Self Care

Finding the Balance Between Rest + Hustle

April 29, 2016

I have to confess that since I started this blog last year, one of my biggest challenges has been finding balance. Specifically, I’m struggling to find my upper limit; how do I know when it’s time for me to put my head down and get things done, and when it’s time to walk away and take care of myself?

Where do I find the balance between rest and hustle?

This has always been a problem for me, in every line of work I’ve ever had, but I feel more conflicted now than ever before. In part, it’s because blogging and writing is a very personal project, but I also believe that I’m constantly on the receiving end of two powerful yet seemingly contradictory messages.

How do you decide when it's time to put your head down and work, and when it's time to walk away and take care of yourself? Here's how I'm finding the balance between rest + hustle. A must read for every #girlboss looking for balance!

Let’s start with the one that every #girlboss knows too well – hustle.

I see it everywhere I look online: Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, emails …

Good things come to those that hustle. // Hustle beats talent when talent doesn’t hustle. //The dream is free, but the hustle is sold separately.

On many levels, this speaks to me deeply. Growing up in an immigrant family, hard work was like religion to us. I watched as my grandparents worked 365 days a year into their late sixties and my mum worked two jobs while putting herself through school. Hard work was normal and also honourable, so by sixteen, I had two jobs too.

I used to be insanely proud of the long hours and my over the top work ethic, but don’t get me wrong – these days I know busy isn’t something to be glorified. Looking back I made my life much more difficult than it needed to be, because I was obsessed with maintaining a bigger lifestyle than I really needed.

But still, the idea that I should always be willing to ‘go the extra mile’ is strongly imprinted in my psyche.

But what about rest?

Over the past few years, I’ve become a strong believer in the power (and importance) of rest and self care – and I’ve noticed it has a strong online voice too.

We don’t have to do it all. // Sometimes you need to slow down. // Rest is the new hustle. (That last one is my fave!)

I know rest is important. As I wrote a few months ago, I’ve realised that when I don’t make time to take care of myself, I get burnt out and stop caring about … just about everything. When I’m mentally and physically drained I go into survival mode (eat, sleep, work repeat) and I stop making time for the things that bring me joy.

Maybe you’ve noticed this about yourself too?

So where do we find the balance? How do we know when to push though and make things happen – and when to walk away and make time for rest?

I’ve been asking myself for the past few months and this is what I’ve found out.

How do you decide when it's time to put your head down and work, and when it's time to walk away and take care of yourself? Here's how I'm finding the balance between rest + hustle. A must read for every #girlboss looking for balance!

PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR EMOTIONS

Hands up if your work has ever frustrated you to the point that you’ve:

a) cried and thought about giving up?
b) gotten angry and aggressive with other people?
c) been ready to throw your laptop out the window?

Hand held high. It’s definitely a YES from me, on all three accounts.

My usual response to one of these emotional states has been to push through and just ‘get on with it’. But to be honest, this doesn’t work very well for me. I’m realising that whatever job I’m working on ends up taking me twice as long, the results are often poor quality, and I’m left in a very grouchy mood.

So for the past few months, I’ve been trying something different.

I’ve accepted that these emotional responses – sadness mixed with self doubt, frustration with a touch of aggression, or good ol’ fashioned anger – are my body’s way of telling me it’s time for a break.

At first, making this change was hard. It took time for me to retrain my mind to understand that taking time for rest was actually a productive strategy and not quitting (which is what instincts were shouting!) But the results started speaking for themselves; I’m getting more done and I’m (arguably) less cranky. ?

ACCEPT YOU DON’T ALWAYS HAVE TO GIVE 100%

I grew up hearing and believing that successful people always put 100% into everything they do, and for the most part I’ve acted on this faithfully. But lately I’ve started to challenge this belief.

First of all, it’s not working. I’m (begrudgingly) accepting I have limited time and energy and I can’t do it all, even if I want to. Putting 100% into my work, all the time, leaves me nothing left to invest in myself.

But it goes beyond limited resources; I’ve realised investing so much of myself, into everything I do, is wasteful. For some tasks good enough is … well … good enough.

Consider taking an hour to craft a ‘perfect’ email vs 10 minutes to send a quick response which adequately conveys your message. Was your email worth the extra investment of 50 minutes of your time? Or would that time have been better spent in a yoga class, or spending time with your partner?

I think the real key to success is being able to consistently make this judgement call.

Again, at times this has been a tough pill to swallow. My compulsion for excellence (or let’s call it what it really is – perfectionism) definitely makes walking away from my laptop difficult at times, but I’m trying to remember that I need to keep investing in myself in order to move forward with my work.

REST WHEN YOU REST

Finally, I’m learning that when it’s time to rest, it’s time to rest.

It’s not time to browse social media, or to worry about my to do list, or to tidy the house.

I know it’s hard. I honestly believe that somewhere in the last decade or so we have actually lost our ability to rest. Have you ever noticed when you go on holiday is takes a few days now to really start to relax and rewind? It’s because we’re so accustomed to being busy that it actually feels strange or even uncomfortable to just do nothing!

So instead we instinctively try and fill the time with little ‘tasks’ so that we feel productive, all under the guise of rest. But the result is not increased productivity, instead it’s increased exhaustion. This is why we are all tired, all the time – because we never truly stop.

So be present with friends. Sleep when you’re tried. And rest when you rest.

How do you balance the pull of hustle with the need for rest? Is it a daily struggle or do you have techniques that are working for you? Let me know in the comments! x

photo credit : unsplash.com / used with permission

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  • While reading almost all of your posts, I just nod my head in absolute agreement. I am 100% one of those type-A perfectionists and only recently did I start realizing the power of rest and how important it is to step away from work and focus on yourself. I really want to work on more conscious resting and remove my personal stigma of “doing nothing.”

    • Hi Erin – thanks for your kind words! I’m glad I’m not the only one who struggles sometimes with this balance! I’m slowly getting better but ‘doing nothing’ but it’s not always easy. Thanks for ready lovely! x

  • All the good points, Jen! I don’t know which one to comment on first! As someone from an immigrant family with hardworking parents, I agree about how working hard seems embedded in our psyches. And learning that we can pick which task to give 100% too is crucial to keep our sanity.

    I love that “Rest is the new hustle,” btw! Should be framed & put somewhere. ❀️

    • I’m glad you can relate! I hate making broad generalisations but – at least around the Chinese families I knew growing up – 100+ hour work weeks are the norm. My grandparents used to sleep in the chairs in the dining room of their restaurant when it was busy, so they wouldn’t waste time driving home! Now, my grandmother is 76 and STILL works 12 hour shifts in restaurants; I actually worked with her a few summers ago and I struggled to keep up. It definitely instills something in you … but at the same time one of the last time I chatted with my grandmother she told me it was important to have fun and enjoy life, so I think she may be looking back on her life and thinking about balance too.

      Haha – I can’t claim the rights to ‘Rest is the new hustle’, I think the phrase was coined by this lovely lady https://www.instagram.com/jane_johnson/ ?

      • I’m a fourth-generation Chinese immigrant & I remember the same things. My parents worked 120 hours a week sleeping in the office on weekdays until I almost graduated college. It took me a while to learn to keep up with my Dad lol, but he’s made time for rest since he turned 50. In short, I REALLY get where you’re coming from! ?

        • I’m a lazy bum compared to my grandparents – they must look at me and wonder what happened?! ?

          • I know my parents wonder the same thing (they’ve told me so lol). My Mom thinks it’s because in their time, it was hustle or starve & become homeless. My Dad was homeless at one point as a child & his family ended up living in a construction site for years while my Mom’s parents couldn’t afford to take care of her. When you’ve not had the basics, you’re so hungry for success, my mom often says. I guess we’re blessed enough not to need to work like that anymore. But yep, they are seeing rest is important too.

  • This is a tough one and I don’t think we ever master it – and what I mean is, it’s a constant maintainence. It has to be, right? Unless, of course, your life never changes and you find your routine and magic and then I can see it working, forever. But I think for the rest of us, changing jobs, countries, relationships, homes, all require adjustment and tweaking out this work/rest balance.

    Yeah, that hustle bit…I think I’m starting to tire of that word. Great word, never did anything to me, but it’s getting overused, but i loved the way you included it b/c it is EVERYWHERE these days. How to listen to ourselves amongst the noise, right?

    • YES to both points. It’s definitely constant maintenance – trying to find systems that work, eliminating the necessary, and then just making it work for us (if that makes sense!)

      And yeah – I thought about just saying ‘work’ in the title but then I feel like ‘hustle’ has become it’s own monster lately and it should be addressed! I think I should start a new ‘do what you can but then chill the f*ck’ out movement’ haha … just need a catchy #hashtag to make it work! ?

  • Oh goodness, I’m so with you on this. Thanks for writing about it — I feel like i read so many articles about how we have to keep pushing super hard and take on more jobs to make more money, etc etc…and while I can see the value in working hard, rest is definitely important too. I feel stretched a bit too thin at the moment and am trying to find ways to cut back. I just don’t have the mental or physical stamina to keep going all the time. I haven’t found a balance yet but am working on it. πŸ™‚

    • I think that’s what really drove this home to me the past few months – all the articles and quotes I kept reading about ‘hustling’ and making your dreams happen!! Which I totally get, but argh – so tired sometimes! I’m definitely still working on this too, and it will be an even bigger when I get back to Aus in June (I’ll be going back to my office job for a few months) … plus I’m trying to pick up freelance work too. ? Like Lani said below, it’s all about constant maintenance!!

  • This is so brilliant, friend. Thank you. x

  • Marvelous!

  • Barbara @ Simplify Days

    I saw this come through on Twitter last week and I’ve wanted to read it since! It’s a rainy Sunday morning and my baby is sleeping so I finally had a minute to sit and read. WONDERFUL ARTICLE! It truly speaks to me because they totally seam like opposites! Simplify and clear up your time OR hustle to make your business/dreams a reality. Both can be achieved: simplicity and hustle but it’s certainly a balancing act. I’m sure I’ll spend me life trying to find the perfect balance but here’s something that helps me: I spend at least an hour of unplugged outside time daily with my daughter. No emails, no social media, my phone is off. This ALWAYS helps me to clear my head, focus on the bigger picture and see what’s most important in my life. (Plus it’s fun. ? )

    • Hi Barbara! Thank you so much for your feedback πŸ™‚ It’s sounds like you really understand how I felt writing this – it’s strange to feel so passionate about 2 mindsets that are so seemingly incompatible!

      It’s definitely a balancing act that takes some time (and intention) to achieve. I love how you make time to spend time with your daughter offline. I’m making a real effort to do this with my husband … sometimes I slip up but I’m getting there! ☺️

  • Julie@ChooseBetterLife

    Love this! Life is truly about managing priorities, and self-care is right up there. I make sure to put hikes, exercise, reading a trashy book, etc. on my calendar so if something else comes up I can honestly say I already have plans.
    As for the quality of things that don’t have to be perfect, Elizabeth Gilbert says something like “learn to become a deeply disciplined half-ass.”

    • Haha – I adore that quote! And yes self care is such a huge priority. I struggle with it at times, but I’m working on it!! I love your tip of putting it on your calendar πŸ™‚

  • Radical Transformation Project

    This month has been really crazy so I found this post at the perfect time. I am going to try to remember to slow down and make time for self care. I tend to feel guilty if I take time for myself when I feel like I should be working. I also thought you made a really good point about really resting when you need downtime and stay off social media. I’m going to try and remember these tips as I go through another busy week.
    Thanks,
    Faith
    http://www.radicaltransformationproject.com

    • Hi Faith – thanks for reading! The bit about “resting when you rest” is something I have to remind myself ALL THE TIME – sometimes it’s so hard!! Hopefully this week goes smoothly for you πŸ™‚
      All the best! x Jen

  • Danielle

    Yessss! I love this post so much. Seeing the word “hustle” has started to fill me with anxiety over the past year because I keep burning out. I get what the trend is saying and I definitely put in the work needed for my business, but there HAS to be a balance. I don’t remember where I heard this, but it’s stuck with me, “You can’t pour from an empty vessel.” So we have to fill ourselves up first. Thanks for sharing this post!