I am a workaholic. It is a fact I have known for several years and also one I am trying to change. As I have worked to build a successful business over the last few years for my family, myself, and for others, I have often found myself working countless hours, often late into or through the night in order to "get that one next thing" done, or get "just one more support ticket" answered.
Most of the time I would justify working crazy hours with something like this: "if I work really hard tonight, I won't have to work as hard tomorrow".
Sometimes this mentality does pay off and allows me to take the following few days at a calmer pace, but oftentimes it just turns into an endless cycle of working obscene hours day after day, night after night.
As I have come to grips with the workaholic in me over the last year, I'm become a strong proponent for working smarter, not harder, and doing less work. I recognize and acknowledge the workaholic inside me and I know that I do not want to be that person anymore.
A key part of getting over my workaholism is coming to grips with the fact that it is okay to take a break. It is okay to put everything down for 20 minutes and go walk the dog. It is okay to sit down without my computer, iPad, or iPhone to enjoy my cup of coffee. It is okay to spend time in my wood shop building jewelry boxes for my daughter. It is okay to sit on the porch and watch the rain.
It is okay to take short breaks in order to rejuvenate your mind and body.
Short 20 minute breaks are something I have worked hard to make a habit of over the last year, and it has made a huge difference on my level of productivity, physical comfort, and my happiness.
Today is the first time I have sat down to work in four days. I am writing this from Cobourg, Ontario, where my family and I are visiting my sister and her family for a few days. Over the last several days we have visited lake Ontario (one of the great lakes) every day, spent time in the park, visited the local farmer's market, went to an amazing burger joint, and have watched as the young cousins play together for hours on end.
I didn't know it was going to happen, but this trip has really opened my eyes to something. Like many others, I am constantly connected to my work via amy iPhone. I carry it with me everywhere and am constantly pulling it out to look at a notification or email. I take it with me on coffee breaks, on walks; it sits next to me when watching a movie with my wife; it is on my person at all times.
This week, however, has been very different in regards to my connectedness with my work life. When planning the trip, I forgot about Verizon's international roaming and did not think about whether my phone would work in Canada (on my current plan). Well, it turns out that no, my phone does not work in Canada, aside from basic calls and SMS, unless I wish to incur a very hefty roaming fee.
Due to my phone's lack of data connectivity, it has essentially been a heavy timepiece waiting down my pocket. There have been no notifications buzzing my pocket every few minutes, no new email notifications, no incessant checking to see the latest Twitter posts. My phone has sat silent in my pocket for the first time in years.
At first I hated it. I felt like a piece of me was missing. It felt wrong. After a day or two, however, it was amazing. I was free of constant reminders (such as the unread email bubble on gmail) that there was work waiting for me. I was free of the perceived need to constantly check on sales, Twitter, or even the latest tech news.
I was, for the first time in years, truly taking a break from everything even remotely connected to work. Yesterday, instead of looking at my phone, I spent four hours just sitting on the beach watching / helping the kids build a sand castle.
These past few days have helped me realize that it is not only okay to take short breaks, it is also okay to take long, extended breaks that span over multiple days.
Take a break and go to the beach, build a tree house, walk in the woods, climb a mountain, drive aimlessly for an afternoon, sit peacefully under a tree, enjoy your morning coffee, visit an new city, do something that isn't even remotely connected to your work. Disconnect and do something magnificent. I chose to build a sand castle.