When you run a company, your weekdays are inevitably jam-packed.
An entrepreneur is required to wear many different hats, from human resources to sales and from marketing to spokesperson. One day might be spent meeting with clients from the other side of the country and the next could be at the office interviewing for new staff, conducting meetings, on calls, or tending to emails.
Whether you’re a company leader, a new hire, or a long-time freelancer, time is probably your greatest resource.
We all trick ourselves into thinking that working 80 hours a week is a great thing and that it can be sustained for a long time. This is especially true in the internet age when we’re more connected and more available than ever before. Today, it takes a monumental effort to disconnect — even when you’re off the clock.
But if you’re hustling 24/7, you’ll burn out and your work product will suffer.
Odds are, you’re using a solid chunk of your weekends answering emails and tending to work tasks, rather than resting and relaxing. That’s a big problem because when you don’t take time to recharge, your productivity and even health will suffer. But if you strategize during the week to avoid sacrificing your time off, not only will you prevent burnout, but you’ll bring more energy, focus, and creativity to the workweek.
Here’s how to strategize during the week so you can reset on the weekend:
1. Shut down tech clutter.
There are few worse feelings than coming back after a vacation or long weekend and seeing endless unread emails in your inbox. For me, it typically triggers panic.
But not all emails are important.
I get copied on tons of emails that I really don’t need to be copied on. I’m also on a bunch of email lists that are essentially spam. Unsubscribe to newsletters and advertisements that don’t add value to your life. The key is to quickly scan the information coming to you and ignore what doesn’t serve you.
To avoid email overload in the workplace, I recommend my team to use Slack for internal communications. Removing icons from your desktop can also clear your workspace and allow you to concentrate on the task at hand. And site blockers prevent you from looking at distracting websites like Twitter and Facebook when you have work to do.
If you can’t find ways to digitally declutter, you’ll feel overwhelmed in no time.
2. Be honest about what has to happen today, and what can wait.
Checking email on the weekends is a slippery slope.
Once you get started, a couple of hours might pass without you even realizing. Next thing you know, you’ve missed your son’s soccer game or a tennis match with a friend. In reality, most of those emails can wait until Monday. Most people work normal business hours and aren’t expecting you to respond on the weekends. When it’s a customer, I remind myself that we have customer service available whenever our customers need it.
There are some exceptions, like when you have a client who’s only around for certain hours or in a different time zone, but those situations are few and far between.
Usually, the emails we’re so bent on responding to are not urgent matters. So before you allow yourself to fall down the rabbit hole, really think about whether it’s worth sacrificing your time off.
3. Maximize your working hours.
Occasionally projects can take up an entire workday. But more often, they can be accomplished fairly quickly. This means that with the right attitude and strategy, you can tackle everything you need to do before the weekend.
Here are a few tried-and-true techniques for making Monday through Friday as efficient as possible:
- Write down your three most important tasks of the day each morning to prevent you from drifting to semi-related tasks that don’t actually accomplish anything.
- Don’t just sit staring at your screen for eight hours a day. It helps to move around and get your blood flowing. You can take a conference call outside on your cell phone or walk to get lunch. Being outside is calming and makes you more creative.
- Put your phone down. I see a lot of people staring at their phones all day and even in meetings people cannot resist responding to a text or email. Leave your device alone from time to time and be “present in the moment.”
- Get enough sleep. Studies have shown that lack of sleep impacts cognitive performance and focus.
- Listen to classical or ambient music to increase focus.
Sometimes there’s no getting around your hectic schedule, but there are plenty of ways to stay ahead of your work.
4. But don’t be afraid to take a break.
According to a survey by job site Glassdoor, only 23% of employees actually use all their vacation hours.
There’s definitely a stigma around taking time off. There are lots of reasons for this: we’re busy, we’re afraid of falling behind, or we feel like other people are going to view us as lazy or uncommitted.
But we’re actually killing our productivity when we aren’t taking time to reset.
I go through periods where it’s hard for me to sleep at night because my mind is racing with all the things I need to get done. And I know I’m not the only one plagued by intrusive thoughts about projects and deadlines. So I make it a priority to leave the office and emails behind every once in a while. Taking vacation time vacation time helps reduce anxiety and improves my focus when you go back to work.
That’s why my office has an unlimited vacation policy.
People can take time off whenever they need to without feeling like they’re falling behind or letting their coworkers down. We also encourage people to take the weekends for themselves. I definitely don’t want my team working 80-hour weeks, which would make them stressed and miserable. I expect them to get their work done, but within reasonable hours.
If you find yourself having a lot of sleepless nights during the week because you’re worried about too many things, you just need to take a break.
5. Step back and look at the big picture.
We often get so caught up in the day-to-day that we can’t see the forest for the trees.
Unless you are the president or an emergency room surgeon, the project you’re stressing about probably isn’t as big of a deal as you think it is.
On your weekend, make it a priority to spend time with loved ones, call a family member you haven’t chatted with in a while, and be outside whenever possible. Exercise is also crucial for mental and physical health. I personally like Crossfit or going on a hike. When you’re enjoying the view from the top of the hill, sometimes great ideas come to you.
We’re not machines. We can’t just keep going and going and expect to stay at the top of our game. But if you use your time off for what it was intended — rest, relaxation, and activities you truly enjoy — you’ll be much happier and well-rested when it’s time to get back to the grind on Monday morning.
Work is important, but it shouldn’t take over your whole life. Take yourself out of the rat race from time to time and live.
Originally published on Medium.
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