Take a break before you start to run on empty
Thursday, October 11, 2012/
I took last week off.
It was school holidays so the five of us went down to the beach and did the usual family stuff. By the way, how kids can play on the beach in their swimmers when it’s absolutely freezing is beyond me.
Anyway, I’m now back in the office and to say that I am completely refreshed would be an exaggeration. However, I am certainly feeling more energised than I felt before I went away.
Why am I boring you with this information?
Because I learnt a few years ago that you need to take time off. For me, around this time of year if I don’t take a break, I get grumpy and angry. Little things make me react a lot more than they otherwise would.
Now, it’s very easy when you are in a start-up to never take a holiday for at least two reasons.
Firstly, money is usually tight. Secondly, unlike in a big company, there generally aren’t teams of other people in the office to pick up your slack.
Having said that, taking a break is essential. You actually don’t realise just how tired and worn out you really are. I also learnt that lesson years ago when I used to be a comedy writer for a breakfast radio show.
I use to come into the station at 4am and write jokes for the day’s show. Some mornings because I didn’t sleep well or went out the night before or whatever I was just tired. But the show must go on, so I’d sit there and churn out the gags.
On those days that I was tired, I thought I was sharp. I thought I was hilarious. The truth was that my material was crap. I’d read it the next day and realised just how impeded my writing performance actually was. I was tired.
The same is true when you work the whole year without a break. You might think you are on the ball but the truth is that you’re not. What’s also interesting is that because you are tired, your ability to recognise your own fatigue is also impaired.
It’s like when you go to the gym to lift weights.
You need to give yourself adequate time for recovery otherwise you won’t maximise your results. Giving yourself time between sets and having complete rest days in between workouts is critical. Otherwise, you will end up over-training and not building any muscle.
In fact, you are likely to go backwards.
So, I took last week off. And I really took a week off.
I didn’t spend the week on the phone or in front of the computer. Yes, I checked emails, took a handful of calls and read a little bit of work-related stuff. But I took a week off.
There’s nothing worse than making the decision to have a break and to then not actually have a break because you worked the whole time. You end up returning even more burnt out than if you stayed at work the whole time.
So, take a week off. Have a break. And come back feeling refreshed.
And if you’ve got kids, like me, by the end of the week you will be desperate to get back into the office – anything is a break after a week with crazy kids!