I took a day off yesterday. It wasn’t the fun kind of day off.

(Though yeah, it is possible that some fun was had.)

It was the kind of day off that you take when you realize that if you don’t stop working right this second you are going to get sick.

I was going to have to take my father’s advice.

As my father likes to say:

“Take that mental health day before it takes you.”

Of course, it didn’t feel so much like a mental health day as an “I really, really, really don’t want to get a cold” day, but these tend to be more closely related than we’d like.

And granted, any advice from my father is a tad suspect …

Especially since he also says things like “Don’t be silly — stress is good for you!” and “Don’t underestimate the power of worrying!” and “I spent the whole day in crisis mode! It was fantastic!”.

It’s my experience, though that this particular bit of wisdom is quite sound.

All that to say that I gave myself permission to blow off work yesterday, which gave me ample time to devote to figuring out what was going on. And it boiled down to this:

I need to get better at saying no and feeling okay about it.

I’ve gotten pretty good at turning down new projects. I’m also (finally) okay with not giving my products away to everyone who wants a freebie copy.

But not giving help to every single person who wants it and asks for it … oh this is so hard!

I talk so much about the art of the ask and how we all need to get better at asking. Still standing by that.

And now it’s time for me to also get better at finding different ways to be helpful.

Yesterday was Wednesday and I’d already given away over five hours of my time this week. You know how it is. Readers wanting advice on things that just wouldn’t be appropriate to answer in an Ask Havi post. Friends wanting business advice. Like that.

Almost all of these were things that — taken alone — would have been fine. Me giving joyfully from my heart. Perfect.

Taken together … all of a sudden I was feeling tired and depleted. And what surfaced for me was the resentment coming up that my own projects weren’t getting the love and attention that they deserve.

Where the breakdown happens.

All of a sudden five hours seemed like a lot of productive time that, especially when you factor in that a lot of my time is taken up with clients and communicating with my team and stuff.

You start calculating the time that could be going to your own business multiplied by your hourly rate and this starts to get pretty depressing. And that time is actually much more valuable than that if you’re spending it (as I do) on developing products and programs that support your entire business.

Add to that the realization that, as my business grows like crazy (yay — not complaining), the number of people wanting from me is just going to go up and up and up …

Well, no wonder that I desperately wanted to hide under the covers.

Middle ground: what does that even look like?

Luckily there are a couple of things that are already showing up to help out.

In addition to my virtual assistant who takes care of most of my administrative tasks, I recently hired a personal assistant specifically to handle a huge chunk of customer support stuff and take on mini-projects.

She’s lovely and she totally gets what I’m trying to do in the world. *happy sigh*

Also I have a huge and awesome thing coming up that’s going to launch in about six weeks that I’ll be able to refer people to.

That way, I won’t have to say “Sorry, you really have to hire me for that” but “Here’s a (useful, helpful, very, very affordable) place where I answer questions like that.”

But what came up for me yesterday while I was meditating and pondering and yoga-ing around this issue was that I’m still feeling awkward and uncomfortable about not just helping everyone who wants my help. I’m a helper mouse. That’s my thing.

Wackiness: it always helps.

What that looked like this time: meditation plus tapping on acupressure points plus guided relaxation plus some weird made-up rituals that I’d rather not go into.

In retrospect it seems obvious that if I really wanted a clear answer right away, I should have done Dance of Shiva for that, but I was feeling petulant and irritable as it was.

Anyway, what came up for me in meditation were two concepts:

Clarity. And Safety.

So I asked myself what it would look like if I had more of these two qualities in my life. Or if I could access them more often. Or if I could trust that they were already there.

Stuff like that. And four answers — “bits of information” — came out of the asking:

  • I need to feel safe remembering that I cannot help everyone and that my own emotional comfort needs to come first.
  • Are you ready to see all the support you already have around you and to lean into it more? Because all you need to do is to say yes to it.
  • It is time for me to get better at speaking my piece.
  • Sometimes it’s important to put things where they belong.

That last one was the least clear of all four pieces. To the point that I wrinkled my nose and said “Haenh?”

(That’s how you say “Huh?” in German and it’s really a much better way of expressing irritated bewilderment than anything I could say in English. Trust me on that.)

Putting things where they belong

Right. I totally had no idea what that meant. So I tried to figure out what might happen if I already knew what it meant to put things where they belonged.

Instant information.

For one thing, I realized that instead of filling out that ridiculous form that had me grumbling all day about how people trying to be “efficient” actually creates more work, I could have just had my assistant shoot back an email, saying (nicely, though):

“Here’s the one piece of information you need from me — everything else you requested is in the sigfile on every Fluent Self email.

And instead of trying to help my friends with every aspect of their new businesses I could ask them to write up a list of their questions and try to answer them in blog posts when I have time.

Maybe even write a series on business-building and how not to screw it up. Hmmmm.

Also: instead of passing out problem-solving to everyone who needs it, I could admit that the Ask Havi line is already several months long and that I’m flooded.

And/or let them know that really, really soon there will be a whole wonderful environment where I’ll be hanging out with everyone who needs me at very specific times.

That’s where I’m at.

I don’t have all the answers yet. Not even close. But I’m processing all the information I got on my day off.

It’s becoming ridiculously clear to me that if I want to live my mission and help all my right people and stuff like that, I cannot do it when I’m feeling tired and cranky and depleted.

This sounds so familiar and obvious that it’s almost trite.

If you’d said it to me a year ago I would have rolled my eyes and said, “I knoooooooow!”

So yeah, it’s totally one of those annoying little “life lessons that you I keep learning over and over again” but it seems like this time it sank in a little deeper.

Here’s the part that I just understood.

My peace of mind is the most valuable asset in my business.

By a lot.

Understanding that feels huge. Being able to teach that to my clients is also going to be huge.

If tuning into the clarity and safety that I need means having clearer boundaries and “putting things where they belong”, then I’m just going to have to figure out how to do that.

And — because I learned yesterday that part of my enormous, beautiful network of people who love and support my work in the world is my amazing group of blog readers — I know you’re going to be rooting for me.

Just wanted to say that I love that. And appreciate it so much. Sigh. Thanks for putting up with me — it’s great to be back!

The Fluent Self