The first part of this article was posted on March 1, 2021. The first article dealt with the basic issues that need to be addressed to ensure you enjoy a good day off each week. This follow-up article focuses on the underlying bigger picture of our human needs.
But I love to work
Occasionally I have people tell me that they do not enjoy anything besides work. They love their work and that is all they want to do. They are not into sports or gardening or other things. They feel like they are wasting time taking a day off. My answer is that one day this overloaded approach to work will catch up with them. We can all work crazy hard for a season. Maybe a year or two with a start-up business. Unless you stay single and do not want much life outside work, the day will come when you need to cultivate other interests and learn to look after yourself.
If you are in a busy work role that occupies your mind and body for long hours all week, it is essential for your longer-term well-being that you have regular time to unwind, relax and replenish. This is not just about restoring your energy levels. It is vital for making sure you keep your emotional tank full. It is also about time to reflect and make sure you are strongly connected to a sense of purpose.
There are three tanks
We all have three ‘tanks’ – physical, emotional and spiritual.
The easiest to understand is the physical. We need to make sure we take enough time to exercise. We need to prioritise eating nutritionally healthy food. We also need to get enough sleep – between 7 and 9 hours per night. If you have not eaten a nutritious breakfast and lunch, your energy levels will start to dip in the afternoon. If you do not work your body at a higher heart rate for 30 minutes per day, you will become unfit. It will be harder for your heart to pump blood around, and your muscles will not be as strong or responsive. And sleep is the foundation for a good life. If you do not have a good sleep routine that enables you to slow down your mind and relax your body and get to sleep each night, you will struggle.
Enjoying at least one good day off each week, and attending to your physical needs for food, exercise and sleep, will help you fill your physical tank on a regular basis.
Emotional well-being is not as easy to automatically understand, especially for high achievers who are used to pushing through and making things happen. The challenge for many comes in the very busy years between 35 and 55 when the demands at work and at home are the greatest. The juggle is real with a partner who also has a career, 2-4 kids who you want to have every opportunity in sports, school, and other activities. Your parents may start to have some needs that make demands on you in those years as well. There is only so far you can stretch. Many cram into their lives all kinds of things. There is often little or no time to stop and just be. All this activity has a huge impact on our emotional wellbeing over time. If you are in a senior leadership position even more so.
You know your emotional tank is running dry when you have little compassion or empathy. It is difficult to care for others when you are emotionally low yourself. It is an awkward and unsettling experience to feel flat and disinterested in people around you. You can function but something inside you is empty.
To fill your emotional tank takes more than sleep and a weekend off. Often more than a holiday. It will require you to find time regularly to engage in some activities other than work that replenish you. Things that light you up and while doing them you can become totally absorbed, lose all sense of time, and become disengaged from work matters.
For me, playing cricket in the summer is a wonderful way to relax. I spend 5 – 6 hours on a Saturday afternoon involved in a game with 21 other men. We play hard and enjoy testing our skills, but ultimately it is nonsense. It does not matter in the scheme of things. What matters to me is that I totally disengage from work and other pressures and come home physically tired, but emotionally replenished. I am relaxed, de-stressed and able to be fully present with my wife. The week’s work pressures have faded away. My emotional tank has been filled (even if I perform poorly).
There are many other ways to replenish. Reading, gardening, playing board games, watching a movie, or eating out with friends, all can all help fill your tank.
I recommend that once a year you take 3 weeks holiday with the aim to totally disengage from work during that time. No emails, or phone calls, no work planning, or projects. In fact, leave the laptop at home. I promise you that if you will disengage from work and engage in something else that you enjoy for 3 weeks, you will find a freshness and clarity of mind and heart that you never thought possible again.
The consequences of getting this wrong are deadly. More and more Australians are claiming their IP Insurance for psychological claims. Emotional emptiness can lead to depression, anxiety, and other stress related disorders, from which some do not ever recover fully. Ignore this at your peril. Burnout never happens overnight; it is the cumulative effects of emotional tiredness over many years.
I have worked with some very ‘successful’ people who have made plenty of money in their career or business. Their challenge is that they have become bored. Their goals were all around making money and carving out success in financial or business terms. Now they have achieved levels of success, they do not know what they want anymore. The challenge of making more money just does not excite them anymore.
The issue for many is that the connection between work and purpose has become disconnected. It is vital that you believe in what you are doing. There needs to be an intersection between your sense of purpose for why you are on the planet, with the work that you engage in every day. Deep down we all need to make meaning of our lives. We all need to know and live by values that are important to us. We all need to have a sense of why I am here and what I am passionate about doing to make a mark on this world.
Every few months it is good to take a day out of your business and reflect on your purpose. Answer for yourself the question, ‘How does what I do make a difference in the lives of others?’ ‘How does what I do make the world a better place, at least for some people?’ ‘How am I giving back to others from the success I have achieved?’
All of us need to be able to answer such questions in ways that give meaning to our life and our work.
- The physical tank needs filling every day multiple times in multiple ways.
- The emotional tank needs filling 2 or 3 times every week in several ways.
- The spiritual tank needs filling a few times every month in several ways.
If you get the underlying bigger picture for your life clear, you will feel a lot better about yourself, have emotional energy to be kind and serve others, and you will always have a sense of purpose that enables you. You will have a well-rounded life that sustains you week in and week out. You can enjoy the fruit of hard work and achieving success, but also make sure you are healthy on the inside.