T he Mars company had it completely right when they said, “A Mars A Day Helps You Work Rest and Play”. So many of us, as entrepreneurs and people in senior positions, fail to take proper breaks, not just holidays. As the holiday season is upon us, I thought I would address the importance of holidays and breaks, and how they help us stay motivated, become more productive and avoid burnout.
In our day-to-day, we have those ‘to do’ lists and, in addition, we have our individual mountains to climb in order to reach the summit of whatever target/goal we have set for ourselves. Once these are achieved, we have that amazing exhilaration of achievement.
We are overjoyed with our accomplishment. In attaining a result, you will see that time, energy and dedication was required to reach that personal/professional summit of yours.
However, crucially, no one talks about the descent from reaching that goal, or planning the next goal and the energy required for that. We all have our own extreme landscapes to conquer, the question really is how we do we achieve the next goal or target by a) staying motivated, which will allow us to be productive and b) without burning out and recognising that this can be a real issue.
From my own experience, I have discovered that, in some instances, obtaining a personal goal can also affect my work goals simply because of my lack of appreciation for how much energy can mentally be consumed and not realising that I needed to take time off to become more productive.
The Harvard Business Review, ‘Staying Motivated After a Major Achievement’, by Ron Friedman 2015, established that returning to the normal work routine “after a period of massive productivity” is hard because of withdrawal from “…an exciting, challenging, or pressure-filled situation to one that’s considerably less demanding. High-stress situations and the adrenaline rush they produce can be addictive. When the constant sense of urgency we’ve adapted to comes to an abrupt halt, we experience withdrawal.”
It is a mistake to simply say, let’s move on to the next target and attempt to make the highly demanding, high-stress situation the norm.
The report goes on to say that one of the reasons we find it hard to move on quickly to the next goal is simply because we are burnt-out and have not taken time to recharge.
Florida State University psychologist K. Anders Ericsson has spent 30 years studying peak achievement. His conclusion was that the people he studied, who were experts in their own field such as musicians, athletes, artists, deliberately and intentionally took time off daily. He went on to say: “Unless the daily levels of practice are restricted, such that subsequent rest and night-time sleep allow the individuals to restore their equilibrium, … individuals often encounter overtraining injuries and, eventually, incapacitating burnout.”
Richard Branson has also focussed on high achievement in the workplace and what effect that has on us as individuals. In a blog for Trinidad Guardian, he said that “stress and business go hand-in-hand, and that’s not a bad thing – high-pressure situations can certainly be motivating – but too much pressure can be emotionally and physically damaging. I’ve found that the best way to manage stress is to find a good work-life balance.”
My tips on staying motivated and productive, and avoid burnout.:
1. Work. Find a pattern in your day to day. Ensure that you have fixed breaks during the day and that you switch off during the evenings, which may not be possible every night, so aim for at least half the week. Allow the mind to wander and be creative – doodle, or stray from your to do list.
2. Rest: Take 15! What I find helpful is getting home and sitting still for 15 minutes or having a bath before I go to bed gives me headspace to decompress from my day. These short periods of time, just for me, make me less stressed. That period of quiet helps my racing mind to process the day’s events. Take long weekends and ensure you don’t work that often during the evenings.
3. Play: Plan holidays. Get them booked to make sure you actually take them! Have fun. If you are having fun you are more relaxed and much more productive.
As business people, we are always striving for the next step, next goal, next task. However, taking that time out for yourself not only helps you relax but will also make you more creative and more productive.