|Sometimes everyone needs a coffee break|
We need to talk about stress.
These days, the busier you are the better – and if you can get your work life to take over your personal life, lose some sleep, miss some breaks or even some holidays, then bonus points for you.
It’s gotten to the point where we’re all reinforcing this expectation, all the time – so that it’s not only your boss who expects you to work through lunch, but all your colleagues too. And if you’re self-employed like me, not only are you your own boss (and you’re always hardest on yourself) but your ‘colleagues’ are other self-employed people who are also pushing themselves to the limit, so it’s incredibly hard to get out of the cycle of expectations. All the time, I hear fellow self-employed folks joke about how many years it’s been since they’ve had a holiday, how they don’t understand the concept of weekends, how they forget to eat lunch because they’re so busy. I’ve been guilty of this in the past, too. But now I’m taking a stand, and saying it has to stop. Stress should not be a status symbol.
When you work for yourself, you’ve got to be busy. Chances are there’s no holiday pay, no one to pick up the slack, no safety net – if your business goes down, so do you. You’ve got to work hard. I’ve built my own business entirely from scratch, and I know this. But you’ve got to balance that hard work, as much as you can, with time to relax and enjoy life. It’s not indulgent to take a long weekend, or to stop for half an hour at lunchtime to eat a sandwich and read a good book. I know from personal experience that it makes me more productive and more creative when I remember to take time off.
And here’s a revolutionary idea – I think it makes me more efficient too. If you work all the time, you end up having all the time to work. But if you set yourself an official end to the work day, or if you know that it’s coming up to Friday and you’re taking the weekend off, then I think it makes you use your time more effectively. Working shorter hours does not have to mean less work gets done.
If it’s literally not possible for you to do that, then you need to step back and take a look at your business model. Do you need to employ somebody else, even if it’s just part time? Or maybe, are you working too hard for too little gain? Is this business actually viable, or does it need some tweaks?
Basically, I don’t think anyone is so indispensable that they can’t occasionally bunk off early. And I reckon a good work/life balance will make me better both at work, and at life. So I’m going to try harder, feel less guilty and yes, I’m going to call you out on it when you tell me you don’t know what the words ‘day off’ mean. And you can do the same right back.