An encouraging trend is forming against the idea that the best workers are the ones that clock in and leave while it's dark outside. However, we continue to lionize workaholics like Steve Jobs, despite the turmoil we know being one causes.
I recently got married, found out I was going to become a dad, and in the lens of doing so realized I was constantly stressed. Every moment had the specter of work haunting it, the possibility of a client furiously emailing me, lost revenue, failed pitches - an intense anxiety that I hadn't focused on until I took a few steps back and asked myself what was causing me to worry so much. What was exhausting my mental state? What was exhausting my physical state? What could I do to keep the business strong without slowly grinding my sanity and health to a nub?
I sat back and asked a few friends outside of the world of PR, and even the world of business, how their days went. I asked them what sucked, what was great, what time they started and what time they finished work. I focused on people I knew to generally be a lot happier than I was, and the answer was fairly simple - I'd fallen into the traps of Silicon Valley and the "glory" that entrepreneurship apparently gains you. In essence, I'd forgotten what life was like before I'd run a company.
Here're the things I've re-established, gaining years of my life back and without losing my company's momentum.
Get Some Sleep
It's common advice, but sleep is important. However, for some reason many people think that six hours a day is "enough," and that anything above that is glorious. I want to make a blunt suggestion: don't get less than seven and a half hours of sleep a day, and aim for eight or more.
Perhaps this isn't normal, but it changed my life for the better. There's a great deal of spurious, genuinely damaging hype for those who barely sleep. It's psychologically and physically damaging. And conversely, sleeping eight hours makes you feel fantastic. No need for me to get scientific with you. Also, take that money you're making and buy a good mattress, too. Great sleep makes you a better and healthier person, and anyone who convinces you otherwise is intentionally harming you.
Stop Working Long Hours - Start Doing Your Job
It feels satisfying to tell people you're working long hours and "working hard," but the truth is that working 12 hours a day for the sake of doing so, which many people do, is completely and utterly stupid. In my first job I remember getting glaring eyes as I left on time, but I'd regularly be the best performer in the office despite my rigidity with the 9:00am to 6pm hours. This doesn't mean that I wasn't working hard - far from it, I'd be mentally exhausted at points but satisfied and able to sleep well, because I'd focused on results and completion of tasks over the amount of time I was spending working. This meant at times I'd finish things way before the end of the day - meaning that I could spend a few hours strategizing the next day and then leave on time.
I do the same now with my agency and encourage my staff to do the same. If there's stuff to be done, it gets done, if we're on track and hitting our goals, that's great.
Stay Healthy (That Doesn't Just Mean Work Out)
Forget going to the gym. Try to avoid snacking at your desk, get up and walk around every few hours, remember to eat breakfast or lunch, and go to the doctor if you're sick. If you're a boss, make sure that people who are genuinely sick take the time off they need, and do so yourself. Unless it's absolutely unavoidable, take care of yourself when you're feeling under the weather, as the stress of work will invariably make things worse. And in an office, you're going to be spreading your sickness to others.
Turn Off Your Email and Social Notifications
Don't argue with me, just do it. On the day of my wedding - yes, I know, I should have done it earlier - I shut off both the notifications from Twitter and Outlook. A week or so later, back at work, I was terrified that keeping them off would miss something, but tried the experiment of going a week without them.
What did I miss? Nothing, really.
Sure, a few clients liked to send 7PM emails on a Friday, or weekend emails, or emails late into the night. I responded in the morning. When a major crisis happened with a client, they knew to call or text me, and they got through immediately - as they came to realize that I was totally available if it was necessary, not useful.
I also add to this point that any job that actively punishes you for not being 24/7 available isn't just bad, it's abusive. And if you're a CEO or boss that does this, you deserve a slap in the face.
Stay Out Of The Workplace Outside of Work
It's a hard balance to strike, but there's no better advice than socializing with people outside of your work life (there's nothing wrong with having work friends, but just work friends? That's a problem.). I found myself in my first years of PR only hanging out with PR people, and it continued a horrible cycle of work-related anxiety, reminding me of the stresses of the job and compounding negativity. Sometimes that's great, but if the people you spend time with predominantly focus on things related to your work, you've never really left the office. The same thing goes for what you read and watch - try some fiction, listen to some music, walk your dog. Don't just work.
Finally, When Things Go Wrong, Be Realistic, Reflect, But Don't Rage (For Long)
When I lose a client, I give myself about 15 minutes to be really, really mad. I even set a timer.
I will swear, I will be mad at myself, but when it's done, I stop myself. I then reflect, even going as far as to speak out loud (or to my Chief of Staff Royal) about what actually happened. It's hard to stop myself from just raging - and he usually drags me back if I don't - but I really focus on what I could have done differently. One of the sad things is you should be ready to admit that sometimes you failed, and focus on what you could do differently next time.
And what really sucks about things going wrong is when you didn't do anything wrong. You couldn't change a thing. In that case? Talk to someone outside of your industry, outside of your life. Get their perspective.