PRODUCTIVITY

Is Work the Only Thing You Do These Days? Time to Stop

Brains aren't inexhaustible; like any piece of sophisticated equipment, they're delicate and can break.
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I got kidnapped one weekend last month. My husband and daughter pretty much frog-marched me out of the house, into the car, and out of town. I didn't know where I was going but was promised I could be back at my desk in 48 hours.

I found it wonderfully soothing that I didn't know where we were going or what we would be doing. I hadn't made the plans so didn't feel responsible for them. All I knew was that I wasn't allowed to work.

And then I found myself ensconced in an insanely-charming hotel overlooking the sea. We ate a lot of wonderful fish, had some great conversations and, the next day, went for a challenging walk that ended with a great outdoor lunch.

The reason for my kidnapping was complicated but suffice it to say that this was my first day off since New Year's Day. I had seriously forgotten how to do anything except work. I worked in my sleep and in the bath, I talked about work over meals, and listened to work while I cooked dinner. I wasn't much fun to be around and it wasn't a ton of fun being me. But worst of all was knowing the perils of overwork. Clock in more than 11 hours a day (something I did regularly) and you significantly increase your chances of depression and cognitive decline. You forget words, are less good at solving problems, and find it harder to be creative.

Knowing this should make you work differently. Anyone managing another human being needs to remember that brains aren't inexhaustible; like any piece of sophisticated equipment, they're delicate and can break. Many organizations are led by bulls in china shops, wantonly wrecking the assets they most depend upon.

My biggest problem, of course, is that I work for myself. I don't have a boss to tell me to stop and I'm lucky enough to love what I do. Like most entrepreneurs, it's hard for me to see where work stops and I start--and that's how I like it. But the medical evidence scared me--it still scares me--and I think that, overall, I'd rather have a long career than go out in a blaze of glory.

So I was lucky to be kidnapped. Within 47 hours and 35 minutes, I was back at my desk. But not for long....

IMAGE: jesstyle/Flickr
Last updated: May 20, 2013

MARGARET HEFFERNAN

Margaret Heffernan is an entrepreneur and author. She has been chief executive of InfoMation Corporation, ZineZone Corporation, and iCAST Corporation. In 2014, she published her fourth book, A Bigger Prize: How We Can Do Better Than the Competition.




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