Ever wonder how other women 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.
A Balanced Life: working with your energy while running your own business, with Anna Dunleavy
Anna Dunleavy is a Self Belief Business Coach, working with creative women to bring their ideas and dreams to life. Anna’s evidence-based coaching helps women to understand their self doubt stories, and why they might be keeping them stuck.
Welcome Anna! Let’s discover what living a balanced life as a female small business owner looks like to you!
What does living a balanced life look like you to? What does a day look like for you?
The meaning of living a balanced life has changed for me over the years. I used to be under the illusion that a balanced life meant an equal share of time spent on work/home life. I was chasing some form of ideal that I didn’t fully understand.
Just as the seasons of the year change, so does our energy, and it took me a long time to accept that this was normal.
I’ve been running my own business full time for three years now, and in this time, the idea of a balanced life has taken on new shape. As I began to learn about cyclical living, it helped me to understand that a balanced life ebbs and flows. There are periods of high productivity, and periods of deep rest, too. Just as the seasons of the year change, so does our energy, and it took me a long time to accept that this was normal. In a world where productivity is a marker of success, slowing down didn’t come naturally to me.
When I first started my business alongside a full-time job, I had an immense drive and pull to learn all there was to learn. I’d happily spend my evenings working – my work was my passion, and it didn’t bother me at the time that some days, I’d end up spending 10+ hours staring at a computer screen.
So when I took my business full time, I expected this energy to continue. Only it didn’t, and not long after, I began to see real dips in productivity and creative energy. Thankfully, around the same time, I discovered menstrual cycle tracking. Learning that our natural cycles, regardless of whether we bleed or not, have natural peaks and falls in energy, both physical and creative, helped me to understand myself more. It was a turning point of sorts. I began to notice patterns each month, and this in turn helped me to understand that on some days or weeks, I might feel more tired – and that this was okay. More than that – it was exactly how it was supposed to be.
With this newfound acceptance came a more gentle approach, and this, in essence, is what I would now call a balanced life. Of course, work doesn’t always allow us to live in true harmony with our cycles and energy levels, but getting to know the signs when my body needs rest has been a true gift, although I still need regular reminders.
My work days are mostly aligned with the school hours, and this means it’s a relatively short amount of time to get my work done. I’d like to say that I make time for things like journaling and meditation most days, but the reality is quite different. When we had to homeschool, the morning rush was taken out of the equation, and I could spend more time on those things. Now that schools have returned to normal, I mostly prioritise some exercise first thing in the morning, before the school run. We always walk to school, and this gives me a chance to get outside before I get to my desk, too.
What inspired you to live this way? Which choices and changes did you make, or have to make in order to work with your energy?
Growing up, I learned that hard work was something to be proud of. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with hard work per se, but when work slowly begins to eat away at all hours of the day – you begin to notice the effect this has on your wellbeing, relationships, health. I always knew that I didn’t want to make work my only priority, as much as I love what I do – but it’s hard not to get pulled into this never ending cycle.
I made a conscious decision to prioritise time with family, but also time for myself, too. It wasn’t until my late twenties that I realised that I actually needed time alone to recharge. This came as a bit of a surprise, but that’s where things like journaling, meditation, or exercise, have been really helpful. Now I notice the difference if I don’t make time for those things.
“It wasn’t until my late twenties that I realised that I actually needed time alone to recharge”
Don’t get me wrong – there are still plenty of times when I go days or weeks without doing any of those things. But each time I return, I remember the positive effect those routines have on me. Bit by bit, we learn to remember.
What three tips/habits/strategies would you suggest for readers who also want to work with their energy while running their own business?
It’s always hard to share tips, as we’re all so different, but I’ll share what’s worked for me in the hope that you may find this helpful, too.
One – Explore working with the lunar/menstrual cycle, as a guide to get to know your own patterns. Getting to know our own ebbs and flows means that we can bring about more acceptance and kindness to those days when we’re not feeling our best. This has been hugely helpful in my life and work.
Two – We all have different needs and wants, and this will be reflected in our own version of a balanced life. Getting clear on my own priorities has been really helpful, too. It can feel scary to explore a different kind of life that steps outside of the norm, but in order to live a balanced life, that’s what we have to do.
What’s most important to you? Is it making time for reading a book each morning, or a gentle walk before sitting down at your desk? Perhaps you work best when you focus on a project intensely for a few weeks, followed by extended downtime to recharge those creative batteries? How do you want to be spending your time? I think these are the questions we have to ask ourselves to begin creating a life in alignment.
“Follow what feels right”
Three – Follow what feels right. Ultimately your needs and wants may change over time, and that’s okay. Your balanced life today may look very different from your balanced life tomorrow. Welcome in the change.
Thank you Anna, for sharing with us how you’re working with your energy when running your own business. Earlier this year, Anna and I had a lovely chat on her podcast. Listen to the episode here, and find out more about Anna on her website + Instagram.
Want to find out more about setting boundaries, working with your energy and living a more balanced life as a female small business owner?
I’ll be posting interviews for A Balanced Life every month or so. Do you have a suggestion for A Balanced Life? Would you like to be interviewed? Great! Send me a message. I’m always looking for inspiring people to feature.