There’s good stress and there’s bad stress.
Bad stress we can probably all identify, for example:
- Relationship problems
- Financial worries
- Working too much
But good stress?
- Challenging work
- Learning to play Hendrix on the guitar
While we know we need a certain level of stress in our lives to feel alive, if we go too hard for too long, stress can build up.
James Clear wrote this blog about it: The Theory of Cumulative Stress.
Here’s one great point (one of many in fact) he made about his gym workouts :
“I usually lift heavy three days per week. For a long time, I thought I should be able to handle four days per week.
"However, every time I added the extra workout in, I would be just fine for a few weeks and then end up exhausted or slightly injured about a month into the program.
"This was frustrating. Why could I handle it for four or five weeks, but not longer than that?
"Eventually, I realized the issue: stress is cumulative. Three days per week was a pace I could sustain.
"When I added that fourth day in, the additional stress started to build and accumulate. At some point, the burden became too big and I would get exhausted or injured.”
Why this matters
Have you ever found yourself hitting the wall after a particularly busy stretch of work?
Of course you have. We all have.
It’s easy to read about business legends in a biography and think maybe you’re not working hard enough, but I want to put that issue to bed right here.
Business is an exercise in creativity and problem solving; not working hard.
I’ve written about this before in a blog titled Hard Work Can Make You Stupid.
Don’t fall for this trap.
Creativity needs time and space, not back-to-back meetings and endless to-do lists.
Doing more doesn’t get the job done. Doing what will make the biggest difference to your business is what gets the job done. And oftentimes it takes loads of 'think work' to identify what’s going to make the biggest difference.
Productivity is not the same as effectiveness.
What I recommend
For anyone running their own business, I recommend taking a lot more time off than you think is reasonable.
I mean real time off.
Obviously, we're all constrained right now by what we can do and where we can go.
But I still recommend large chunks of time off and, when we're able, taking the time to travel, sit on a beach, or going skiing for a whole month instead of a week (trust me, it's awesome).
I know this can be difficult if you’re feeling under financial pressure, or are hungry for your version of success. However, I’ve come to believe it’s essential.
Don’t work nights and weekends. Enforce your own time limits.
Creativity thrives within limits. When you restrict your time available at work, you become more creative. You have no choice.
“To achieve great things, two things are needed; a plan, and not quite enough time.”
~ Leonard Bernstein
You can’t get it all done.
And in fact, you don’t want to get it all done.
If you find that you’re crazy busy all the time, then it’s highly likely you’re working on a bunch of stuff that’s just not that important.
Imagine you go to your doctor who tells you if you don’t reduce your working hours by 50 per cent, you’ll die. No ifs, no buts; it’s gonna be bad.
Now, if you did reduce your working hours by 50 per cent, how much of your current annual revenues do you think you could continue to generate?
It’s not 50 per cent is it?
It’s more likely to be 70 or 80 per cent, or maybe even higher once you get your head around it all.
If that’s true, it gets you thinking about what you might be spending the other 50 per cent of your time on.
The answer is clearly lower-value tasks.
I call this being ‘fake busy’. Don’t do it to yourself.
Try scheduling more time off in your diary throughout the year and just notice how your energy and your clarity of thought improves.
You can give yourself that gift much more frequently than you might currently believe.
Let me know how you go.