Do you feel close to being burnt out? Are you unhappy but are unsure of the cause? Are you frustrated because you are unable to spend time doing tasks you enjoy? – Sometimes you have to take a step back and look at what is making you happy and what is simply becoming a chore, drag, or parasite for you. This could be a job, person, hobby or habit; but chances are you’ve pilled your plate high and your unhappiness is caused by a negative presence, which is draining you of energy and time. It certainly may not be something that is easily identifiable and it often is something that entered your life in a positive or well meaning way. Perhaps you were in a once happy relationship that is now draining you emotionally to try and maintain but you cannot leave because you love that person? Maybe you started a new job that was once a 40 hour contract but now seems to eat into your evenings and weekends too but you cannot resign as you have worked hard to get there? You may have started an educational course that once provided you with a sense of achievement but now means you have no time for yourself and you cannot drop out because you will feel like a failure? These are all valid reasons to feel unhappy but they are not valid reasons to not do something about it.
A wise person once said “time is money” but time is much, much more than that. Time is the most valuable thing you have. If you give your time to somebody or something, you will never, ever get that time back.
Really, truly think about that.
Currently, think of all the things you invest your time into: the big things like work, friends and family; then the small things like a hobby, household chores or going to the gym. The importance of these elements of your life should somewhat correlate with the amount of time you invest into them. If your family is the most important thing in the world to you but you spend 5 minutes a day when you get in from work talking to them, before nestling in front of the TV or sitting in front of the laptop working. Chances are, a big change has to be made.
Don’t get me wrong, this is not going to be easy and this kind of evaluation needs to be carried out regularly. I seriously doubt that there is anyone in this world who has their life balanced perfectly at any given time but we can all try.
In my life for example, I am the Business Manager for a large recreational farm, I run my educational smallholding and farm my own sheep, pigs & poultry for meat and eggs. I also, like many people, have a home to run on my own, enjoy travelling, seek pleasure in being creative and love seeing my friends and family. My problem is I have only just realised that I have the power to do anything, but what I cannot do is absolutely everything.
I am a perfectionist, if I do something I want to do it properly and I give it 100%. This means that when I have to spread myself too thinly and something starts slipping i.e. I have to work overtime at work as we are really busy but it means I am too tired to see friends that evening or an animal at my farm gets sick and I have to take a day off work so I start getting behind on a project, it enrages me. I want to do everything and I want to do everything perfectly. I am sure I am not the only one who feels this way and it leads to a very unfulfilling life, believe me, no one is perfect. I am sure even Beyoncé will have spent an afternoon in the studio writing some perfect album but fretting about the education her children are receiving or worrying about giving Jay Z enough wifey attention (it is ok Queen B, we have all been there).
I am also impatient, I love to try new things and I cannot say no. So when I wake up one morning and think ‘I want to keep pigs now’, I go out and buy pigs, or when someone offers me 7 pigs when I only want 2, I say ‘yes please, thank you very much’. Yes, they are both things that have happened to me because for some reason I enjoy making my life difficult I suppose.
Joking aside, when the fun is over and the novelty disappears; and you are left with 7 pigs but are working 40 hours a week or are filled with worry about being present in your friends/family’s life but you have a farm to look after and a business to run, you can be left feeling pretty sh*tty. So what do you do next?
Well for me it is a case of stripping back my life. Writing down what is most important to me, what makes me happy and what I need to survive in life. Unfortunately, for most of us money has a huge impact on our decisions and the way we divide our time and whilst I am not disregarding this fact, there are certainly ways to avoid work taking over your life. I recently spoke to a lady who dropped her working week from 5 to 4 days because she wanted to spend more time with her chickens and enjoying the hobbies she pursued. She spends some of her new spare time raising money for the BHWT and guess what yes she has less income but she’s still happier because of it. Isn’t that lovely? If you want to make life more enjoyable, sometimes you have to go through a small hardship or a big change first; whether that be a pay cut, awkward discussion with your employer or complete change of career. Just remember, life is here to be enjoyed. Please listen to me people when I say, this is the only chance you get, make it a good one.
In 2010, I worked for a property auction company in London. I spent 3 hours a day commuting. It cost me £4k a year for the pleasure. I hated my job, my boss and my life. But do you know what I told myself? Well done Katie, you’ve made it! In my head, I was reassuring myself daily that finally I was a big shot working in London, earning the most money I had ever earnt and in the highest job title I had ever had. Despite the fact that I would leave my house before 7am every morning and arrive home after 7pm most nights. I never saw my friends/family, had no time for my hobbies and I would look at the train rushing down the track starting to understand why people saw the appeal of stepping off the platform. News flash 20 year old Katie, your job title and wealth should never, ever be valued more to you than your mental health, enjoyment of life or ability to be you. When I handed my notice in for that position, I decided that I would never choose a job based on the salary and would never put work before being me ever again.
This is why I am now having a mental debate that seems to have rooted itself in my subconscious, just popping itself up at critical times like when I am trying to sleep or when I am feeling happy. There are only so many times you can bury your head in the sand before you have to face the music and make a change.
Believe me, I am not writing this post with any idea about what change I am planning to make. All I know is I have started to make big and little changes in my life already, that are having positive impacts on my ability to live my life in a happy and positive way. I have my fingers in so many different pies that it isn’t a case of making one big change for me (unlike my lovely friend mentioned above, no not Beyoncé).
The first step for me now is not making more changes but realising the impact that such changes will bring. I need to focus on the positive outcomes of realising I cannot do everything and not worry about what other people think and most importantly not being ashamed of myself for not being able to do everything. Why do we waste so much time telling ourselves that everyone else is judging us and why do we think that everyone else’s opinions matter? Then when we are done battling those demons, we start to judge ourselves and tell ourselves that we are not good enough. It is a constant battle over nothing. Can we all just agree to do what makes us happy and sometimes that just waking up in the morning is blessing enough?
Realistically, I know I have to downsize my flock. On purchasing the flock I was in a different place. I had the extremely handy benefit of a partner who was around to check the sheep everyday, had the strength and skill to carry out the husbandry and who ultimately wanted a flock of that size. I financed the flock and feed, he maintained them. It worked back then, it does not now. Presently, I have to do everything and I am learning to not be ashamed to say, it is bl**dy hard. Too hard. It is turning into a chore and an expense that I cannot afford financially, physically and mentally. Why am I so scared that I wont be a ‘proper farmer’ if I sell some of my sheep; if I have 2 sheep, 22 sheep or 2,222 sheep. I’m farming, right?
Side note – it really gets me when someone has the cheek to base someone’s ability to farm on the size of their flock/herd. Often someone with less livestock will have less equipment, less money and no staff; yet they will be accused of being less of a farmer than someone with 20 members of staff, a farm full of expensive assistive equipment and millions in the bank. Let’s just say there are very few farmers who don’t work hard and leave it at that. Rant over.
Anyway, back to my dilemma. I’m going to cut the numbers of sheep down. That much is certain. The next step is what to do with Muddy Boots Farm, my educational smallholding that I set up last year. Whilst, I love the business and stand wholeheartedly behind its ethos. From May to September last year, I worked seven days a week and it was exhausting. Three days a week were spent carrying out sessions, three days a week I worked in the office at the neighbouring farm to keep my job and regular income and one day a week I dedicated to husbandry and maintenance on my smallholding and grazing land. That was with the help of said partner checking the flock and assisting me on maintenance day and two part-time members of staff who would work with me during the sessions and represent the business at local shows. So realistically, can I do that again this year? I could, but it would be at the expense of being able to do anything else with my life, it would also probably end in me burning myself out and that is certainly not a welcome outcome. Most importantly though, I do not want to. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed my first Summer with the farm but I didn’t run the business in the most economical way or in the way that benefitted me the most. It was more of a “f*ck it” let’s see how this goes. However if 2017 has taught me anything, it is that life is too short to settle for something that makes you unhappy. I just need to re-work the business in a way where I can keep doing the things that please me in my own time and ensure that the sessions are run to make money but the farm still keeps its company ethos at the heart of all decisions I make.
Simply put, it is a new dawn for Muddy Boots Farm, after a year of trialling all the avenues I wanted to pursue I am now going to focus on what is most profitable for the business and most enjoyable for me – that’s the beauty of being your own boss, right? And when I am making those decisions I am going to make sure I do not base any choices I make on making loads of money, what other people think of my life or my own desire to be perfect at everything!
I’m hoping that I can apply this to my whole life but one step at a time! Check back here soon to see how I get on. I hope my little journey gives you inspiration to make the changes that can have a positive impact on your life whether that means kicking that waste man out, buying more sheep or having more holidays! Whatever it is, if you value your time on this planet use it wisely and remember you can do anything but you cannot do everything!