Several years ago, I won a private boxing lesson in a charity auction.
When I went in for the session with Mark “The Burf” Burford from The Ring Boxing Club, I was doing everything to the maximum. But one of the many tips he gave me was that you do not have to do everything at full tilt.
Working hard has its place but you cannot go hard all the time forever. Most business owners I know seem reluctant to take time off. They know they ought to, but they don’t.
Recreational marathon runners will do their long run on a Sunday and then have a slower, shorter, recovery run on Tuesday, before moving into a faster pace but shorter speed session on Thursday. There is some flow and thought to when they will run and what they will do in each session. When combined, it enhances different aspects of their running.
In business life, it is important to know when to pour it on and when to back off and replenish.
Varying the pace of your working life is like the marathon runner’s training programme. It keeps your work days and weeks interesting and fresh. That allows you to sustain the effort for longer, without becoming mentally or physically fatigued.
But it is not really enough. After the marathon runner peaks for a race, they do not go and train the next day. They will rest and recover, maybe engage in some very light training for a while.
The same should occur with your ebbs and flows during the year. You have got to have plenty of time out and time off in the diary if you are the business owner. It is when the best ideas come to you. You need some distance to see your business with some perspective. That cannot be done when you have got your nose pressed to the grindstone.
Creativity needs lots of white space. You can take small breaks to keep you fresh in the longer bursts of work but, at some point, you need long periods of time off and time away. This will help you really regenerate and bring a freshness of thinking back to your business.
We do not take time off because we live in a society where hard work is seen as a virtue. The ability to work hard is certainly a great skill to possess, especially when you are younger and do not know so much. However, to do it forever seems to have missed the point of gaining knowledge, experience and wisdom.
Working hard makes you stupid. Not literally, but it lets you cover up the real issues that lurk under the surface within your business.
Rather than work hard, why not take a few months to sort out a technological solution to a problem you are facing? Or strip out some of the complexity in your business? That is smart. Working hard for years and years without addressing these issues is the stupid part. Trust me, I’ve done it.
Plan your year, your quarter, your month or your week in advance. Have peaks and troughs of energy and effort planned before you start. When will you give it some and when will you give yourself an easier time?
Time off is creative time. At least six weeks per year should be away time for all entrepreneurs. If you can make it eight or 10 weeks you will really see the benefits. Put your holidays in your diary first and plan the work around the time that’s left – not the other way around.
If you have got a young family, why not try to take large chunks of time off during the school holidays. Use those breaks to spend quality time with your family and to freshen you up. It will give you the perspective you need to really perform at a high level.
What exhausts you? Is it having three client meetings in one day? Is it going 26 weeks without a holiday? When could you be scheduling some recovery time for yourself?
You control your diary and you are the only person in charge of your life. Take control and plan the times you will go hard and the times you will recover and replenish. I assure you your income will rise, not fall. You’ll also enjoy the journey a whole lot more too.
Brett Davidson is founder of FP Advance