As I sit writing this blog I’m aboard a train on route to Ottawa to visit one of my best friends for a girl’s weekend together! I made a decision that this summer in particular, I was going to take some extended periods of time off to disconnect from work, recharge and have some fun. The past 18 months have been incredibly busy and positively stressful with little downtime at all. This is definitely not a recipe for long-term health or success.
A wonderful comparison to draw on with what is a good recipe for success is to take a page out of the lives of elite athletes. I am lucky to have some incredible friends to personally learn from in this area. In fact Karlton just competed at the USA Track and Field Nationals at the age of 45 and another friend, Donna is competing in one of the most grueling athletic events – an Ironman Triathlon – this weekend.
If you look at what these and all elite athletes do without fail besides train incredibly hard and nourish their bodies in the most optimal way – it’s getting sufficient rest and recovery. Train, nourish, rest, and repeat!
And this is something that has been proven to be a vital success ingredient not just for athletes but anyone who wants to achieve that high level of sustained performance and success in their life!
Yet for some reason, this message is not well embraced by the work force, especially executives, business owners and entrepreneurs. There seems to be this belief that by taking time off you will compromise your productivity and success! But this couldn’t be further from the truth. One of the biggest secrets of creating sustained success is the recharging principle. It comes down to this: you get more done quicker when you step back and recharge the brain and body. Studies show that performance increases after breaks of all durations: from extended vacations down to micro-breaks of as little as 30 seconds.
This is something I stress so much with all my clients. As for myself, I’m really diligent about taking micro-breaks during the day but not so great at taking extended time out – like an entire day or couple of days! But this summer that has changed and this weekend is just an example of me doing this. It’s LONG overdue for me to regularly and consistently disconnect and recharge. And what better time to put this into practice than summer!
If we do not adhere to this recharging principle more consistently – myself included, then we can expect that ultimately we will jeopardize our business, health and the life we’re supposedly working so hard to create.
It’s well researched and documented that continuous time spent working on-task sets off strain reactions such as stress, fatigue and negative moods, which all drain focus as well as your physical and emotional resources. The brain’s ability to self-regulate and to stay disciplined decreases so if this resource, namely your brain, is not replenished in part by taking regular breaks, it becomes harder to stay on-task, be focused and solve problems.
Yet as a culture we’re programmed to believe that it takes almost non-stop work to create results and achieve success. For most entrepreneurs in particular, rest is considered something to put off for until that day when all is in place – a day which typically never really arrives because there will always be more to do learn and do. It’s as if each day is an Ironman Triathlon that requires one to sometimes literally crawl across the finish line on all fours.
What is however important for us to wrap our heads around is the fact that for entrepreneurs and other professionals, we are often rewarded for our problem solving abilities and creativity. And ironically, down time is the fuel for that mental and physical energy, creativity and focus that leads to success. You can create a solution in a shorter period of time if you are rested and rejuvenated so it’s not the amount of time you spend working each day but the quality of brainpower you are able to bring to the time you spend working.
Success doesn’t come from being glued to your laptop every waking moment but from how energized and, as a result, how focused and organized your brain is. Humans are just like Smartphones or iPods: we have to regularly be recharged, or we run out of juice. In fact your gray matter fatigues long before your body does. And since almost all of us are doing mental work these days, managing cognitive resources is not a luxury to engage in; it’s essential. If not you can be sure your productivity; the quality of choices and your success will deteriorate.
So how can you apply this recharging principle in your life? Here are a few suggestions:
- Take stretch/deep breathing breaks at least every 60 – 90 minutes
- Meditate daily
- Get outside and walk for at least 30 minutes a day
- Leave work at work at the end of the day – I know it’s easier said than done especially if you work from home or for yourself but you need to find strategies to disconnect so that you can recharge
- Delegate more and prioritize better so you have more time to recharge
- Take regular vacations, mini-vacations and take advantage of weekends
So which of these will you commit to do? What will you do to regularly disconnect and recharge?
My challenge to you – implement at least 3 of these or other strategies for 30 days and see what happens…I doubt you will be disappointed!
Until next week – embrace your inner truth, live your purpose and make your contribution in the world.
With gratitude and appreciation,