We’ve all heard the advice, “Work to live; don’t live to work.” I appreciate this sentiment.
I’m as committed to this concept as I am to managing a successful business. After all, I’m working toward a win-win — making a great life for my family and myself and contributing to the success of my customers and my community.
That said, as an entrepreneur I’ve found myself depleted of energy and stressed many times because I haven’t taken this advice, or I’ve forgotten it as I dig myself deeper and deeper into work.
When I finally pull myself out and take a break, I’m quickly reminded that rest is an essential ingredient to productivity and progress. Branding expert and entrepreneur Amber Lilyestrom says it succinctly, “Normalize rest.” Make rest a nonnegotiable part of your life.
During the pandemic, I often commented that it felt like Groundhog Day. As August approached and our family had barely left the house since March, I found myself working more and more and losing sight of other important aspects of my life that I had been giving lots of space before we began staying home.
If you’ve ever experienced diving into work for long periods of time, you can relate to how this can lead you to feeling overwhelmed, wondering why you’re working all the time, and looking for an end in sight.
Here are five ways to integrate rest into your daily and weekly work life. These habits help promote a healthy work-life balance and reduce anxiety so you can conquer moments of feeling overwhelmed and reconnect with your “why”:
Take a Lunch Break and Turn Off Your Business Brain
Creativity happens in the white space you create. Replace the mantra, “There is not enough time” with “There is exactly enough time with time left over.”
Put this concept to work by creating boundaries for when you focus on business and when you purposefully allow your brain to give undivided attention to other things.
Use your senses to do this by making a habit to pay attention to them during your breaks. Smell the flowers in your garden, feel the water during your daily shower, taste the sweet crunchiness of a raw apple, listen to music and sing along, and look at the photos and art hanging on the walls in your home.
By taking a lunch break every day, you’re training yourself to get your work done within the time boundaries you set.
You’re also making space to notice and experience the world around you, which brings you back to your purpose and recharges your batteries at the same time. If others in your family are also working from home, plan lunch with them and make it even easier to turn off your business brain.
Turn Off Notifications on Your Phone (and Watch and any Other Devices)
If you’re like me, constant interruptions are performance killers because they zap your energy and disturb your attention.
Incessant task switching is taxing on your brain and emotions, leads to half-finished projects, and puts your attention everywhere except where you want it.
They can leave you feeling unproductive and like you’ll never get anything done. After enough days in a row like this, you can start to experience feelings of resentment and are unable to access joy. Often the interruptions come from our phones and notifications, which we can turn off.
This is also true when it comes to rest. If you decide to take a nap or walk in the middle of the day to reduce stress, leave behind your phone and all haptic reminders related to your work as an entrepreneur.
There is nothing worse than being awakened from a much-needed nap to the buzz of an email notification or a phone call that could have waited. Let your brain experience pure downtime, and you’ll avoid burnout by keeping your brain fresh and energized.
Sign Up for Something You’ll Enjoy That Is Not Directly Work Related
While I love LinkedIn Learning as much as the next person, signing up for a non-business class or a club is a great way to integrate downtime into your regular routine.
Whether you’re into piano lessons, salsa classes, pottery throwing, or martial arts, you can overcome exhaustion from work by engaging in activities that use other parts of your body and brain and keep the gears well oiled.
If you have children, finding ways to spend time with them a couple of hours during the week is fabulous for work-life integration.
I remember taking parent-and-baby dance classes with my 15-month-old son. He watched me do the dances during the entire semester without jumping in; on the last day of class, he stood up and did them all by himself. He knew all the moves! He’d been studying them for 12 weeks.
It’s amazing what any of us can do when we give it our full attention. When you set aside time for a class, make sure the environment and timing work for you, so you don’t have work on the brain while you’re doing it.
Exercise and Play With Other People
While I was writing this article, my aunt shared her daily break routine with me: During lunch, she plays a game with a couple of other people. It’s the perfect way to turn off their business brains for 30 minutes and give them a boost of energy from the fun so they have productive afternoons.
When you play or work out with other people, you’re leveraging the concept of having an accountability partner; this drastically improves your chances of success in anything you do.
From experience, we all know that it is far easier to skip a class when you’re doing it alone than it is to skip when you’ve promised another person you’ll show up.
Ease Back to Work With a Transition
Whether you’re returning from a vacation or coming back from mid-day yoga, incorporate ritual transitions to getting back to work. If you sit down to your desk to a jolt of panic, it will reduce the calming effects of the break you just took.
For example, rolling up the yoga mat after a 20-minute workout can be a transition to ease you back into a work frame of mind.
When you leave work to start your break, set up the next activity you’ll return to — this way you won’t be scattered and waste 15 minutes figuring out what you’ll do next.
Being organized in your work is an important part of this and will make transitions easier.
Transitions can be simple such as always getting a glass of water just before returning to work or sharpening your favorite pencil. Let the transition represent your prepared, energized self, ready to be productive.
Taking time to recharge is not optional if you plan to succeed in the long term. It is as essential as your business plan, the people you hire on your team, and getting enough sleep at night. Don’t skip it.
Belinda DiGiambattista is a serial entrepreneur, business coach, and outsourced financial controller and can be found at www.belindadi.com.