Ever wonder how other small business owners create a life that feels balanced, intentional and fulfilling?
A Balanced Life is my blog series in which I interview mentors, makers, creatives and others who are intentionally seeking to live a more balanced life.
We talk about living life without the hustle, resisting norms around productivity + busyness, and about consciously making the choice to live life more attuned to your own rhythms, energy, needs.
Jen is a cyclical living mentor supporting small business owners as they align their work and life with natural cycles – menstrual, lunar and seasonal.
As well as offering one-to-one mentoring, Jen also runs the Aligned Communit: a gentle and welcoming space (away from social media) fuelled by connection, collaboration and friendly conversation. The community is for anyone who wants to build their business in a slow and sustainable way. It includes regular prompts, live events – including co-working sessions and seasonal planning workshops, and even a growing library of books and puzzles.
Welcome Jen! Let’s discover what living a balanced life as a small business owner means to you!
What does living a balanced life look like to you? What does a day look like for you? What does living in tune with natural cycles mean for your life?
I practice and preach cyclical living – living in rhythm with natural cycles – and the foundation of this is getting enough rest to ensure I am joyfully productive when I need to be. So while I feel like I balance my days where I can, they are all very different!
I have five-year-old twins, committed clients, a very active community, and a dog who is really good at looking doleful – it’s not always possible to just decide, “Hey, I feel like resting today. Screw you, adulting!” But all of these responsibilities paired with menstrual cycle awareness have meant I’ve become quite good at recognising when I can and should say no, reschedule or push back on things.
While I feel like I balance my days where I can, they are all very different!
Though my days can all look different, I do have a few boundaries that I try and stick to week to week. My kids have started school full time now so my hours match theirs. I do drop off, and my husband does pick up and sharing the school run this way has been a huge upside to lockdown and both of us working from home.
I also don’t book in client calls or other appointments on a Monday or Friday. Monday is for admin and general catching up at my desk. Fridays are ideally for resting and running errands child-free, but it’s also a relief to know I have those unbooked bookends to my week. If something does need to shift, there is room for it to do so.
What inspired you to live this way? What choices and changes did you make, or have to make?
A few years ago I had returned from maternity leave to my printing business. I created sustainable stationery and ran letterpress workshops from my garden studio. The less I slept (because twins), the harder everything felt, and yet the harder I tried to push through it and get things done. I constantly compared myself to others and felt like I was always behind and that if I could just squeeze a few extra hours in that maybe I could catch up.
I didn’t catch up. I burned out. Bit by bit I gave up parts of my printmaking business until it was clear it wasn’t a viable option for me anymore.
It was only when I discovered menstrual cycle awareness and started integrating this and seasonal living into my business that I slowed down and found a rhythm that actually worked for me.
When I pivoted and started building my mentoring offering, I fell into the same pattern of working on it all the time and comparing myself to others. It was only when I discovered menstrual cycle awareness and started integrating this and seasonal living into my business that I slowed down and found a rhythm that actually worked for me.
Now that’s what I support my clients and community in doing too. When working one-to-one with someone, we talk about their energy as well as their plans and workload. If possible, we even plan our sessions around their cycle.
In my community we have, among other things, twice weekly co-working sessions themed to ebbing or flowing energy, seasonal planning workshops and regular cycle check ins. It is key to keep our cyclical nature front of mind if you want to work in a way that is sustainable for you. And once you start working like that it seems wild that you ever did it any other way!
What three tips/habits/strategies would you suggest for readers who also want to live a balanced life? How do we incorporate living in tune with natural cycles in our day-to-day?
1: Listen to your body. It doesn’t matter how much time you have in your calendar or resources you have at your fingertips. If your body is telling you no, then something has to shift. Resting is not lazy, it is crucial.
2: Get better at saying no to others and yes to yourself. If you don’t honour your boundaries then no one else will. It’s not selfish. No, really it’s not.
3: Start with 1%. This is Alexandra Pope and Sjanie Hugo Wurlitzer’s advice (the authors of Wild Power and founders of Red School) and it is gold. If it seems impossible that you could take a whole day off when you need it, then how about just an hour? How about starting with ten minutes sitting outside or curling up with a book? Write down your ideal scenario, what you’d love to do, and find 1% of that. The beauty of this is you’ll often find that 1% was easier than expected. “Hmm, maybe I’ll try 10%…”. Yes! Please look me up so I can cheer for you when you get to 100% more quickly than you thought!
Thank you Jen, for sharing with us what living a balanced life looks like for you! I love what a difference living in tune with natural cycles has made to you. Find out more about Jen on her website, follow her on Instagram or connect on Pinterest. Jen also runs the lovely Life, Aligned community (which has become my favourite place to hang out online). Find more about the community here.
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