Can Entrepreneurs Have Boundaries

I remember sitting in church, at a special event, at martial arts practice, or other activity and my father’s ‘beeper’ went off. With that our time ended and he went off to work. He was self employed and worked more than most people did in the 1980’s.

The 1990’s was all about being connected.  I had a pager from Sprint. With that pager people at my job could leave their number and let me know when they needed me. I took all kinds of extra shifts. From high school to college I worked 2 jobs  – whether it was 2 part time jobs in high school or 1 full time and 1 part time job. I was considered ‘driven’ and got accolades for being such a ‘hard worker’.

In the 2000’s I would sit in meetings at record label offices and see people on their ‘two-ways’ (2 way pagers). They all seemed so important. I had a Blackberry and a cell phone – both of which let me do work and catch up on things during downtime.

During the 2010’s I was becoming a full-time entrepreneur– someone who preferred to work 80 hours for myself instead of 40 hours for someone else. Especially starting up, I worked very long hours, well into the night. It was never ending.  But talking to fellow entrepreneurs, it was all about working – and it seemed like workaholism was a badge of honor. It made you better than regular employed people who would never understand what running one’s own business was like. When I was with others , if my phone wasn’t going off, it meant I wasn’t as successful as others in the room.

Over 4 decades could I have had it all wrong? I’m beginning to think so. Over the last few years I’ve begun to find value in other things such as taking a two-day sabbath from Saturday to Sunday. Pastor Robert Morris defines it as not doing anything thing related to your vocation or calling. I have found that I find value in cutting off from texts from clients, emails from customers, and needs that come up over the weekend that can wait until Monday.  I have found the need to set boundaries.

The stress of boundaries comes when they are violated. This can happen both when someone knowingly presses those boundaries or worse – if you have not communicated those boundaries in advance and people violate those. It’s harder when you communicate them and they continue to be pressed. For me this is when anxiety kicks in along with fear – if I don’t solve their problem now they will keep pressing thereby ruining my entire sabbath or worse they will hire someone else. But while I have not learned how to deal with the former, I am learning that I am comfortable with clients hiring someone else that is available the hours I am not. What I value is changing.

It has become such a need that I actually feel anxiety and spasms that are expensive to treat when alarms go off over the weekend.  Stress induced backpain is largely the result of the body believing it’s a biological threat or stressor attacking and not a psychological one. I still have not totally figured out how to be a good business owner, good servicer of my clients, yet set proper boundaries that keep me healthy, safe, and able to do life.

“Stress dampens the immune response. When you’ve worked overtime or had an especially bad week, it wouldn’t be unusual to feel both low back pain and a feverish state. This would be because low back pain, when unaddressed for long periods of time, can cause your body to react by hiking up the body’s temperature to “kill off” whatever is causing you stress. So, in some ways, the answer is yes, your back pain is causing your low-grade fever. Your immune system simply doesn’t know any other way to respond. “ – Better Health Alaska

Back Pain and Fever: Should I Be Worried? Better Health Alaska, https://betterhealthalaska.com/back-pain-with-fever-should-i-be-worried-could-this-be-serious/

It’s also hard to communicate this need to clients who are also business owners who grew up the same time I did and still follow the ‘workaholic entrepreneur’ model. I am still working through that but I believe onboarding new clients has to have some kind of document or communication where clients know that I am not on call 24/7 and do not answer texts / emails on the weekends for my own health and well being.

I have also become more cognizant of this with others. I have begun to ask my clients, vendors, and service providers what their days off are, when they consider themselves ‘off’, and established that I want to respect their boundaries. To some it’s unexpected, to some it’s appreciated, and to others it’s puzzling that I would ask.

Can one be an entrepreneur and practice proper self care at the same time? Can you move away from the workaholic model when your clients may still subscribe to it – and believe you do too? Are boundaries something entrepreneurs can have? I’m exploring all of this during this season. Because I don’t have the answers.