill way that my partner and I can be together without being focused directly on each other. We both work on the farm, so we see plenty of each other during the day.
4. Hobbies. I never had hobbies when I was pursuing a career in music. Now, in a full circle kind of way, music is my hobby! I haven’t played the flute in a while, but I play the guitar (badly) and really enjoy it. I also read (highly recommend My Brilliant Friend) and have a few pen pals to write to. Hobbies usually get kicked to the side when work is really busy, but I try to pick them back up as often as I can; even reading my just book once a week helps, if that’s all I can manage. Usually hobbies happen after dinner, between laziness and physical rest.
I’m sure that as I grow and change, so too will my routines and ways of finding rest. We’re moving to our own land in the fall, and my parents are moving there, too, to a separate house on the property. I’m excited to hang out on their porch after work and generally spend more family time together; it will be a great new way to rest!