Work smarter not harder. Better yet, do less. You hear it all the time, but as a female entrepreneur, I know what you’re thinking: yeah, right.
Here’s the thing, women are highly susceptible to stress and the “always on” mentality. Nearly one-third of U.S. female adults are online almost constantly and those in leadership roles are more likely to suffer from burnout than employees, according to Gallup.
Another study suggests that women are more susceptible to work-related stress and burnout. Combine that with the pressures of starting and running your own business and the anxiety goes even higher.
The good news to all the lady bosses out there is that we’re not doomed. When we strategically and intentionally do less, we not only avoid burnout, but our capabilities actually increase.
Using Shaw’s expertise, my coaching experience, and additional expert insights, I’ve put together a strategy for you hard-working female entrepreneurs to do less and accomplish more by working smarter not harder.
Recognize and Resolve Your Need to Do More
In our podcast episode, Dr. Shaw explained that everything we do is based on excess and the idea of doing, being, and having MORE. “We are taught to believe ‘the more I do, the better I am.’ We live in a society where overwhelm is normalized.” This leads to burnout, which is described perfectly by Jen as:
“Burnout is when we lose sight of our inner peace and health to check a bunch of boxes for society.” More importantly, burnout can cause serious health issues like elevated blood pressure, anxiety, difficulty sleeping, weight issues, low energy, contest stress, and an overall feeling of ‘not enough.’”
The boxes you’re trying to check might include family obligations, running your business, personal relationships, or professional networking. When you strive to satisfy everyone, you end up putting yourself last.
But don’t just take it from Dr. Shaw. There are many female entrepreneurs who have burnt out and recovered—and are willing to share their tips for those of us still learning.
A recent Business Insider article interviewed several women who’ve come back from stress and anxiety, and unsurprisingly, two of the top tips: do less and prioritize better.
- TeLisa Daughtry, founder and CTO, FlyTechnista: “I made an intentional effort and commitment to unapologetically reinvest in my wellness and self-care weekly by booking 30-minute therapy sessions, meditation, and 20-minute massages. Additionally, I block out time on my calendar for rest, creativity, procrastination, and no work or meetings.”
- Kara Cronin, community lead, Shine: “When prioritizing feels hard, ask yourself: What impact will this have on the business long term? What impact will this have on my life long term? What do I need?”
- Shaina Conners, COO, Global Sisterhood: “Nothing can help you recover better than taking out time for yourself to be still and reflective.”
- Ko Im, founder, Konakafe: “Create boundaries, allow yourself to fully decompress, and let go [...] I don't feel bad for taking breaks by walking outside, eating lunch without a computer, or even closing my eyes and taking a deep breath.”
Do Less: Dr. Shaw suggests some signs of burnout include health problems, trouble sleeping, poor eating habits, tightness in the chest, difficulty with weight management, low energy, and high blood pressure. First and foremost, answer this question: am I exhibiting signs of burnout?
Flip the Switch
I know what you’re thinking. “I’m the only person who can get this stuff done. If I do less, the rest falls apart.” I know because I used to think that same way. I thought that success for my business looked like long strenuous hours, working nights and weekends, and that the harder I hustled, the greater results I’d see.
Yet, Erin Reid, professor at McMaster’s University, proved the “hustle hard” theory wrong in an article for Harvard Business Review. As a strategist, Reid worked with a particularly toxic consulting firm that openly promoted the over-work of their staff—yet management couldn’t tell the difference between teams that worked 40- to 50-hour weeks and those that worked 80 hours.
The teams that had shorter weeks (and a better work-life balance), purposely designed their schedule that way but also hid it from the rest of the company—that’s the toxic part.
We feel if we’re not working 40 or more hours each week, we’re not doing enough. Yet, Reid concluded: “a critical implication of this research is that working long hours is not necessary for high-quality work.”
Do Less: To work smarter not harder, you have to delegate. Write yourself a job ad that includes all the tasks you would like someone else to do. Include every single thing, from mowing the lawn to sending emails. Now, write a second job ad that includes all the things you can legitimately delegate to someone else.
Think: your neighbor’s kid who can mow the lawn for $10 or a VA who can provide support in a wide range of areas. Now, take action. What can you immediately take off your plate by asking for support or delegating?
Take Control of Your Schedule
As Dr. Shaw says, you are the master of your calendar, not the other way around. Getting your schedule under control so you can properly prioritize and cut out the fluff is key to managing burnout as busy female entrepreneurs.
Jen offers some actionable advice to get clear on what exactly you’re prioritizing in the 24 hours of your day. Ask yourself:
- Who has access to you?
- When and how do they have access to you?
- Who is in your life and are they adding value to your life?
- What are you saying yes to?
When an opportunity arises (I.E., a potential client meeting, a speaking event, a gathering with friends, etc.), ask yourself:
- Why are you saying yes to this opportunity? Are you saying yes for someone else or for yourself?
- Is this an opportunity you’ve been looking for?
- Is this something that stresses you out to think about, or does it feel safe and comfortable in your schedule?
These steps help you get intentional about your schedule, which allows you to work smarter not harder and ultimately do less of what you don't like and more of what you do like. The downside is that you will need to say no or walk away from obligations, situations, or even people. It might not be easy at first, but practice makes perfect.
Do Less: Use these questions to assess your current schedule and calendar. What things can you remove from your planner to make more time for the things you DO want or need to do? Then keep these questions in mind moving forward, always relying on them to make sure you’re not taking on too much.
Get the Book: 10 Questions That Answer Life’s Biggest Questions
Do Less by Starting Small
When you’re taking control of your schedule and your time, it’s not just as easy as saying, “Okay, I’ll do less now.” You need to start with baby steps. Remember, you didn’t develop these habits overnight so you won’t change your entire lifestyle overnight either.
Start by creating your vision of what an ideal day looks like. Be specific with that vision, including things like:
- I take time for meditation in the morning.
- I start by day around 10am.
- I make time to workout in the afternoon.
- I’m done with my workday by 5pm.
Then take a small but intentional step to get closer to your vision. Perhaps starting with creating a better morning routine is the first small step—and one that’s incredibly powerful for aligning and shifting your mindset.
Listen on Mindset Reset Radio: Cait and I redefine what it means to have a “morning routine”
Work Smarter Not Harder
When you work smarter not harder, the time and effort you put into your business is more authentic, creative, and supercharged. Your work now is to shift your mindset around over-working, set boundaries for your time, take control of your schedule, and get intentional about what you want your day to look like. Once you start to do less, you’ll notice every other area of your life flourishing as well.
Jessica Thiefels is a published author, host of Mindset Reset Radio, CEO of Jessica Thiefels Consulting, and co-founder of Don’t Ask How. She's been writing for more than 10 years and has been featured in top publications including Forbes and Entrepreneur. Jessica is on a mission to empower women to make their own rules and live with intention so they wake up every day excited about the life they get to live. Follow her on Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn.