I am a workaholic. It is a fact I have known for several years and also one I am trying to change. As I have worked to build a successful business over the last few years for my family, myself, and for others, I have often found myself working countless hours, often late into or through the night in order to “get that one next thing” done, or get “just one more support ticket” answered.
Most of the time I would justify working crazy hours with something like this: “if I work really hard tonight, I won’t have to work as hard tomorrow”.
Sometimes this mentality does pay off and allows me to take the following few days at a calmer pace, but oftentimes it just turns into an endless cycle of working obscene hours day after day, night after night.
As I have come to grips with the workaholic in me over the last year, I’m become a strong proponent for working smarter, not harder, and doing less work. I recognize and acknowledge the workaholic inside me and I know that I do not want to be that person anymore.
A key part of getting over my workaholism is coming to grips with the fact that it is okay to take a break. It is okay to put everything down for 20 minutes and go walk the dog. It is okay to sit down without my computer, iPad, or iPhone to enjoy my cup of coffee. It is okay to spend time in my wood shop building jewelry boxes for my daughter. It is okay to sit on the porch and watch the rain.
It is okay to take short breaks in order to rejuvenate your mind and body.
Short 20 minute breaks are something I have worked hard to make a habit of over the last year, and it has made a huge difference on my level of productivity, physical comfort, and my happiness.
Today is the first time I have sat down to work in four days. I am writing this from Cobourg, Ontario, where my family and I are visiting my sister and her family for a few days. Over the last several days we have visited lake Ontario (one of the great lakes) every day, spent time in the park, visited the local farmer’s market, went to an amazing burger joint, and have watched as the young cousins play together for hours on end.
I didn’t know it was going to happen, but this trip has really opened my eyes to something. Like many others, I am constantly connected to my work via amy iPhone. I carry it with me everywhere and am constantly pulling it out to look at a notification or email. I take it with me on coffee breaks, on walks; it sits next to me when watching a movie with my wife; it is on my person at all times.
This week, however, has been very different in regards to my connectedness with my work life. When planning the trip, I forgot about Verizon’s international roaming and did not think about whether my phone would work in Canada (on my current plan). Well, it turns out that no, my phone does not work in Canada, aside from basic calls and SMS, unless I wish to incur a very hefty roaming fee.
Due to my phone’s lack of data connectivity, it has essentially been a heavy timepiece waiting down my pocket. There have been no notifications buzzing my pocket every few minutes, no new email notifications, no incessant checking to see the latest Twitter posts. My phone has sat silent in my pocket for the first time in years.
At first I hated it. I felt like a piece of me was missing. It felt wrong. After a day or two, however, it was amazing. I was free of constant reminders (such as the unread email bubble on gmail) that there was work waiting for me. I was free of the perceived need to constantly check on sales, Twitter, or even the latest tech news.
I was, for the first time in years, truly taking a break from everything even remotely connected to work. Yesterday, instead of looking at my phone, I spent four hours just sitting on the beach watching / helping the kids build a sand castle.
These past few days have helped me realize that it is not only okay to take short breaks, it is also okay to take long, extended breaks that span over multiple days.
Take a break and go to the beach, build a tree house, walk in the woods, climb a mountain, drive aimlessly for an afternoon, sit peacefully under a tree, enjoy your morning coffee, visit an new city, do something that isn’t even remotely connected to your work. Disconnect and do something magnificent. I chose to build a sand castle.
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This. Times a billion.
How odd that of all places you were in Cobourg. I was there this weekend as well, visiting my in-laws. Hope you enjoyed it. This is a huge wrestle for anyone who is running their own business. My wife, who grew up just outside Cobourg on a farm, reminds me that the long hours and tether are what a lot of farmers have done for many years. I often forget that. But for me, this is a big deal. In the pursuit of business success and influence, the last thing I want to do is sacrifice my family and the enjoyment of life while I’m young. Trips abroad and scene changes in general are very helpful for bringing clarity to what should be priorities. I’ve often found that unplugging, even for a day, can have a good impact on my business too.
Cobourg is nice, glad you’re enjoying Canada, sorry for the cold weather. :-/
Ha that’s awesome! My sister and her family live here, just a few blocks from the lake front. It’s a beautiful area.
Growing up in central KS, one of the agricultural hotspots of the US, I’m all too familiar with the long hours that many farmers work. Excellent comparison.
Today in Coburg: High 72F, Low 57F – you consider that cold? :-\
Love to see Pippin come to #WCTO (http://2014.toronto.wordcamp.org/) November 15-16. (It *will* be colder then for sure.)
Not cold for me 🙂
That is so true. Having a break is necessary, let’s disconnect and build sand castles!
That’s very true.
And while taking breaks is not AS important when you’re on your own(you should still take them anyway), taking breaks and spending time with your loved ones is a must in order to build a meaningful relationship with your SO and children.
That will definitely pay-off in terms of happiness and general satisfaction of life 🙂
I second that. Great speech!
This is so necessary! I’ve gotten into the habit of just putting my phone away on the weekends, and I look forward to whole days without having to be “in-touch”. My kids deserve that, and it’s important that they see I can balance. Having a parent that is responsible and successful is a great learning opportunity, but seeing their parents prioritize during those non- 8to5 days is just as great for them 🙂
It makes my girls feel like they are the most important thing, which is exactly how it should be.
i struggle with this all the time. I absolutely LOVE what I do, and I love being in front of the computer and working on websites and doing cool new stuff.
And working mobile makes it easy to spend time with family too. But there’s always work, and sometimes when I’m away i get stressed at the work piling up.
Anyway, cool post. Good to get the reminder to relax once and awhile.
I’m workaholic too (I run my own business) and when I’m not working I feel “wrong”. I have to remind me constantly that quality time with my children and wife is as important (more, in fact) than working…
Amen Pippin, thanks for this ‘Testimony’
So, are we meeting halfway for a bike ride in the future?
Cheers from Southwest Ohio,
It’s really good that you’ve highlighted this. As a banker by profession, I’ve spent some really crazy hours at the workplace and throw in the WP development after that and there usually is very little breathing time left!
But, over the past few years after my wedding, I’ve taken quite a few long breaks (1-2 weeks) to the country side around the UK with just my tablet and phone but in places with limited or no mobile connectivity.
It’s perfect to just relax and refresh before getting back to crazy life again!
Thank you for sharing this. I share the same struggles.
I am now working diligently to find balance. It’s very easy to miss the fact that their is so much more to life than “work.”
Thanks for sharing these candid thoughts Pippin.
This is so inspiring, are you using any particular apps to manage your twenty minute breaks?
Nope, I just get up and walk away 🙂
I’m sure there’s a psychological definition that comes with that feeling of guilt of “I should be working” especially for those who are making a living for themselves – when every hour contributes directly back to the well-being of your family – and though I don’t know what it’s called, I know that feeling.
You said something great in this:
It’s such a slippery slope, isn’t it? We can tell ourselves that every night.
But the truth of the matter is that as you have a kid – or even more kids – priorities are going to change (or should change, but I don’t wanna turn this into a lecture).
So, for me personally, I’ve learned to come to grips with the tension and it gets easier with time. The hours between 5pm EST and 8pm EST are reserved strictly for family. And that’s just the during the week. Weekends are a time where I try to dedicate far, far more time to them and to doing fun things even if that means I’m watching Frozen for the 94th time or coloring a page out of a Dora The Explorer coloring book.
I want to be 100% there for my wife and my girls and I want to be the best father than I can possibly be. I spent the majority of the first half of the day making sure that our current financial needs (and hopefully future needs) are met, but I want to spend the rest of the time making sure that they’re completely happy, fulfilled, and know that I care about spending time with them as much as I care about taking care of them.
They’re not at an age to connect the dots between what Daddy does during the day to, say, the food they eat at night or the clothes they wear during the day, but they definitely recognize when I’m there pushing them on a swing, chasing them through the park, or talking with them about whatever funny thing they thought about today.
And, in a bit of a paradoxical manner, it kind of makes the work that much better.
Well said sir.
Limiting yourself to a few hours a day, so the rest of the time can be spent with family, also makes those few hours far more productive. Over the last year I’ve worked hard to try and give myself a set work schedule (9-5) so that the rest of the time can be family time. At first it was hard but after a few months I got into the routine and now have more valuable time with my wife and daughter.
Your article reminds me on the following quote:
“The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” – Marcel Proust
It looks as when you arrived at the same level. I enjoyed reading your thoughts.
This article resonates with me a lot.
My biggest problem is knowing when “that one next thing” has become the thing after that and so on…
Take up running (don’t argue just do it) and run 15-20km 3 times a week.
That’s exactly what I have been doing. It’s wonderful.
Great stuff Pippin.
That sounds exactly like my life. Nice to hear another version of it and what solutions are being made to make life and work a better relationship!
After reading this post, my internet went out for 2 days. Well, maybe it was the strong effect of this. lol. 😀
Taking a break is always good. I usually go to the mountain, relax, feel the nature spirit, calmness. That’s great! 🙂
Totally agree. For three straight years I was working crazy hours. Anything to take care of my family. I believe my business is thriving because of my hard work, I’ve realized I need to disconnect! I make sure to get away from desk every hour (for a few minutes) and the weekends only working at nights (2-3 hours). Playing tons of soccer an street hockey with the kids! Can’t ever get that time back! Great post!
I wanted to do something new so bought a DSLR and went on a spree then I had this zen like moment while cooking then that became part of my routine. Now I want to combine both and start a vlog 🙁 sometimes the workaholic finds a way.
Great post, just spotted it now. It’s easy to fall into traps.. using your phone as an alarm, then checking mail as soon as you wake up. And straight away you’re submerged with work thoughts, before you’ve even hardly woken up.
I don’t have a data plan on my phone (only connect by WiFi), which I get slagged off for by my colleague, but although it would often be extremely useful to get online when out and about, I think I prefer it this way – less distractions.
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