I’ve been in business for awhile and I’ve been blogging for ages, too. It’s good for business and it’s a great way for me to step back a bit and learn something about myself. Sometimes there’s simply no better way to find out exactly how you feel about something, or what you know of it, than to write about it.
Years ago I wrote a blog about the value of switching off from your business, taking a break and staying healthy. If you are going to be in business for the long run and not burn out or actually physically break down, this is something that you have to work at mastering. I’ve been aware of this for a long time and so you might be thinking that you’re about to get some advice from a Zen master of work/life balance who has this whole thing down to a fine art. Unfortunately, that’d be utter bull shit.
I’m human and the first to admit that I have more than my share of faults. I’ve also been moving through my own evolving business journey for many years. If you’re a business owner I’m sure you’ll understand how, as things change, they demand your attention often well beyond the standard eight hours a day, five days a week. These are just some of the reasons (okay, excuses…) why I haven’t mastered switching off yet. But the good news is that I have become better at it, and I’ve learned a lot that’s helped me stay healthy, stay married and retain by status as an active family man, rather than an absentee father. So let’s take a look at some of what I’ve learned since setting out on this path.
Switch off devices after hours.
Oh, the horror of temptation! Here’s an attitude-changing statement for you: Being available to clients or staff at all times does not make you a great business person; it just makes you a slave. Since the last time I blogged about switching off, smart devices and comms Apps have encroached even further into our lives. Let them take over and you will never properly disconnect, never rest, never really be in the room for your family and friends. Walk into your home, switch off your phone and put it on its charger. Sounds easy, but of course it’s not. It takes discipline but it’s worth it.
Leave work on time.
Set a time to leave and stick to it, to the minute. With an ‘end point’ in mind you’ll actually work more effectively because you know there’s a limit, an end point, to your day. If you get to your appointed end-of-day time and find that you still have a raft of unfinished tasks, you’re no orphan. Those tasks will still be there tomorrow and you’ll sleep better if you scribble out a quick to-do list before you hit the road. Just don’t take the bloody list home with you!
Don’t take work home with you.
It’s so, so hard, I know. Mostly because it starts out sounding really innocent. You’ll just sort out those couple emails and fix that spreadsheet. ‘Five minutes’ later it’s 10pm, the kids are in bed and you’ve missed another night with the family. Opening up any amount of work at home is a trap. If you can’t make this work every night, at the very least reserve at least three nights a week when you take home no work at all and try to build on this until you are free of work every night and all weekend.
Almost everyone has a book or several books that they became totally lost in. That’s a good thing, remember? Making a start down this path could be as easy as walking over to the bookshelf at home, picking up that old favourite you read years ago and reading it again. Books are magic like that. You pick up things the second time around that you missed on the first pass. What’s more, just grabbing what you already have takes away the hurdle of going out and looking for a new book. Fall in love with reading again by rediscovering an old favourite first, then go and add to your library later. Reading is so absorbing that it clears your mind, relaxes you and sets you up for a good night’s sleep and a great tomorrow.
Oh shit, really? Exercise? Yes, I said it. This is going to sound odd, but exercise is a lot like reading a good book. Do it properly and it takes your focus off everything else as you get into ‘the zone’. Part of a healthy lifestyle is getting some exercise, that’s just a fact. My best advice is don’t just blindly join a gym. Instead, find a form of exercise you genuinely enjoy and that also fits into your day, then commit to it. That could be running, cycling, swimming or how about just a regular early morning walk? Anything that gets the heart pumping is a step in the right direction. (Note: using a sit/stand desk does not count as exercise!)
Take some time to taste the wine.
Notice I said ‘taste’, not guzzle! And of course it can be beer, wine, whatever you please. Maybe a glass with your evening meal, or as a wind-down when you come home from work. A drink or two is relaxing, but if you find yourself saying “Well, I’d best not waste this last half a bottle!”, you might be self-medicating rather than just relaxing. There’s certainly no way your habit is a healthy one if you are drinking so much that you can feel it when you wake up the next day. So sip it, savour it and stay in control.
Baby steps are better than no steps at all
If you are deeply addicted to a cycle of constant work, you are unlikely to be able to instantly switch to a controlled, nine-to-five cycle. Going cold turkey is just too great a challenge for many of us. So start by trimming down, leaving a little earlier, keeping just a couple of nights completely free. And find activities like reading to occupy your time so that when you do set about relaxing, you have something on your mind besides work. Start learning how to switch off now and you’ll be happier, fitter and better equipped to take on business in the long run.
Wishing you the best for your week in business,
Jason Smith l Director
Capital Plus Finance