One of the inevitable side effects of being an entrepreneur is that the first few years of trying to be one finds you never tuned out from a state of being always tuned in. It starts with the extremely long working hours when you toil mostly on your own and it later switches to managing people, business relationships and firefighting.
The lucky few get to take a break from this state of affairs maybe once a year and disappear into a zone of no phones or email, but most don’t get/take that opportunity for years to come. For most of us it is hard to get the mind to shut down even on a break. It is hard to not think about cashflow, growth opportunities, potential leads and product lines all the time.
The problem is worse for those who are responsible for keeping services running 24/7. Being at work actively and passively maybe a glorified way of working, but it has a detrimental effects that accumulate over time. Having done that for a good four-years I found it often hard to focus well for extended periods of time. Any attempt to break from either doing or trying to do or thinking about doing breaks open the dreaded can of worms called guilt – popular culture says that entrepreneurs cannot take it easy.
Flameouts for entrepreneurs are not often absolute or immediate. It is a slow wind down and like the companies they run, especially if they are not doing well, they remain alive only in appearance and inside they are long gone. Being an entrepreneur takes, more than anything else, a sense of absolute conviction in yourself and part of keeping the game face on is to not let anyone know you don’t possess that sense anymore.
In the early years I would always aim for an absolute break – time off from everything and everyone related to work. But by the time the break would come I’d be exhausted beyond words and most of the break would be spent dreading the eventual return to work. Then, by mistake, I discovered taking a couple of days off — sometimes on weekends, sometimes in the middle of a week — and found it to my liking. It took a lot to convince myself that the world won’t end if I take a mid-week break. It was harder to convince my ego than my clients that I was not that important.
Now I have moved to a slightly evolved system. Even in a full working week I don’t attempt to work on all projects on all working days. Scheduling tasks is a major part of this and it has taken time for a workable system to evolve on that front. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule and emergencies that break with it.
Then there are external factors. Sometimes I stay off Twitter on my personal account for days or weeks on end. Information is useless if you can’t efficiently and effectively process it and when I am unfocussed, high levels of incoming information trips me up like nothing else. I’ll give up reading most things, pick up a book and finish it in a couple of days.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution to avoid to take a break and different business segments have different compulsions of its own. So, you have to come up with a solution that works best for you. But it is important to find ways to ease off and take a break for everyone.