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This is How These Founders Are Overcoming “Entrepreneur Guilt”

4min read
Business

Everyone experiences feelings of guilt, but what happens when those feelings begin interfering with your work and relationships? Four female founders reflect on their experiences overcoming entrepreneur guilt and share their tips on staying productive throughout the journey.


As an entrepreneur, there are countless sacrifices that have to be made in both your personal and professional life. Having to cancel certain commitments or dedicating more time to your business than your partner or family can quickly begin taking its toll. While overcoming guilt is no easy feat, it can be done. Here are some useful tips from female entrepreneurs to help you overcome entrepreneur guilt.

Strive For Balance

As a wife and mom of two young children, Audrey Craig, CEO of GB Design House, learned that balance is key when striving to eliminate entrepreneur guilt that wives and mothers often feel.

"Though I may be present in body while my kids are playing, my mind is with the client, and I'm often juggling phone calls too. That leaves a heavy layer of guilt when I go to bed, and I'm waiting for the drawing of our family that my daughter will do at school showing a stick-figure of mommy with a laptop and a phone. But just when I block it all out and spend a well-needed weekend unplugged with my family, I go to bed with the guilt that I didn't check my emails and come up with new designs for an upcoming event."

In order to tackle her feelings of guilt, Craig made the necessary changes needed to achieve balance between her professional and personal life.

"What helps me navigate the guilt is to remember that balance is the key. I am a better mom and better business woman when I keep a balance in my life. It's okay to leave a messy desk at the office if it means I can see my daughter do her first flip-flop at gymnastics. It's also okay for me to meet with an event planner that just flew in, and not sign up for the second field trip of the semester."

Decide What is Non-Negotiable

Entrepreneurs are masterful in the art of multitasking and have no qualms about wearing multiple hats in order to get their work done. However, once embarking on certain commitments, it becomes imperative that you see them through to the end– at times costing you the chance to give your time and energy to people or commitments that matter most. Entrepreneur Dethra Giles, Founder of ExecuPrep, quickly learned the importance of deciding which of her commitments were non-negotiable and how to prioritize them into her schedule.

"I own a Performance Management Consulting firm and I am a sought-after keynote speaker with clients across the globe. This means that there are some months that I travel three weeks out of four. My children are growing up and life is moving forward, I am not there and that guilt is hard to bounce back from."

For Giles, time with family is non-negotiable. She shares some of her tips for prioritizing them amidst her busy schedule.

1."Be tech savvy: who knew that I would live in the age of the Jetsons. No flying cars but video calls are real. When I am away my kids and I jump on video call quite often."

2."A mess is OK: I grew up in a house that was always clean. So, walking into a messy house nearly took me to my grave, but I got over it and hired help. I didn't grow up with such resources so the idea of having a maid did not sit well with me, but the idea of spending limited but valuable time cleaning my house instead of truly interacting with my family was way more uncomfortable. The times when the maid is not there, I tell myself "I am raising people not clothes so those unfolded clothes will be fine."

Establish A Strong Team

For Emily Taffel, owner of Mugsy PR, establishing a strong team played an essential role towards easing her guilt by granting her the freedom to spend more time with her family.

"My step kids started hiding my laptop so I wouldn't work as much and that was my wakeup call. I was feeling guilty for not being with them, but then feeling guilty about not working when I was with them. By building up a strong team and putting in place some procedures to ensure I can step away more often, I have been able to remove some of the guilt and find a better balance."

Taffel took the initiative to surround herself with responsible, hard-working people who she could trust to help improve the efficiency of her business.

"We brought in very self-motivated people who often times think of an idea or a next step before I do. Instead of trying to lead employees I feel like everyone at Mugsy owns their work. They lead the projects instead of me trying to manage them. There is a lot of creative autonomy here which our team thrives on. We also started using Trello to track projects which allowed me to manage every aspect of things whether I was on-site or not."

Get Clear on Your Goals

While it is only natural for entrepreneurs to seek more opportunities to scale their businesses, there comes a time when you have to consider that some opportunities may not be aligned with your goals. Liz Toombs, president and owner of PDR Interior, has experienced all sorts of guilt throughout the course of building her business. As her business grew, her guilt stemmed from spending more time working than with her family.

"I don't know why, as entrepreneurs, and more specifically, as female entrepreneurs we saddle ourselves with guilt. Deep down I know this work is exactly what I should be doing, but for some reason I hold myself to a standard that always requires me to be doing more."

Over the past few months, Toombs has approached her work life in a more realistic manner by identifying her goals and focusing solely on how to achieve them.

1. "Working with an executive coach who helps me get perspective on what my goals are, why I have set them, where I am in the process of reaching them, and being kind to myself while working on them."

2. "Opportunities that come my way may be really cool, but every one of them isn't always going to align with the goals I am working towards. I have experienced burn-out and extreme fatigue from filling my days with things that don't assist in achieving those goals. I don't want to feel that way again, so I'm working on politely declining anything that doesn't make sense for me right now in order to stay sharp and focused."

Overcoming entrepreneur guilt is not an easy process, but it is to your benefit. Tackling these negative feelings head on will allow you to be your best, most productive self in both your personal and professional life.

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The 2020 Checklist To Help You Tackle Your Goals

Hooray! You are off and running in a new year and a new decade with impressive dreams, impactful goals, and a bucket list overflowing with possibilities.


Now what?

For so many of us, we start out strong with our resolutions and plans and then life, fear, excuses, time all get in the way. We stop. We abort. We never start.

Sound familiar?

Here are a few simple ideas, a checklist of sorts, that will support you in taking forward action on igniting your wishes into tangible realities in 2020.

  • Rewrite all your lists. Combine business plans and vision boards, bucket lists and New Year's Resolutions into one compact and accessible list.
  • Then look for overlaps. Where are you pursuing the same goal two different ways? Combine them into one easy, shorter and more digestible ask.
  • Drill down further on your goals with a simple question. Why do you want that specific thing? Then take your answer and ask again. Why do you want that specific goal, what will it bring to your life? How will it make you feel? Will it matter one year, five years, ten years from now? Why?
  • For every goal on your new combined goal list, attach 3 in-real-life action steps that you can pursue right now to move that goal forward. Rinse and repeat this every month.
  • Goals are about evoking change. What does change mean to you? Challenge yourself to change one thing every week that will take you closer to achieving your goals. Repeated 52 times, your one change becomes a concrete, consistent, and valuable action step in getting your goals and not simply setting your goals.
  • Review your successes. Take a success inventory once a month. Success breeds success, and it keeps you focused on what is working rather than what is not. Adjust and tweak your goals from that vantage point. Rather than starting over…pivot and lean into what is next.
  • Mid-year re-evaluate your goals. What is working? What is completed? What needs to be changed. Allow those updates and changes into your life. This is one of the things that separates those who get goals from those who set goals. Use your power of choice to give voice to what you do next. You are the CEO of your goals. Own this power.