If you are in a busy work role that occupies your mind, body, and emotions for long hours all week it is essential for your long-term well-being that you have regular time to unwind, relax and replenish.
How my life used to be
I would fill my days and nights with all kinds of activities and meetings. Always very busy. Not sure I was always productive (but that is another topic). I would promise my wife (and myself) that we would have a great day off on Saturday. Often important discussions would be deferred to that day, along with a few important projects around the house, and time with the kids. On the afternoon before my day off I would still have lots of things to finish off which often meant I worked into the evening and was home late. I might even sneak a meeting with someone who had an ‘urgent’ issue to talk about that had emerged late in the day. Rather than wait until Monday, I would meet them over dinner or a drink and be home even later.
I would get home very tired and with a great need to decompress, to unwind, and just stop. Stopping was dangerous because the minute I sat down in my chair to watch TV or to talk with my family, I would feel the adrenaline drop. My energy levels would crash. A few minutes in front of the TV and I would be asleep. Feeling guilty, I would wake up and make the mistake of having a drink and trying to engage. Then after a while my mind would return to the events and issues of my week. My habit was to check my email before I went to bed, and that would often lead me to thinking about another issue. I might then stay up late to try to unwind and process things a bit. I convinced myself every Friday that this was not normal, just a crazy week. My wife and kids knew different.
The nett impact of this was that when I woke up on the Saturday morning, I was very tired, and my mood was usually flat. Before too many minutes had gone by, I would somehow offend someone in the house and set the day off to a poor start. The thought of going out or doing a project round the house, or connecting with friends, or even having an important conversation with my wife, just made me more exhausted. Something within me knew this was not working, but I did not have any answers in myself, and my peers all seemed to think this normal.
The secret to enjoying a good day off
After speaking with my mentor about my situation, he challenged me to plan my week better. He encouraged me to start to wind down my work by Friday lunch time. Perhaps finish off a few things in the early afternoon and then get out of there by 3:00pm or 4:00pm. Head home and turn my phone and email off by 5:00pm. Then do something to break the sense of the working week. Go home, get changed, and take the dog for a walk, or mow the lawn and process my thoughts while mowing (and no one can talk to me). Then have a shower and organise a take -away dinner for all to enjoy while we watch a movie. This had the double effect of book-ending the week and helping me clear my head so I could reconnect with the family after a busy week. After this an early night with a good sleep was much more possible with a clearer mind.
I learned that my mentor was right. The secret to enjoying a good day off is to make sure you clear your schedule and your mind the night before.
I would often wake early on the Saturday with better energy levels and my mood much lighter. My wife was grateful that I had more energy for her and for the family. She had begun to resent my work always taking the best of my energy leaving the dregs for the family. We began to look forward to days off. We could make plans knowing we were likely to enjoy fulfilling them.
I see many business owners and executives who have fallen into the same trap as me. I encourage you to try out my mentor’s advice. If you are working from home more now since Covid-19 disruptions the same principle applies. It is even more important that you aim to finish work by mid afternoon Friday, and close the door on your office. Change your clothes, and do the things I suggest to book-end your week. This will have the effect of changing your mindset and set you up for a better weekend.
The other secret to enjoying a good day off is understanding how to fill all three of your tanks – physical, emotional, and spiritual – on a regular basis. More about that in Part 2 of this article in my next newsletter.