There’s good stress and there’s bad stress.
- Relationship problems
- Financial worries
- Working too much
- Challenging work
- Learning to play Hendrix on my guitar
And while we know we need a certain level of stress in our lives to feel alive, if we go too hard for too long, stress can build up.
James Clear wrote a blog about it: The Theory of Cumulative Stress.
Here’s one great point (one of many in fact) he made about his gym workouts :
“I usually lift heavy three days per week. For a long time, I thought I should be able to handle four days per week. However, every time I added the extra workout in, I would be just fine for a few weeks and then end up exhausted or slightly injured about a month into the program.
This was frustrating. Why could I handle it for four or five weeks, but not longer than that?
Eventually, I realized the issue: stress is cumulative. Three days per week was a pace I could sustain. When I added that fourth day in, the additional stress started to build and accumulate. At some point, the burden became too big and I would get exhausted or injured.”
This Is Relevant To Your Business
Have you ever found yourself hitting the wall after a particularly busy stretch of work?
Of course you have. We all have.
It’s easy to read about the hard-charging business legends in a biography and think maybe you’re not working hard enough, but I want to put that issue to bed right here.
Business is an exercise in creativity and problem solving; not working hard.
I’ve written about this before in my appropriately titled blog, “Hard Work Can Make You Stupid.”
Don’t fall for this trap.
Creativity needs time and space, not back-to-back meetings and endless to do lists. Doing more doesn’t get the job done. Doing what will make the biggest difference to your business is what gets the job done. And oftentimes it takes loads of “think work” to identify what’s going to make the biggest difference.
Productivity is not the same as effectiveness.
There’s a ton of research on sleep and its importance in our physical and mental renewal.
When we don’t get enough of it, we’re not charging hard and slaying the world; we’re operating sub-optimally in our decision making.
I knew a guy who genuinely functioned well on 4 hours sleep per night. He’d done this his whole life, but he’s the exception, not the rule.
Maybe age plays a factor for many of us, too. When you’re young you have lots of energy, but not much experience. As you get older that equation reverses.
What I Recommend
For anyone running their own business, I recommend taking a lot more time off than you think is reasonable.
I mean real time off.
Large chunks of time off.
Sitting on a beach.
Skiing for a whole month instead of one week (trust me it’s awesome).
I know that can be difficult if you’re feeling under financial pressure, or are hungry for your version of success. However, I’ve come to believe it’s essential.
Don’t work nights and weekends. Enforce your own time limits.
Creativity thrives within limits. When you restrict your time available at work, you become more creative. You have no choice.
I remember how getting married changed my working hours.
Pre-marriage, I was in at 7:30am and often working until 7:00 or 8:00pm. We had a work-hard, play-hard culture. In the years that we operated on this basis I can tell you we worked very hard and solved very few issues.
Post-marriage, Debbie and I agreed that better hours might be 8:30am start and 6:00pm finish. In the years that followed my business partner and I started solving the issues that held our business back, rather than just working around them. That’s when we put together some outstanding years of back-to-back growth.
To achieve great things, two things are needed; a plan, and not quite enough time.”
You can’t get it all done.
And in fact you don’t want to get it all done.
If you find that you’re crazy busy all the time, then it’s highly likely that you’re working on a bunch of stuff that’s just not that important.
Imagine you go to your doctor who tells you that if you don’t reduce your working hours by 50%, you’ll die. No ifs, no buts; it’s gonna be bad.
Now, if you did reduce your working hours by 50%, how much of your current annual revenues do you think you could continue to generate?
It’s not 50% is it?
It’s more likely to be 70%, or 80% or maybe even higher once you get your head around it all.
If that’s true, it gets you thinking about what you might be spending the other 50% of your time on.
The answer is clearly ‘lower-value’ tasks.
I call this being ‘fake busy’. Don’t do it to yourself.
With Christmas approaching, it’s time to be thinking about some rest and recovery. Take some time off over Christmas and January and just notice how your energy and your clarity of thought improves over the break.
You can give yourself that gift much more frequently than you might currently believe.
Me? I’m off to Park City for the whole of January for a ski. The only stresses will be physical.
Let me know how you go.
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