Are you working too hard?
I’m a long-time admirer of Brett Davidson and his consultancy firm FP Advance, which helps to build world-class financial advice businesses. For me, Brett really gets something that many business owners don’t — that, to look after your staff and your clients, you also need to look after yourself. In this guest post for Adviser 2.0, Brett explains the importance of pacing yourself and not working at full tilt all the time. It’s a lesson many of us can learn from, and perhaps none more so than me.
A GUEST POST BY BRETT DAVIDSON
Several years ago in a charity auction, I bid for and won a private boxing lesson with Mark Burford from The Ring Boxing Club. When I went in for the session I was doing everything to the maximum, and one of the many tips he gave me was that you don’t have to do everything at full tilt. Nor does every session need to be performed at the maximum.
Working hard has its place, but you can’t 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.
Life’s a marathon, not a sprint
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’ll do in each session. When combined it enhances different aspects of their running.
In your business life it’s 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 varied. That allows you to sustain the effort for longer, without becoming mentally or physically fatigued. But it’s not really enough.
After the marathon runner peaks for a race, they don’t go and train the day after. They’ll rest and recover and maybe engage in some very light training for a while.
The same should occur with your ebbs and flows during the year. You’ve got to have plenty of time out and time off in the diary if you’re the business owner. It’s when the best ideas come to you. You need some distance, mental as well as physical, to see your business with some perspective. That can’t be done when you’ve got your nose pressed to the grindstone.
Space to create
I’ve got some American friends who run their own business. In their culture, two weeks off every year is the norm for most employees. So taking even four weeks annual holiday seems extravagant. Considering more than four weeks seems positively insane, maybe even lazy.
However, they’re not employees are they? And nor are you. They’re creative entrepreneurs, and creativity needs lots of white space. You can take small breaks to keep you fresh in the longer busts of work, but at some point I believe you need long bursts of time off and time away. This will help you really regenerate and bring a freshness of thinking back to your business.
Work smart, not hard
We don’t take time off because we live in a society based on the Protestant work ethic. 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 don’t know so much. However, to do it forever seems to have missed the point of gaining knowledge, experience and some wisdom.
In my experience 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’re facing? Or strip out some of the complexity in your business? That’s smart. Working hard for years and years without addressing these issues is the stupid part. Trust me, I’ve done it.
Plan time off first
If we go back to the marathon runners training programme analogy, where can you create the same varied programme?
Plan your year, or 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. I’d have thought at least six weeks per year should be away time for all entrepreneurs. If you can make it eight or ten weeks you’ll 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’ve got a young family why not try to take large chunks of time off during the seemingly endless school holidays during the year. 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 a difference a day makes
As I write this blog I’ve got a day off scheduled after a busy three-week period. Three weeks of hard work doesn’t sound much, but I’ve got a lot of back-to-back consulting and training days this month and that usually knackers me. By the time I get up early and get home late for that stretch, along with the mental and emotional energy I spend on really digging into my client’s issues, I’ll be pretty spent.
After recognising that I was going hard in these phases of my year, we came up with the idea of scheduling a day off before I start the busy phase and a day off once it’s completed. It really makes a difference. I’m fresh before I start and I refresh when I’m finished. So during the focused work phase I can just give it everything.
What knackers you? Is it having three client meetings in one day? Is it going 26 weeks without a holiday?
When could you be proactively 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’ll go hard and the times you’ll recover and replenish. I assure you your income will rise, not fall. You’ll also enjoy the journey a whole lot more too.
A version of his article was originally published on Brett Davidson’s blog.