A week into my plan to rescue my at-home business by implementing productivity tools, my desktop was full of free, downloaded guides. I mean full. I had a guide for a morning routine, a scheduled calendar for meditations, tips on how to maximize my day based on energy instead of the to-do list, a balance wheel to figure out if my life was balanced (hint: it wasn't). I bought a gym membership, invited friends to co-work with me at cafés, and deleted my Instagram between 9 AM and 5 PM.
And these changes were energizing.
They made me hopeful—I had to be closer to a solution to my problems. Of course, I worked less on my business and spent most of my day trying to stay on top of my new organizational tools, but I really thought I was on the cusp of a breakthrough.
Facebook was a source of support: promoted posts offered me free bullet journals, daily alerts, and webinars. Checking off boxes and reading alerts was a self-generating form of productivity: I saw the daily alert, I read it, I checked off that I had read it, and I felt productive.
But as much as I loved ticking off boxes, they didn't actually improve my work-life balance.
I wasn't getting more done or making more money–although for an optimistic moment I spent like I was–there was just more time spent stretching in the morning and configuring my calendar.
There were small improvements: I woke up earlier. Meditation increased my focus. Batching gave me momentum. But my sense of foreboding and failure hadn't let up.
I added guilt to the list of self-defeating feelings I was carrying around.
The guilt was crushing. All these productivity tools that had changed other people's lives – according to testimonials on the back of free guides – weren't working for me. It made me question my purpose: maybe I wasn't meant to run a business. Maybe I am actually a person who needs a boss and an office. If I was meant to be doing this, it would feel natural and easy. Changing my daily habits hadn't alleviated my sense of inadequacy, my anxiety about my business, or the amount of time I wasted throughout the day.
I didn't even know what the true issue was – I just knew I was having as much anxiety working online around the world as I had while miserable at work in New York City.
Then I realized what my foundation actually was: it wasn't how I structured my day, it was my mindset.