The word ‘hustle’ has several meanings. The definitions you would find in the dictionary are: To push roughly; jostle; obtain illicitly or by forceful action; a state of great activity, a fraud or swindle. If those don’t sound bad enough, the word ‘hustle’ has taken on a new millennial / Gen Z persona; and an entire culture has been created around it.
You would have seen it on instagram – the hashtag ‘hustle’ has been used on 27.8 million posts, and that’s not including all the other iterations such as ‘hustlers’, ‘hustlehard’, ‘hustleharder’, ‘hustlemode’… you get the idea… Hustle culture is the urge (or pressure?) we currently seem to feel to work harder, stronger, faster. To grind and exert ourselves at our maximum capacity day after day, and accomplish our goals at a lightning speed. Entrepreneurs especially, seem to have gravitated to the word as some sort of badge of honour to prove they are working harder than anyone else, and somehow this means they will reach success faster, or in greater amounts than others.
Is this what is required of us in order to succeed? It absolutely can’t be, because our power as business owners, entrepreneurs, creatives and humans, lies in the ability to carve out our own path. To go at our own pace. We were taught that slow and steady wins the race – what happened to that?! When did we all just collectively decide to be in a frenzied rush, in constant competition with ourselves and others? Hustling – working non-stop, rushing from one meeting to another, clicking the next Zoom link, ticking off tasks, and not making time for anything other than work, glued to your digital devices – is not realistic, it’s not sustainable and it’s not healthy.
We are not machines. We are meant to stop, have breaks, enjoy conversation and connection with others, gather ideas and seek inspiration. We are meant to move our bodies (and no, that doesn’t mean walking from the computer to the kitchen), sleep well, indulge in hobbies and passions that are separate from work, and find fulfillment and meaning in our lives. Ignoring all other human pursuits for the sake of the hustle, means we will only ever end up as a one dimensional, jumbled mess of stress and anxiety.
I started my business largely because of the flexibility and the type of lifestyle my business could provide. I envisioned a beautiful balance of career and family, with the freedom to choose my hours, work when it suited me, and the ability to put the phone down when necessary. Now, call me naive but starting my business actually meant I worked harder, for longer hours and got paid less than ever before. The Vibe Tribe has been operating for several years and it’s only now – 5 years in business and 2 years into a global pandemic – that I realised that I had fallen into the dreaded hustle culture. Thankfully I recognised it quickly. I saw it for what it was and took off the ‘I have to work’ blinkers. I completely understood that if I didn’t find my version of balance and boundaries, then it would be my undoing.
There is no ‘one size fits all’ answer, as everyone is different. But for me, I started with creating a routine centered around my wellbeing. My health became my priority, not my work. If I am healthy, then everything flows down from that – I am happier, I am more productive, more creative. I am a better business leader, wife, mother, person when I am healthy.
I try to go for a long walk in the mornings. Sometimes just by myself with a podcast or music in my headphones at a fast pace, sometimes I take my daughters and enjoy finding flowers, talking about clouds and going a little slower.
I researched and invested in scheduling and automation strategies so my business doesn’t require me 24/7 and I poured money into learning so I can grow as a business leader and work smarter, not harder. I also mandated mental health days, or blocks of time throughout the day where no phones are allowed, and I give myself permission to not be attached to my desk or computer.
I created boundaries and clear times when I would be available to clients. I stopped replying to emails late at night. I don’t accept rush jobs that will cause unnecessary stress, and I charge what I’m worth. This means I can be more selective with my clients and projects, giving me more control of my time.
I let go of the false narrative that ‘the business will fall apart without me’ and trusted my team to complete their work independently. I don’t need to be involved in every piece of the puzzle. It helps to have great people around you, but trust me – your business will not collapse if you take a day or even a week off. But you might, if you don’t.
Hustling doesn’t serve me (or you) – there isn’t a medal for ‘busiest person’, and even if there was, I wouldn’t want it. I refuse to sacrifice sleep, good nutrition, quality family time and exercise. If achievements are always at the centre of our goals and ambitions then what happens in the inbetween? The joys of the day to day, the infinite tiny details that make up one great life? I don’t want to miss those. What is the point of running yourself ragged to then be too exhausted to enjoy the wins?
So, I urge you to please take your time. Take care of yourself. And, whenever you find yourself rushing through life for the sake of your work, take a step back and ask: “Why?” Let’s all slow down. Let’s choose being productive and paid, over busy and booked. Let’s not feel bad for being bold, creating boundaries and sticking to them. Let’s encourage and embrace self care. Let’s stop living and dying by the hustle metre. Cos that whole hustle culture? Well that’s the biggest swindle of all time.