Be sustainable

Something I’ve come to realise since I’ve been working for myself is that I’m a really hard task master. I think there’s an illusion that self-employment means you’ll never have to work under a bad boss again. But sometimes I think that we can be our own worst enemies, and I certainly need a constant reminder to give myself a break.

There are some interesting reflections on how we use our time and energy in George Couros’s post The Importance of Rest, Relaxation and Rejuvenation for Long-Term Growth. His premise (drawn from another article which he links to but is unavailable in Europe) is that how we spend our time away from work can make the time spent at work more useful. Couros approaches thinking about this in terms of building muscle:

If you do not give your body time to rest and rebuild, it can actually do more harm than good.

This particularly resonates with me as a sports person. Over the summer I injured myself playing cricket and was unable to do any exercise. Despite my frustration with the situation and desperation to get back to it, I knew that only time and rest could heal it. To go back too soon and risk injuring myself further wouldn’t benefit my team and would only keep me out of the game for even longer.

And of course it can be applied to work too. We’re no use when we’re running on empty, either from day-to-day or in the long run. Taking time out to recharge allows us to return stronger and to work more effectively.

My preferred method for recharging is a walk at the coast (yes, those are my feet in the picture above). Taking time in the fresh air to clear my head does wonders for both my ability to focus when I return to work and to stimulate ideas.

When I wrote about this topic for an issue of my newsletter I included this quote from Anne Lamott:

Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.

It provoked quite a response. One reader took it as a call to action. He took the afternoon off, went for a walk and spent time with his family. He recognised how hard he’d been working in previous weeks and if left unchecked the potential to lead to burnout. Talking about the decision to take a break he highlights¬†the importance of creating a sustainable approach to work; balancing working hard with proper down-time.

So I’ll leave you with this question:

What one thing can you change today to make your approach to work more sustainable?

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