“Life is a marathon, not a sprint.”
“I’m in this for the long-haul.”
“I can see the finish line — not letting up now.”
“I’ll sleep when I’m old” or “I’ll rest after I finish this next big phase.”
“I’m so passionate about what I’m doing that I don’t even NEED a break!”
If you’re anything like me, you’ve uttered one or more of these motivational phrases to yourself as you pursued a big project or business idea. As female business owners and entrepreneurs, we often try to do it all — build a business, eat healthy foods, stay fit, be social, take care of our home and loved ones, and be cheerful on top of it all.
It can be exhausting.
And contrary to all the popular mantras, treating life and business like a marathon might not actually be in our best interest.
My Ill-Timed Book Breakdown
I experienced this first-hand after having a complete and utter breakdown three weeks before my book, Life After College: The Complete Guide to Getting What You Want, was set to come out.
I had been working on the project for more than two years, and in the final months I ramped it up to an obsessive around-the-clock endeavor (in addition to my full-time job at Google). I felt like I was on Mile 23 of a marathon — I could see the finish line and now was no time to rest or let-up.
Because I wasn’t willing to take a break, life knocked me on my ass (yes, that’s the technical term) and forced me to rest. Despite the fact that my book was going to be released in three weeks and I had an impossibly long to-do list of important tasks to complete, I was a miserable, crying, nonfunctioning mess. Even though I was incredibly passionate about my project, not building in any rest stops had been a recipe for disaster.
The Alternative: Manage your energy, not your time
Tony Schwartz, author of The Power of Full Engagement, recommends that we manage our energy not our time.
Rather than treating our life and businesses as a marathon, Schwartz advises we treat them as sprints and recovery (recovery being key here!).
We all know we are going to have big sprints — that’s what makes pursuing a project or business so exciting. But it’s imperative that we build in equal parts recovery. Here are five tips for making room for recovering after the big sprint.
- Schedule it. No matter whether or not you think you need a break, schedule fun or relaxation activities in advance and stick to them.
- Double the break you think you need. I know how this goes, “Sure, I’ll take a break — I’ll give myself a whole hour off!” Not good enough. Whatever the break you think you need, double it. You are most likely underestimating the toll that all of your hard work is taking on your body and mind — even if you’re having fun.
- Enlist family and friends. If you schedule a weekend get-away with family or friends, you’ll have no excuse but to unplug. Family and friends can be great accountability buddies for taking the breaks you need.
- Make a list of the benefits of R&R and brainstorm your favorite rejuvenation activities. I know that even after reluctantly taking a break, I will come back refreshed, more cheerful and more creative — which puts me in an even better position to do my best work once I’m back at it. Making a list of the benefits will help motivate and remind you to actually take the breaks you’ve set-up. At a loss for what to do? Make a list of any/all activities that bring you joy or relaxation. For me that’s reading, yoga, a glass of wine (with chocolate) and watching a few shows on Hulu.
- Break down your biggest goals into achievable, measurable chunks and reward yourself often! For every day that you make a massive to-do list, add a “reward” item at the end that brings you joy. Maybe it’s reading a book, a gossip magazine, or going out to dinner with a friend. For many of us, we only take breaks or celebrate when we hit the big goals — but those can take months to achieve. Instead, break them down into smaller parts and reward yourself for all of the smaller milestones you hit along the way.
So the next time you’re headed for a big business sprint, make sure you build in recovery rest-stops. For those of you who already do this, what did I miss on the list above? How else do you balance hard work with rest and play?
Jenny Blake is an author, blogger, life coach and yoga teacher. She is currently on a three-month sabbatical from Google to go on a self-funded 14-city book tour for her recently released book, Life After College: The Complete Guide to Getting What You Want.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (Y.E.C.) provides its members with access to tools, mentoring, community and educational resources that support each stage of their business’s development and growth. Our organization promotes entrepreneurship as a solution to youth unemployment and underemployment.