Whether you’re an employee or a self-employed professional, there are lot of ideas out there about what it means to actually be successful in business and how to achieve success in business. This article will be very different from what you typically see. In fact, it’s the exact opposite of those articles you see on LinkedIn that essentially read “Here’s how to turn yourself into programmed drone just like everyone else.”
Realistically, everyone’s definition of success is going to be different. For some, success means getting that big promotion at XYZ Corporation with the expense account and the fancy suits. For some, it’s as simple as earning enough money through small business ownership to fulfill their financial goals without having to wear fancy suits or deal with corporate life. Personally, I’m the latter. I spent several years in Corporate Hell after college and I determined from my experiences that there is no such thing as a corporate job that is a good fit for my personality. I’m a square peg, and Corporate America has only round holes.
With that said, I’ve never been happier in my entire life than I have been in the last 4 years since I transitioned into self-employment as an independent contractor. I have amazing clients and work on projects I enjoy on my own terms (which means at home in my pajamas with my dogs).
Over the past 4 years, I’ve noticed that many of the “how to succeed in business” tips are overly generic and assume every person operates in exactly the same way, much like programming a drone. I believe that you can do exactly the opposite of what is usually suggested and still succeed in business. So, without further ado, here are my top tips on how to succeed in business without being miserable.
- Operate based on your own timeclock. The first thing most “how to succeed in business” articles usually says is that you’ll never make it unless you’re a morning person who loves getting up at 5 am to run before starting work at 7. While there’s nothing wrong with that if you are a morning person, that sounds like absolute torture to me. I’ve always been a night owl and I can’t just make myself fall asleep early, so early morning is not the most optimal time for me to be productive. Therefore, I don’t force myself into that kind of schedule. I’ve found that I am the most efficient and do my best work when I’m well rested and working when my brain is fresh.
- Maintain your work/life balance. America has a serious problem with the fetishization of workaholism. People pride themselves on working nonstop and depriving themselves of vacations, breaks, and basically any kind of fun. You only get one life, so why not enjoy it? I’m pretty sure nobody on their deathbed ever said “I wish I had spent more weekends at the office.” No matter how much money you make, you can’t take it with you, so take that vacation. Go to the beach with your family and ignore your emails until Monday. Make memories that don’t involve spreadsheets or conference calls. Work to live, don’t live to work.
- Understand that you’re not perfect and forgive yourself for it. Having corporate bosses breathing down my neck for years trained me to expect absolute perfection from myself. Anything less was nothing short of treason. I’m already incredibly Type A, so I really didn’t need any additional anxiety or self-loathing. Since I’ve been self-employed, I had to take a step back and re-evaluate, and I’m glad I did because I realized that it’s bullshit to expect any human being to be perfect 100% of the time. We are imperfect by nature, so just do your best and forgive your own imperfections.
- No matter how busy you are, take breaks. Especially if you work at a desk like me, get up and stretch your legs every now and then. It’s good for your circulation to walk around and also a good idea to give your eyes a break from the screen sometimes. If you’re lucky enough to work from home like me, you can also cuddle your pets for a much-needed break. Even if it’s just 10 minutes, it helps to de-stress (especially petting dogs in my experience) before getting back to that big project.
- Turn off your email notifications when you’re off-duty. This one is huge if you work from home. I realized that I was staying in “work” mode when I should be in “off” mode because I work from home and constantly answered emails at all hours and on weekends. It was as if I lived at the office instead of working from home. It was life-changing when I started turning off my email notifications on weekends and when I’m on vacation. Vacation auto-responses were invented for a reason, right? Now, just the act of turning off the notifications has turned into essentially “clocking out” from my own business and I actually relax in my off time instead of constantly answering emails.
- Don’t skip lunch (unless you’re not hungry). Part of the workaholism that prevails in our society is the idea that a lunch break is unnecessary. If you’re hungry, you won’t be able to do your best work. Eating is self-care, and there’s nothing wrong with actually stepping away from the desk to eat instead of anxiously trying to eat and work at the same time. Besides, any time saved by eating while working will be lost if you end up trying to figure out how to get salad dressing out of your keyboard.
- Two words: Cafe Disco. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a huge fan of The Office. My office is actually decorated with Office merch, including a Michael Scott poster with his Wayne Gretzky quote (if you don’t know the quote, just…never mind…you need to watch The Office). After selling the Michael Scott Paper Company to Dunder Mifflin, Michael still had a lease on his old office so he turned it into a Cafe Disco for the employees to go get a coffee and dance. Well, I do something similar when I’m listening to my Amazon Music playlists and get the sudden urge to dance. Why not? I’m a terrible dancer, but nobody is here to see except my dogs (and they already think I’m nuts when I start singing). Writer’s block? Dance it away! Spreadsheet giving you a headache? Take a dance break!
I hope this encourages you, my dear readers, to define and achieve success on your own terms. I don’t know about you, but I’m not a programmed drone and I never want to be. I’m a proud square peg who doesn’t miss trying to stuff herself into a round hole. On that note, I’m going to go stretch my legs, take a break and pet my dogs. I might even dance.
Thoughts on this? Talk to me in the comments!