Have a break!

Some young people I know starting out at work are expected to work long hours with only brief breaks. It is true that in our youth we can concentrate for longer. That is important with a skilled job whether in a factory or the dealing room. However most of us can use a break, and that is important because we work better when we go back to our tasks.

I have been lucky in that respect. I have never worked in an environment where I could not take a break. In my first job, we were allowed out for fifteen minutes to get a coffee at a café opposite our work. The break was written into our contracts. We had a proper lunch break and an afternoon tea break. We did work long hours, but nobody was looking over our shoulders and begrudging us our breaks.

These days I am my own boss, and I work from home. I could work all the hours in the day, but I would not get more done, nor would I be more efficient. I take quite a few breaks, and find myself refreshed when I get back in the office. I am more energetic, and get a lot done in shorter bursts.

I am flexible in my working hours and no evenings. If I feel the need to unwind I go out for a walk. I enjoy the exercise and relaxing my mind when I am out makes me more creative when I get back. I do my best thinking when I am not really trying.

Are you able to get out during the day? Here are some photos from my favourite thinking walks.

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Taking time off from your small business

Break-time walk

Break-time walk

We all need a break. We know that. Sometimes we let ourselves be tied to the mill.

In the early days when we started, we learned that businesses do not run themselves. It might have seemed that the more we worked, the more money we made, and the less we worked, the less money we made. So we might have got into the habit of working all hours of the day, six or seven days a week.

I have learned, and perhaps you have too, that working every hour God sends is not good for our health, and actually not good for our business because we become tired and jaded and less efficient. We may forget things and make mistakes. We have to go back and re-do tasks that should have been easy.

Most of us work to our own schedule. After all, it is our business so we can organize our own schedule. It is vital not only to manage our work time, but also our time off; our time to relax.

Actually it is important for everyone to have time off and not to work long hours for any period. When I worked for a large firm of accountants way back, there was a culture of getting in early and staying late. It was expected of everyone, whether they actually had anything to do while they sat at their desks. Latterly because of poor organization by my bosses I actually did not have enough to do and said so. Eventually I decided to leave the office when I had done my work and my contractual hours were fulfilled. I had much more satisfaction in the gym or at the cinema in the hours I was no longer wasting.

In one of those sorts of work cultures it is easy to be locked into a treadmill and be worn out and be far less effective. I was interested to read in Forbes an article advocating a four-day week for employees. Of course the employees would be expected to work longer hours as a price for getting an extra day off a week. However, both mentally and physically it seems to me the extra downtime could make a person much more effective at work when they were doing their four days on.

So it is with we who run our own businesses. Yes, we should be flexible in the way we run our affairs in order to suit our customers and clients. However I know that I work much better when I am making sure I do take time off, and that I make time for important family stuff. And as I have mentioned, when I am out for a walk, which is every day, I have my best ideas for my business and for my writing, because relaxing my mind makes those ideas pop into my head without any effort.

Four day weeks may not suit everyone. Sometimes I have a four-day working week. Sometimes I have a holiday and therefore a “no-day week”. Sometimes I just take an afternoon off. If our businesses are well-run and efficient we should all be able to do that. We are not slaves to our businesses or ourselves, because that would be no fun, and business should be fun, shouldn’t it?

Are you afraid to take time off? You shouldn’t be.

 

Take a break!

Deckchair happinessWe know that work stress can burn us out  even when we are young.  One of my colleagues had a serious breakdown through stress when still in his twenties.

Of course it is important to get on in our working lives and do our best, but we are not at our best if we drive ourselves into the ground. Apparently “Generation Y” workers born between 1980 and 1993 are getting badly stressed in their jobs or when trying to get better jobs by climbing the employment ladder.

Working is important, because we all need money to get on. However, if we do not look after our health and fitness we will not be able to work. We all need to have a break during the day, and take time off for holidays to recharge.

The world will not fall apart if you are away from work for a short while. If you must check your email on a day off, make one time in the day to deal with it (no more than an hour) and then relax with a book, or go windsurfing, or whatever takes your fancy.

You will feel much better for it, and be a more effective worker when you get back. You know it makes sense, don’t you?

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Enjoy yourself

Reflections

Isn’t it great to be happy? We cannot be happy all the time. Life can be difficult. We have family pressures and worries. We have business pressures too. No one has ever run a business where everything went right.

This past week I have been thinking how important it is to be happy in work. In my days as an employee I have had several periods when I was very happy. I felt liberated early on in my working career even as an office junior, because for the first time I was treated as a real person and not an irrelevance as I had been during my mostly rather unhappy education. It was great.

Later I had a magical few years working close to the London insurance market, and then again during my first job as a manager. Finally as an employee I has a very brief but enjoyable period working with someone who has this week fallen from grace in a rather shocking way. Although we did not part on good terms, I am truly sorry and at the same time grateful that I was allowed a time to know how good I was at what I did; even if it did turn out to be the last time I was able to have a job before passing the age barrier to getting another.

Bike time

The rest is history of course, because I got on my bike to start a business. I have had a lot of fun and still do. I could not work for anyone else now. Times were very hard at the beginning, and there have been ups and downs since, but we are still standing and the economy does seem to be better.

Relaxation

I have learned it is important to relax. I need to get out of the office, and I enjoy walking around our local countryside and across along the river. When I am outside, I get my best business ideas, my best ideas for articles and blog posts, and get to sort out solutions to difficult problems to do with business or otherwise. I don’t have to make an effort to think. In fact I do not dwell on sticky issues when I am out. I take in the scenery and surroundings and the useful thoughts just pop into my head, because I am enjoying myself.

My wife and I do take holidays as often as is practical, which is at least annually and sometimes twice a year. We are sometimes self-indulgent, but we only get one go at our lives.

It’s later than you think

An elderly couple to whom I used to speak sometimes on one of my local country walks no longer seem to be living at home. I don’t know what happened to them. Maybe they couldn’t cope any more. Perhaps one has died or maybe both. I know the old gentleman had run his own business, though mostly we talked about cameras and photography. I just hope he and his wife had fun.

Business should be fun. If it is, we run it better because we have enthusiasm. If business isn’t fun we need to sort ourselves out or run a different business which is fun.

My old biology teacher used to say “Are you happy in your work?”. Well, are you?

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