Being an entrepreneur can be exhausting both mentally and physically. I have written many articles on the idea of working hard and putting in the time and effort to create a successful business. While it’s true that you have to work hard to be successful, it’s important to recognize that we are not robots. As humans we have basic needs of sleep, exercise and rest. All too often we forget to “recharge our batteries” and that can lead to low energy, lack of creativity or a sense of overwhelm just when we need to be at our peak.
Planning for Downtime
Entrepreneurs are often caught in the rush of the immediate and haven’t planned well for down time. We can often feel guilty for taking time off work. These are symptoms of a schedule that hasn’t left room for the very necessary time away from work that fuels creativity, lowers stress, and gives us back the energy we need to do our best work.
In today’s world of smartphones, it’s harder than ever to get some real unplugged time away from emails, texts, and calls. We buy into the idea that we need to be accessible 24/7, and that we must reply to all calls and texts, even during our lunch break. I’m of the opinion that if we run our business efficiently and effectively, we don’t need to be putting in more than a regular 40 hour work week for most of the year. I’d agree that during peak times we might need to put in a few extra hours, but I’d make a point of planning for some time off afterward.
I’m writing this article having just returned from a week away from work at a cottage. I spent a grand total of about one hour on my laptop in that week, and that was spent watching Netflix. I did also check emails once a day so I could reply to inquiries but avoided getting into back and forth conversations, rather telling them I was away on holiday and would reply in full on my return.
That was the extent of any business during my week, about 15 minutes a day on email. Once in the morning and then done for the day. The rest of my week was spent swimming, playing board games, going on long walks, reading, meditation on the dock, fishing, and canoeing. What a wonderful week it was. I even took naps and I usually never nap.
So in one week about 2.75 hrs total combined laptop time doing emails and watching Netflix.
The other 81.25 hours awake were spent… relaxing.
Am I reaching you? Does that sound good to you?
By day four I was considering becoming a full time fishing guide (not really, but I was that relaxed). When I returned to work I felt refreshed and recharged. I was stress free and I felt renewed energy and mental clarity. (By the way if you want a great measuring stick for stress, go visit a registered massage therapist. You’d be amazed at the knots in your neck and back muscles you’re not even aware of.)
They say “absence makes the heart grow fonder”, and I know that taking a full week away gave me a new fire in my belly for my business.
The ‘Barriers’ to Taking a Vacation
I recently read in an article that there’s an increasing number of entrepreneurs who don’t take a real vacation during their work year. I’m betting that there are two reasons that they don’t take a holiday.
First, many might feel like they can’t afford to, financially or otherwise. Some feel that if they stepped away from their business for a whole week, they’d lose work opportunities, or annoy clients, or the whole business would suffer. My thinking on that is that if your entire business or annual revenue hinges on you being absent for one or two weeks, then something is really wrong with your business. In fact, being away simply shouldn’t have such a negative effect, but that doesn’t stop those nagging feelings.
Second, is the simple lack of planning for your free time. If you don’t just decide on when you are taking vacation and mark it into your calendar with virtual indelible ink and commit to that no matter what job or inquiry comes in, you will simply say no to it because you are already booked.
I personally think anyone who works as hard as most photographers I know do, really deserves to get away from the business for at least two solid weeks a year. The time spent with family can help you re-evaluate your priorities. You didn’t become a professional photographer so you could work yourself to death, or work your way into a failed marriage, or always be the missing parent. You became a professional photographer so you could earn a living doing the thing you love that brings you joy. You owe it to yourself and your family to be sure your business is run well enough to allow for free time so you can recharge and enjoy life.
Find your own way to Recharge
Outside of the annual family vacation it’s a good plan to find other times to catch up and recharge.
On long weekends or even mid week – take a day outside of the ‘normal’ schedule to have a day off. Use that day to do nothing or perhaps indulge in an activity that you find relaxing or stimulating. How you relax is strongly determined by your personality. For example if you are outgoing or consider yourself an extrovert, you may find team sports or parties the best way to relax. If on the other hand you’re more of an introvert, then spending quiet time by yourself may be more beneficial. Try spending time doing things like taking long walks, running, or even going for a drive with your favourite music playing.
Clearly, recharging your batteries needs to be more than a once a year practice, it should be a regular part of your weekly planning. Those that exercise regularly know the rush of endorphins that comes with scheduled workouts. If you’re not exercising now, plan to make that a part of a holistic approach to a healthy work life balance. That doesn’t mean you have to join a gym, although for many that commitment helps keep you on schedule. Just going for a walk everyday, stretching, and even pushups or pull-ups can do a world of good. In addition to daily health breaks, be sure to give yourself some serious time off every week. Most people in 9-5 jobs have the weekend off so if you’re shooting most weekends then take off the Monday and maybe another day of the week so you aren’t working non-stop.
Finally, be sure to plan ahead for two weeks off minimum during the year so you can truly enjoy the fruits of your labours.
Your head will be clearer, you will have less stress, enjoy better health and you’ll say goodbye to the guilt of being a workaholic.
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