Are you working against yourself?

Last Monday I was setting about all the tasks to start my week, and nothing was flowing. I had people cancelling due to Covid isolation rules from a lunch I was arranging the next day. A client needed to change a time for their session. My PT session was cancelled. On my list of calls hardly anyone was answering. My wife was at a medical appointment and needed me to pick her up from the train at 1:30pm. The time to pick her up came around way too quickly and my newsletter article which I had scheduled to complete in the morning was still not started. I realised I was quite flustered. I had not thought about lunch. Pressure to complete tasks was mounting.

Surprisingly I enjoyed the break as I drove down to the station. It was great to hear that she had a good medical report.  I stopped and had some lunch with her and then was able to refocus and have a productive afternoon.

However, that night I woke around 2:00am with a tight and uncomfortable chest. I needed to breathe deeply for about 5 minutes to alleviate the pressure and to relax my chest muscles. It was not a heart attack. It was stress. After a few minutes the tightness left, and I gradually drifted back into a deep sleep.

Are you in alignment with yourself?

As I reflected on my life the next morning, I realised my body was trying to tell me something. I have taken on extra largely voluntary roles in two organisations of which I am a member. My business is strong, and I have signed several new clients in the past few weeks. I am also preparing to launch a keynote speaker business and there is a lot of preparation going into that.

Usually everything fits comfortably into my schedule. Right now, there is very little margin in my calendar for anything to go wrong. When things do not go to plan there is not much flexibility to regroup. Also, as I am getting a little older, I find I need a bit more time to rest and recalibrate. To function at my best with high levels of energy and a sharp mind, I need more time resting and unwinding than I used to.

An ‘infection on my soul’

As I reflected, I was able to gain some perspective.

Over the past couple of months, I have become busier and shifted out of alignment with myself. To use a quote, I heard today on a podcast, I have developed an ‘infection on my soul’. An infection on our skin or anywhere in our body, causes inflammation and irritation. If left untended it can become a serious threat to our well-being. It is the same when we shift out of alignment with ourselves. It is like an infection on our soul. Left unchecked we can develop serious stress related health issues that can be very destructive. This is where anxiety starts and can get out of control and lead to serious burnout. Some people do not ever come back to full function after a burnout experience.

I have been there 15 years ago and since then have made significant adjustments to my life. I do not want to live without margins. I want my work to serve my life. For the past 12 years in business, I have learned to look after myself well. This has allowed me to consistently function at a high level and add great value to my clients.

How to establish a healthy rhythm for your work and life

During the past week since Tuesday, I have been doing some revised planning. I have listened to my body and soul and factored in some adjustments to the rhythm of my work so it continues to serve my life.

In my book INTEGRATE, I write about what I call Rhythm of Life. This is a structure taught to me by a mentor many years ago that enables me to always have energy for when I need it. This is not a simple or easy process. Even with the help of a mentor, It took me almost 2 years to learn to listen to my body so I could determine my real work capacity.

We are not machines. Every high achiever who is passionate about their work needs to take at least 1 day a week off to unwind and replenish. With a day off each week most people can work between 25 and 35 workdays (4 – 6 weeks) and retain a high level of energy, mental capacity, and sharp decision making. Each of us has a limit Over time you can discover what works for you. At the end of this period, it requires a long weekend (3 days off). This works out at 8 – 12 long weekends per year. If married it is good to take 2 long weekends a year away with your partner (without the children) to enjoy each other, like a honeymoon. Then it is good to take longer breaks (minimum of 4 weeks each year, in whatever format works (1+3, 2+2)) to disengage from work and have a deeper rest.

This structure is what my wife and I have used for the past 12 years to stay fresh and have the energy we need for high impact serving. We have had a long weekend every 4 weeks and a week off each quarter with one of those ‘weeks’ being our 3 weeks break usually over Christmas.

Post Cancer reframe required

With both my wife and I having cancer diagnoses and treatment in 2020 and subsequent recovery during 2021, it is little wonder we have had to make some adjustments to our rhythm of life patterns.

Over the past 20 years my capacity to work hard for sustained periods without a break has reduced from 30 days (5 weeks in my 40’s) down to 24 days (4 weeks in my 50’s). Now, I am adding a second slower Friday ‘off’ to my month. On this day I will do things I enjoy that replenish me. I will play golf, sometimes with business colleagues, or work in my garden or just read and breathe. I will not work in my business on that day.

This is not because I am less capable, or the value of my work is less. It is to make sure that I can perform at the optimum level when I am working. I need more rest at 66 years of age to stay at the peak of my powers. Otherwise, I notice when I am tired, I can forget details, and become more easily overwhelmed with several things at once. I need to do less so I can continue to do the main work I do, very well.

What is a healthy rhythm for your work to serve your life well?

How well is your soul? Is there any ‘infection’ there?

You can monitor this by using this small checklist. How well you sleep? Do you wake refreshed most days? How restless are you? How satisfied and content are you with yourself? How is your self-talk? Are you able to be present with clients? How present are you with your partner and family? Can you relax on a day off and really let go of the details of your business?

A Business Mentor can help.

If you know you are not doing as well as you would like and the questions above make you a bit vulnerable, I understand. There are important issues to look at and work on.

The truth is we can struggle to do this alone. When you have a big vision, you face bigger challenges. The highs and the lows will be intense. Helping busy people to create a healthy rhythm of life is some of the most important work I do. It is not always easy to talk about these kinds of matters. Not everyone understands. Not everyone is willing to be real about this stuff.  If you have become unsure of the way forward, I’d love to help you. Please do not quit. Don’t just tough it out. It’s time to reach out for a conversation.

If you would like to have a free no obligation conversation about your situation and how I maybe able to help you, please click this link.


INTEGRATE: Why Work Life Balance is a Myth | John Drury

Integrate: Why Work Life Balance is a Myth and what you really need to create a fulfilling lifestyle

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