My business and team have both grown dramatically this year. It's been a year of very intense learning and stress. Through all that, this is the most powerful lesson I've learned.
I've always been ridiculously driven. I was blessed with parents who told me from a young age I could be anything I wanted if I would just work hard enough. Even now, as I have a business that consumes all of my time, I'm constantly dreaming of new things to do and the future. My incredibly patient wife will tell you I can be exhausting to be around sometimes.
This drive seems to be a very common denominator among business owners. Without that drive, we wouldn't survive the daily tests of running an organization. But what happens when that drive threatens to grind us into dust?
THE CURSE OF THE URGENT
The key to learning to rest, is understanding that there will always be a deadline. There will always be a fire to put out. There will always be an emergency that requires you to swoop in, cape flapping in the wind, jaw squared, ready to save the day. Always. Always. Always. Working through what should be times of rest doesn't cure the curse of the urgent. Nothing will. So if it doesn't fix it, why give up the rest? Like everything else in business, you need a plan. If you don't schedule time off and protect it as a precious resource, you'll never save it from the curse of the urgent.
PLAN TO REST
In the last decade I've never taken time to truly rest. I'm talking turn off the e-mail, burn the phone, run away from the world rest. This year I did in April. I took four straight days off with no internet connection of any kind. This was a revelation to me, but it took lots of pre-planning and safeguards. Here are some of the steps I took:
- Put It On The Calendar: I put this four-day block on the calendar months in advance. My team and I prepped, knowing I would be out. We worked ahead on a few projects to free that time up for me.
- Schedule It Around A Weekend: I scheduled my time for a Friday through Monday. This meant that two of my days were on the weekend, when clients typically don't call as much.
- Be Reachable, But Not Too Reachable: I turned my phone off for four days. No e-mail. No Twitter. No Facebook. Nothing. But, I did have an emergency plan. My entire team had my wife's phone number and could contact her if there was something they truly couldn't handle. Plus knowing they can get you if they really need you allows you to relax better.
- Don't Schedule Activities: During rest periods, don't schedule a lot of things to do. It's not about checking off the honey-do list, or driving hundreds of miles to see people. It's about unfocused time for your mind to unwind.
GIVE IT TIME
The first day of that four days was miserable. I called or texted my wife (not on my phone, which was off, I stole my son's phone) every few minutes to make sure no one needed me. After the 10th call she let me know, very kindly, that no one needed me and to stop bothering her. After pushing so hard for so long, I didn't know how to rest. It took every bit of the first day for me to settle down. My mind eventually began to relax, to wander, and to dream. By Saturday I was in a groove. I rediscovered the joy of sitting down and just reading a book. I went for walks and watched movies. I truly relaxed.
What I discovered was the true power behind rest. It's invigoration, energizing, and increased my drive to succeed. I came out of those four days with a new passion, new ideas, and an energy to tackle the world. People have always told me about the power of rest. Even the Bible talks about God resting on the seventh day as an example to us. Those people are right. You are not Superman. You need rest, and it truly pays dividends for your future.
BITE SIZE OR BUFFET STYLE
Since that initial four day rest period, I've taken an 8-day vacation, a 5-day vacation, and a 3-day weekend. I've also become better at taking at least a few hours each weekend off, if not an entire day. I learned that the world spins just fine without my input. Your rest periods can be a few days, or just a few hours, so long as you plan on it and do it regularly. My goal now is to take at least one day off a week, and once every two months take four straight days.
As with everything, there are going to be some things that happen to derail your rest. You're going to have carefully planned days blow up in your face. You'll have projects with immovable deadlines and you have to be there. That's okay. We're in this for the long haul, so take the next opportunity to rest and don't beat yourself up. Just do the best you can. Even a few days off a year is probably better than what you are doing to yourself right now.
Thank you for reading. If you find this helpful, please pass it on.