What if you wake up one day to discover that you're NOT enjoying your work -- that you're even self-sabotaging your business?
How can you overcome burnout and dysfunction before things get out of control?
In this training episode, Jaime Almond talks about how she used a sabbatical to rejuvenate, open herself up to new things, and find balance and harmony in work and life.
What follows is a condensed transcript of my conversation with Jamie. If you prefer to listen to the full audio (33 minutes), you can listen to it or download it here:
Ed Gandia: Why don't you start by telling us what you were doing as a freelancer up until recently?
Jaime Almond: I had a social media and Internet marketing consulting business. I was running workshops and doing some in-house training as well as some one-on-one coaching and consulting work.
I was operating at a time when there was a real need in the market, so my business was quite successful. The only problem was that I didn't want it. I was actively sabotaging my business, and I knew it.
Ed Gandia: That's not a good place to be. You're not going to attract a lot of clients if you don't really want them.
Jaime Almond: I know. I would get emails and phone calls from people and my first thought was, "How can I get rid of this client?" "Whom can I refer them to?" "How can I help them without me being the person to do the work?"
Ed Gandia: I can imagine you knew something had to change. So you decided to take some time off. How did you approach it? What made you come up with the idea of a sabbatical and then what made you think, "Okay, this will give me the answers I need?"
Jaime Almond: It took me a while to get there. At first, I couldn't even admit there was a problem. I felt like there was something wrong with me. I couldn't sit at my desk and do what I said that I was going to do.
If I sat down and said, "Right, I'm going to create a new workshop or I'm going to market myself," I'd sit at my desk all day and get nothing done. By the end of the day I just felt terrible. I felt there was something defective in me as a person.
Because I felt that I was defective, it took me a long time to get to, "Okay, this just isn't working. Maybe it's not me. Maybe it's the situation." When I got to that point, I discussed it with my then fiance, now husband. He and I agreed we were in a position where if we cut expenses, we could afford my not working for a little bit.
Ed Gandia: Once you realized it could happen, did you feel a great sense of relief? Did you have a feeling this is exactly what you needed? Time to think and reflect and let the next course of action appear?
Jaime Almond: I felt a huge weight lift off my shoulders. The weight of my business was so strong, I was just overwhelmed. I had started acting opposite to my personality. I'm very outgoing, and I love being around people. But at this point, I wasn't socializing at all. I had become a hermit.
So I really felt excited and relieved I could do it. But I also found it hard to let go. I think it was last February or March when we decided to do this, but I didn't actually go into sabbatical full time until June. It took me a long time to let go and allow myself to take the time off.
Ed Gandia: That's a long time.
Jaime Almond: I kept saying yes to things. Something would come in, and I would go, "Okay, I'll do this one last thing." You know what I mean?
Ed Gandia: Yes
Jaime Almond: Just making the decision to take time off gave me more energy. So, I started to feel better and from that place I was like, "Oh yes, maybe I could do one more thing."
Then I would do that one thing, and then a few more things, and then I would be right back to where I was. It would take me a few days to realize, "Oh my god, I'm doing this to myself again."
Ed Gandia: Although you had decided to take the time off, I wonder if you didn't see yourself as someone taking time off. Your reality was still, "I need to pay the bills, and so I am going to take this." You think that played into it?
Jaime Almond: Yes. There was a real sense of having to look after myself. I've always earned my own income. My plans in my head are for my business to be successful and to support my family. It was really hard for me to let go and let someone else support me for a little while.
Ed Gandia: Once you decided to do this, did you go in with some sort of timeline in mind?
Jaime Almond: I went in more with an intention than with a specific set of time. My intention was to find out how I was running my business. Was it me? How I was interacting with it? What I was doing on a day-to-day basis?
We were flexible on timeframe. My husband said, "Take as much time as you need." Our focus was more on intention.
And the money part came as a big revelation. We realized that if we're going to make this happen, we have to manage our money. We need to be able to live off one income without creating too much debt. And as we went through the process we realized, "Wow, we were really irresponsible with money before."
Ed Gandia: Then once you learned how to live that way it helped take away the time pressure. There was no, "Oh gosh, I need to get back to work next month or we'll be in trouble."
Jaime Almond: Yes. Now we agree it's time for me to get back into my business or generate an income. After a year, we've gotten to the point where we need a second income. Otherwise, we'll start dipping into our savings too considerably.
Ed Gandia: I'm wondering what you did during your sabbatical? What was a typical day like? How did answers come to you?
Jaime Almond: I realized I had spent the last two years forcing myself to do things I thought I should do. "I should be marketing right now. I should be working hard on various projects." And I realized it completely depleted my energy. I didn't know what I liked anymore. I couldn't find enjoyment in anything.
So, the first part of my sabbatical was about re-energizing myself. I wanted to feel normal. I hadn't felt that way in a long time. I needed to accept where I was and listen to myself. Ask myself, "What do I need today?" instead of planning everything out.
And I was lucky it was summer time here. I spent a lot of time outdoors, playing. My friend and I rode our bikes all over the place. I felt like I was in high school again on summer holiday. We went to the pool. We picked flowers. We picked berries. We just did fun stuff and that helped me rejuvenate, which is what I really needed at that point.
Ed Gandia: It sounds like by setting the intention and then getting away from your traditional environment you found what you needed.
Jaime Almond: It showed me the mindset I carried into my business, and it showed me that I was bringing this same mindset into other areas of my life.
For example, my husband and I recently took a trip to Cuba. And I was miserable for the first two days because I was stuck in that place of, "I've got to make money now. It's time to get back to work." It didn't matter I was in a beautiful location. That mindset followed me there.
One of the biggest gifts from taking time off is that you start to see patterns. You start to see mindsets and behaviors that extend into other areas of your life.
The risk of taking a traditional vacation is that you go away, you re-energize, and then you go back and do things the way you always have"”which puts you back in burnout.
Ed Gandia: Yes.
Jaime Almond: That's not to say there aren't times when you need vacations and holidays and time off, but you also need time to look at how you're doing things and what's burning you out. That was where I was.
Ed Gandia: Did you ever fear, "Gosh, if I take a lot of time off, maybe I won't want to go back. Maybe I'll get so accustomed to this way of living I won't want to go back to work?" Was that a concern?
Jaime Almond: I've always wanted to be an entrepreneur and have my own business. I love training people and doing all of these things. I love it. So when I'm not loving these things, I know there's something in my life that's keeping me from enjoying them.
Ed Gandia: You've talked about some of the things you've learned. Tell me about some of the other things that came out of it. Some were unexpected and very positive.
Jaime Almond: Yes. One of the things we talked about was money. We really had to tighten our belts. For example, I was spending $100 a month to go to a yoga studio, and I didn't want to give up yoga because it's part of my self-care routine. So, instead I traded with the yoga studio. I'd clean four hours a week and then I would get unlimited yoga.
At first, I had to get my head and ego around the fact that I had been this entrepreneur, and now I was going to be cleaning. I thought, "Oh my god, what would people think about me cleaning toilets at a yoga studio?" It took me a little while to get over that.
But I made the decision I was going to be open to the experience. I was lucky to be able to keep yoga in my life without having to sacrifice my time off. I decided to go in and be really open.
And during my second shift, a manager from an athletic wear company called lululemon came in and said, "We have a store opening for three months, and we need people. Do you guys know anybody?" and it came out of my mouth before I even thought about it, "I'll do it."
So I went and worked for this company for three months. The experience was an important part of my learning how I interacted with work. I never thought working in a retail store would be the best job I've ever had, but I loved it more than anything I'd ever done before.
And I learned a lot about business and marketing and myself from working at the company, and I earned a little bit of extra money over Christmas, which was nice. And, ultimately, I got an opportunity to go and work in a store in Melbourne where my extended family is, so I even got a trip back to Australia.
Ed Gandia: Oh, wow.
Jaime Almond: So just from being open to cleaning toilets, I ended up spending six weeks in Australia with my family during the coldest part of winter in Canada.
Ed Gandia: You can't plan that. That's amazing.
Jaime Almond: And that's the point. I didn't plan it. If I had tried to, I would never have got there. I never would have said, "Right, I'm going to go work in a retail store." It just never would have occurred to me.
Ed Gandia: What was the impact of the mindset, "I'm letting go of expectations. I'm just going to set some intentions and see what happens." How much did that matter during your time off?
Jaime Almond: It's an alternative way to live. It's different from how most of us live and set goals. People set goals from a problem-solving point of view, "Okay, this is where I want to go. I am going to backwards engineer this. I am going to do this based on what I know, and how I think I can get there."
Letting go is very different. It's different from believing you know what's best for you.
And by going through this whole process, it's amazing how much content I have for my business now. I have new opportunities. It's changed the amount of happiness I have in my life. And sure, I sometimes fall into old ways of doing things, like problem solving and control. But now I see it happening, and it takes me less time to get out of it.
Ed Gandia: That's really cool. I can see how important it would be during a sabbatical to start shifting your mindset in that direction. It's something you can carry into your life even once you've finished your sabbatical and start working again. Many great things can happen because of it.
In my case, as goal-driven as I've been for most of my life, some of the best things that have happened to me personally and professionally, I didn't plan. They just happened.
Jaime Almond: It feels like magic a little bit.
Ed Gandia: It ds.
Jaime Almond: And I want magic in my life.
Ed Gandia: I love that. Some people might wonder, "This all sounds great, but I can't take a year off," or "I'm the sole breadwinner of my family. I have obligations. I can't make it happen financially." What would you say to somebody who loves the idea, loves the concept of a sabbatical but dsn't feel he or she can take the time.
Jaime Almond: I think a person might feel that way because they're feeling burned out. They feel like, "I'd love to take some time off and re-establish how I feel about my business, my direction," all of that kind of stuff, but they worry about taking the time off. But you still do many of these things without stopping your work or business entirely.
I have a friend and colleague who's a coach. He and I went through a similar process the last few months. He didn't take time off, but he got rid of things he "thought" he should be doing and focused on what he needed to do. He's spent the rest of his time basically doing what I was doing. Asking, "What do I need?" "How am I creating this unhappiness?" "What's blocking me?" "What's holding me back?" "How can I be happy?"
Ed Gandia: That makes a lot of sense. In fact I'm going through this with my own business right now. I've identified some things I'd be happier without. And I'm on track to get those things out of my business and out of my life. And I'm really looking forward to the day when I won't have any of those items on my plate. It's a huge relief.
Jaime Almond: One of the patterns I noticed was that I put money before everything else. My decision to work with a client and even my decision to start my business was based on, "How can I be successful and how can I earn money?" Instead of, "What would I really love to do?"
Part of having a thriving business is making money, but that shouldn't come first. My whole career has been run from, "How can I make money?"
When you have the urgent feeling that your livelihood and family depend on your ability to make money, it takes you back into the cycle. You're always looking at how you made money in the past. You're always looking at how you've done it before rather than how you might do it better. How you could do it while feeling better.
Ed Gandia: That's a great insight.
Jaime Almond: It's past oriented. The filter is, "I need to make money. This is really stressful because I can't pay my mortgage and my family depends on me." These are the things you tell yourself when you feel a lack of money.
Then your problem solving kicks in because this is a problem, right? You don't have enough money and it's stressful. Then you try to solve the problem as quickly as possible because it's painful. And we problem solve by thinking, "Right, what do I know? How have I solved this before?"
When I consider running workshops I don't enjoy or getting a part-time job I don't want or something similar, I know I'm stuck in that mode and I'm trying to make money from that place.
Ed Gandia: Which takes you back, right? It puts you back in the cycle.
Jaime Almond: It is a cycle. It keeps you there. And because it takes so much effort, so much emotional effort, it becomes part of the burnout cycle. I would do the things I had to just to get by and at the same time I would burn myself out. The money I earned I would spend on things like self-care and expensive vacations"”things to balance it out. So I was constantly keeping myself in that place.
You can still have a business that earns money without having all these stresses. Start with how you want to feel in your business, "I want to feel freedom and ease. I want to have a certain lifestyle."
So the balance is to earn money to support that. The next step is to find a way to do that in a way you enjoy. Ask yourself how to feel ease and freedom rather than how to make money to alleviate the pain.
Ed Gandia: A slight shift in mindset but very, very important.
Jaime Almond: Yes
Ed Gandia: Do you think there's value in doing a one-week sabbatical? Or even just a few days? In my case, I'm toying with the idea of taking Fridays off, permanently.
Jaime Almond: I think that's a great way to do it. It's not about having a huge amount of time off, although that can be helpful. It's about intentionally looking at yourself. It's about setting an intention and then creating the space to see and learn from your intention. Often, when we're working, we don't have that time and space.
And you might be able to do it while working. Most of the people I've shared my story with are going on a part-time sabbatical. They're not forcing themselves to sit at their desk all day. They do what they need to do and then they go outside and do whatever they feel like doing that day.
One of my clients is going out and building backyards. He's making the same amount of money, but he's so much happier.
Ed Gandia: It's something he enjoys.
Jaime Almond: Right.
Ed Gandia: That brings up another question. Would you recommend getting out of your physical environment? So it is not just, "Okay, so if I'm going to do it part time, if I'm going to take afternoons off and work on some other things." It probably would make sense to leave your office, right? What are your thoughts?
Jaime Almond: I think the environment is a huge part of it. I learned to work by getting a job. I went to a workplace. I had a desk and computer, and that is how I worked.
But then it occurred to me, I don't know how to work. I don't know the best way for me to work to thrive.
This is all part of the sabbatical process. It's questioning all these things. Realizing, "I feel drained when I sit in front of my computer all day." "Do I need to sit in front of my computer all day?" "How could I do that better?"
When I worked at lululemon in Australia, I realized I love working 20 hours a week. I had time to visit with my sister. I was working out. I was doing nothing and I was working and earning money. And I just went, "Why did I ever think that I had to work 60 hours a week to be happy?"
Ed Gandia: I've seen both extremes. I think what's missing is the middle ground. I've seen the 60- to 80-hour workweek and then you have Tim Ferriss talking about the four-hour workweek. I think the answer for most of us is somewhere in the middle.
Jaime Almond: Four hours. I don't know how he ds it. I haven't read the book.
Ed Gandia: Well, I think he works 80 hours promoting the four-hour workweek.
Jaime Almond: That's what I heard Gary Vaynerchuk say, "No one works four hours, not even Tim Ferris."
Ed Gandia: Start by asking, "How can I make a living and live well doing something I love?" You're not going to work four hours a week. You might one week but not consistently.
Jaime Almond: Right.
Ed Gandia: And you won't find that until you're doing something you really love. Otherwise, it's going to feel like work. It's going to feel like drudgery.
Jaime Almond: Yes, and then work becomes a dirty word, right? Is work something you do because you have to? Is it something you think about all the time, and it dsn't feel good?
My husband loves what he ds, and he ds it 80 hours a week. He makes up projects that he can go out and work on. He's a physicist, and he created this experience called "The Quantum Physics of Harry Potter" and now it is out in the community. He didn't get paid for it. He loved it.
And at the height of my feelings around my business, I asked him, "How come you can work so long?" And he says, "I don't see it as work. It's fun."
Ed Gandia: It's the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation"”meaning there's a paycheck. He wasn't looking at it like, "Oh, I can work overtime. I can make more." It was pure joy.
Jaime Almond: I was like, "It's possible to be happy all the time. I want to be like this person. I want to love what I do. I want to be excited. I don't want to follow a system to get myself to work"”get up at 9 a.m., sit at my desk until 12:00, an hour for lunch, and then back to my desk." That's not an entrepreneur. That's a job.
Ed Gandia: So, what are you doing now? You're getting back in the game after about a year off. What are you working on now?
Jaime Almond: I'm working on a few things. I'm putting together programs about burnout. How to recreate your business. How to thrive with or without time off. And also I'm pulling in all the marketing stuff I've learned. I'm putting all the pieces together to help others who are going through the same thing as I was.
Ed Gandia: Very cool. So it sounds like you've realized this is what you love to do.
Jaime Almond: I love to do it. I could talk about it for hours. Sometimes it's midnight and I'm at my computer or taking notes or something because I'm passionate about it. Once you start following what you actually love to do and how you love to do it, the answers come.
Ed Gandia: Where can readers and listeners find out more about you and the stuff you're putting together?
Jaime Almond: The best way is to visit my website: www.jaimealmond.com.
Ed Gandia: Awesome. Jaime, you and I spent about an hour talking about this a few weeks ago. I loved listening to your story. This is really inspirational.
It's made me take another look at what I'm doing and figure out how can I make some adjustments in my own business and life to focus my time and attention on the things I love. Life is too short to be doing things you don't care for or even hate. It's been helpful for me just listening to you.
Jaime Almond burned out spectacularly. No longer able to remember what she enjoyed about her business (or her life for that matter), she took a year off to study why some talented, hardworking, and passionate entrepreneurs burn out while others thrive.
She discovered those who burn out struggle with the standard advice to overcome adversity: set a goal, create a plan, take action and don't stop till you get there. These steps do nothing to address the underlying problem that exists, keeping a person trapped in a Survival Cycle. This leaves the burned out entrepreneur questioning whether they have what it takes, while effectively killing their creativity, passion, and innovation.
Jaime now thrives by helping entrepreneurs use practical tools to step out of the Survival Cycle. By rekindling their passion for their business, they unleash their creativity and build the business they have always wanted with the lifestyle and money to support it.