Should I be retired?

Being of “a certain age”, which means no longer young, a lot of people I meet socially and even some who have known me a while think I must be retired. Well, I suppose I could have retired, but since I am in business on my own account rather than being an employee, the question of retirement has not come up.

Even if I were employed by someone else, there is no longer an effective retirement age which is more or less compulsory.

I believe that I will know when to retire, and that will be when my work is no longer interesting, or it gets in the way of leisure activities to which I want to give higher priority.

Those who think I should be retired and who are a similar sort of age perhaps did not enjoy their work so much when they had it. I choose my work carefully now. I do not take on clients unless I like them and am happy to take them on. It means that my business feels like a hobby even though it makes money as it always has.

So why retire while work is still fun?

Forgetting why we work

Get off the treadmill...

It’s no secret that I believe in taking breaks from work because it helps me relax and be more efficient. Enjoying ourselves and having a bit of fun is good for us.

What I find really frightening is when I see people so buried in fighting their business issues that they end up working all hours, sometimes seven days a week. Often they are not making money, and that is when they seriously need help from someone like me. However, some people are making a lot of money, but they have lost sight of why they are doing it.

Making a pile of money is all very well, and of course business owners want to give their families a good life. Except of course they hardly ever see their families because they are always working.

One real downside of having their noses to the grindstone all the time is that these workaholics actually forget how to have fun at all. They neglect their outside activities, reduce their options to have holidays and race through their self-imposed tasks like slaves under the cosh. But they have enslaved themselves. I am not a doctor, but this seems to me like a recipe for driving themselves into an early grave through addiction to the work treadmill.

Of course I know some employees with the same addiction; some who really ought to have retired by now but think they are indispensable. Money really isn’t everything, except that their money pot means they could go and enjoy themselves in a useful manner. The trouble is, with all that work they too have forgotten how to enjoy themselves.

We work to make our lives better and to look after our loved ones, perhaps the better to help others, but also to have time for enjoyment and leisure. All of these things make us happier. I should hate to forget how to be happy.

Do you manage not to be busy all the time? Do you need help learning how not to be busy and how to make your business stop running your life? Call me if you need that help.

How do you manage your time to have some fun? What tips do you have?


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Working, resting, writing and walking

Floating boat by one of my favourite walks

The other day a doctor told me I shouldn’t work hard all the time and that I should take breaks and spontaneous time-outs. That is good advice, but actually I already do those things.

It is true that some of what I think of as a break, others might consider work, but leisure is whatever you find relaxing. I know many people and indeed some bloggers keep their noses to the grindstone eighteen hours a day. They are out seeing customers during the day and writing articles and blogs half the night. I certainly couldn’t do that and don’t have the drive or energy. I wouldn’t dare criticise in the sense that one might think that if you cannot make a decent business thrive in more normal hours you aren’t doing it right. Many of these dynamo-types are phenomenally successful. It’s just that we all have the choice as to whether we work all hours.

All of us need family time. Some of the “dynamos” schedule it in. I just like to let it happen. I don’t really watch all that much TV. What television I do watch I mostly like to be informative and instructive though I do like crime drama; most of it anyway. It’s time spent with my wife, though, and luckily she likes to watch much of the same stuff.

I write for enjoyment, even this blog. I hope you find it useful because that is part of the purpose of it of course, but writing gives me pleasure. I am very relaxed right now as I type this. 🙂

For me, another way of relaxing is in reading. I read about almost anything, and I do read fiction. I think that helps my writing style to keep fit. We learn all the time, and often one can see the tricks another writer uses to make the text lively and compelling so that we want more.

I am getting towards the end of the Millennium trilogy which, after the first part of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, is very gripping. The English writing isn’t great and the translation occasionally odd (why use “gallimaufry” instead of “hotchpotch” or “mishmash”?), but as we go on, the way of winding up the tension and making the reader champ at the bit is terrific. There is so much we can learn from other writers, famous or otherwise. I regard that sort of reading as gym training for writers. As in the gym, I might not be the greatest but I try.

As you know, I get the best ideas when I am out walking. Although I walk more in the evening I might go out any time of the day if my schedule allows and I feel like it. I am writing this in the afternoon having been out for a quiet walk this morning. I like to look and listen and today I saw oyster-catchers and both saw and heard a curlew. Relaxing like this makes it so much easier to come back to the office with new energy and ideas.

Some businesses in the service sector and even in my sector offer appointments to clients at weekends. I may occasionally see a client at a weekend in the UK tax season, but generally I think that if they can’t make time to see me during business hours or early evening they aren’t the sort of client I want. That is because if they are stingy over time they are probably stingy over paying me. But it suits me anyway to make sure I am not under pressure seeing people at all hours.

I find the best ways of working are:

  • to enjoy what you do
  • to take pleasure and treat as leisure what others might see as work
  • to be organised so that you are not under deadline pressure all the time so that
  • you can take time off when you feel like it, and
  • actually take the time out and have fun

Of course it’s whatever floats your boat, but that is what floats mine. What floats your boat?

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Manage yourself, manage your clients

In running our own businesses it is very easy to not allow ourselves enough recreation time, or time not just working. Of course we do not just keep regular working hours. Most of us attend to our tasks at odd hours, but part of the advantage of working for ourselves is that we can, now and again, take some personal time during the working week, either when we wish to or sometimes when it is thrust upon us, such as (in my case recently) helping elderly relatives.

We do need to stop ourselves from being at our clients’ or customers’ beck and call at all times. I have a quite technical business anyway, but I do not give out my mobile (cell) number unless absolutely necessary. The number is not on my business card. Usually if I am not available in the office during normal working hours it is because I am with a client or out and about seeing clients or at networking events. It is not convenient for me to take calls and probably I could not answer with confidence without my file any questions that might be asked. My assistant will take messages and I can call back when convenient.

Generally I do not do client work at weekends, except at the height of our tax season, and even then not the last weekend because I organise my clients to spare me the last-minute rush. I do write articles and blog posts at weekends because I enjoy doing it, and it is great when a sort of recreation has a useful marketing function (there, I admit it: I market; actually quite a lot).

So if my client calls on a Friday afternoon at 4.30 and asks if I can produce a document needed by first thing Monday morning, I may look askance at the request.

Firstly, I may have plans for the weekend. Secondly, I have to ask myself whether I should modify or abandon those plans and whether I have time anyway.

Thirdly, I ask myself whether this is a really good client, who has become a friend and who would not ask unless it was desperate. Alternatively is this an inconsiderate nuisance client who apparently thinks they are my only client, but does not go as far as paying me on time? This is where I manage their expectation and their presumption in deciding what to do. Of course, that is not to say that I won’t help with something I would have time to do on Monday morning. I am not cussed.

I look after all my clients well, but they do not own me or my leisure time. I will do a special favour based on its merits, but at weekends, home and family comes first.

Do you have this trouble from clients or customers? How do you deal with it?

© Jon Stow 2010

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