“The constant desire for more freedom ironically limits us in a number of ways. Similarly, it’s only by limiting ourselves — by choosing and committing to certain things in life — that we truly exercise our freedom.”
~ Mark Manson
Freedom. Such a loaded term and means something potentially different to each and every one of us. I should start by saying that I love freedom. It’s something that I value highly and have worked hard to fiercely protect in my life. It’s why I run my own business and why I have lived and travelled in many places around the world. However, I’ve come to understand that too much freedom, without constraint (paradoxical I know, but bear with me), is damaging and in the long term can be the very thing that sabotages that freedom we hold so dear.
I am primarily talking about freedom within the context of business but for sure this idea can be applied more widely. If you read much of the hype around building an online business these days, you’ll hear a lot of talk about freedom. Freedom to work in your PJs, freedom to work whenever you want and wherever you want (including the beach, despite how impractical that clearly is). Then there is the freedom to work on whatever you feel inspired by and with whoever you feel like, I could go on but you get the idea. Work for yourself and the promises of freedom are plentiful.
Freedom has become the calling card of running your own business. The problem with this, as I see it, is 2-fold.
- Much of the freedom that gets talked about when it comes to building a business is a myth. Seriously. If we only worked when and where we wanted and did only the work we like, it’s highly unlikely we’d ever get a business off the ground.
- When we prioritise freedom and sacrifice structure, we flail. Too much freedom can actually be overwhelming. Have you ever noticed how you are more productive when you have less time? How when the pressure is on, you’re more likely to deliver than when you have all the time in the world?
There’s a reason for that. As humans we like structure. We work well with structure. It’s why, the business working day follows a structure. It’s why our education system has structure. Allow me to share some examples of this from my own experience.
Back in 2011, I launched my first ever blog, Life is Limitless, you see from the name that even back then I was all about the freedom! From day 1, I committed to a schedule of writing a weekly Wednesday blog post and I didn’t miss one Wednesday in 9 whole months. I did this while working a stressful, busy management job, with a 2-hour each way commute from Brighton to London to boot. So what caused me to stop this schedule? What caused me to break this 9 month run I’d had? I had quit my job to go travel the world and suddenly with my whole day wide open, I couldn’t find it within me to write my weekly blog post. From there on in, my publishing schedule was pretty non-existent. All that freedom threw me off centre.
To give you another example, back in 2017, having worked full-time on my business since 2014, I gave birth to my beautiful son, Oscar. We were incredibly blessed to both work from home and so were able to share childcare duties equally. While I was working, my partner looked after our son and vice versa. I was terrified initially that this cut in hours would cause my business to fall apart. How would I possibly get everything done with only half the time I previously had? Funny that! The first year, before Oscar started nursery and I was able to go back to work full-time, just so happens to be one of the most productive periods in my career as a solopreneur to date. As well as the day-today of running my business, I launched a new business, built two websites and launched the Female Business Academy. Knowing I only had a few hours a day made me work smarter. I didn’t have time for perfectionism or procrastination, I had to get the job done and fast and so that’s what I did.
These are just a few of the many ways I’ve been shown over the years how sometimes, having less freedom and more limitations (especially on my time), sees me being more productive not less. It’s for this reason that I’m a big believer in scheduling blocks of time in your schedule for specific tasks. Because if, for example, we give ourselves all day to write a blog post, then guess what? We’ll take all day to write it. But if, for example, we give ourselves 90-minutes and set ourselves a timer, you’d be surprised how easy it is to write a blog post in 90 minutes. I live by my schedule and the days I don’t, far less gets done.
The irony here is that by enforcing a strict schedule around my work and limiting how long I can spend on things, rather than feel restricting, I find I’m more productive in those time blocks and as a result can enjoy my free time much more.
I’m a firm believer that structures and schedules don’t threaten your freedom, they protect it.
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