How to get the most out of your time away from work

Confessions of a workaholic – and why every shop owner needs time off

I’m a self-admitted workaholic who has battled ‘burnout’ – and actually won! Today I work with over 100 business leaders to improve their results while lowering their stress levels. Given this, you’d think I’d be very mindful of my own stress levels. But to be brutally honest, I need to call myself out on some bad behaviour. I’m sharing this with you in the hopes that, if you spot this same bad behaviour in yourself, you too can recognize it – and STOP it immediately!

A few months ago, after launching a book and having my best year in business, I was starting to feel tired. That fatigue required much more than a nap or a long weekend. I had not taken a real vacation in months, so I chose to take an extended summer vacation while many of my clients were off on holidays as well. I was looking forward to some much-needed relaxation and quality family time. However, the week before my vacation, a client asked about my upcoming availability. I caught myself apologizing for taking a vacation and then I followed with “it’s ok to e-mail me while I’m away.” Big mistake!

Just because I didn’t have each vacation day booked solid, didn’t mean that I needed to spend time answering e-mails or doing rush jobs for clients. And why on earth did I apologize for taking a break? That proved that I still associated taking time away from work as being somewhat indulgent or even lazy. Perhaps I should have framed it this way: “I’ll be taking a vacation in the next three weeks, but look forward to returning fully rested, rejuvenated and prepared to serve you even better.”

On the next client call, working towards a tight, high-pressure deadline, I caught myself again on the verge of saying “Sure, I can take a conference call while I’m away.” Thankfully, I caught myself immediately. Then something remarkable happened. As I compared schedules with the client, we discovered that this project could easily wait one week! Sometimes just talking methodically to your clients can help you find a win-win solution. Again today, when I entered my office, I found myself making a list of what I wanted to accomplish while on vacation. Yet again, my unconscious addiction to ‘being busy’ illustrated how little I value enjoying time that’s unscheduled. I definitely needed to refocus.

I began reflecting on how I wanted to feel during these three weeks – rested and relaxed emotionally, eager to return to work and hungry to help my clients with fresh energy and renewed creativity. More importantly, I wanted to come back with hundreds of pictures of my children being silly and my family eating and drinking and ‘being merry’. I wanted to be able to prove to myself once again that a substantial investment in refuelling my emotional real estate yields very high returns – namely creativity, a more positive mindset, and feeling that my life is fuller and much more rewarding. I don’t need to accomplish ‘just one more thing’ to be happy now. I want to create memories that I’ll revisit when I need to, and cherish in the future.

Is this how you feel? If yes, instead of being Too Busy to Be Happy this holiday season, aim to be happier and more fulfilled by saving ‘busy’ for the New Year! You might start by going to www.myworklifewisdom.com and downloading the free 7-Minute Morning Program, which is an excerpt from my book Too Busy to Be Happy.

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