As a startup founder, employee, and adviser, my life usually seems like one new problem to solve after another. This is not an issue. I love solving problems. I love coming up with the answers. I'm a business nerd at boss level.
I code for fun. Don't be me.
But it was only after I stacked up a few career successes that I began to understand the sneaky value of doing nothing at all.
A fellow-startup-CEO friend of mine once said to me: "I'd rather have one of my key employees focused an hour a day on the right goals than 12 hours a day on the wrong goals."
Recently, this concept reintroduced itself in my personal life. Once I applied the same personal life lesson to my work life, I noticed a huge uptick in productivity.
I mean, I'm not the first to tell you to rest every once in a while. But maybe I'll be the first to give you justification for why it makes great business sense.
Life Is a Series of Boot Camps
The personal anecdote starts with my body deciding it was time to finally and completely let go of all my remaining post-lockdown lazy habits.
Actually, it was my doctor's idea. Once I stopped making work-and-pandemic-related excuses and finally turned up in his office for a long-overdue full checkup, he didn't so much give me an ultimatum as he asked pointed questions implying that if I kept up my new unhealthy habits, I'd likely stay that way.
Much like a parent trying to get a kid to stop making faces, it worked.
So, in true form with my entrepreneur type-A personality, it was boot camp time. I gave myself 40 days to go from terrible shape to the best shape of my life. Maybe the best shape anyone my age has ever achieved.
And again, any entrepreneur would hear that last part and think, "Seems reasonable."
Hopping back on the physical train wasn't about reinventing my lifestyle. It was more about reintroducing myself to older, better habits. And, after a couple days of pain, soreness, and stiffness (OK, a couple weeks), I was back on track.
But about halfway through boot camp -- while painstakingly counting calories and recording nutrition, and running, lifting, core-building, step-counting, etc. -- that thing that always happens happened. I went from quick, inspiring progress straight into a wall. Couldn't lose weight, tired all the time, more sore and stiff now than I was in the beginning.
This wall eventually became unscalable. And on one particularly crisis-filled day, I was forced into taking a day completely off. The next day, as per usual, I felt like crap, but I also breezed through that day's work out. The next day, I found the wall had fallen, and I was back to making progress again.
Getting Over Growth Walls
Anyone who knows how to physically train will tell you to take a rest day every so often. But this is just like how everyone who works a steady job does fun things on the weekends, while we Type As view Saturday and Sunday as our secret weapon days.
It wasn't until it was put to me like this that it finally made sense inside my thick skull:
YOU ARE IMPEDING YOUR PROGRESS IF YOU DON'T TAKE A REGULAR REST DAY.
You are stunting your growth. You are doing yourself a disservice. You are building unscalable walls.
On the flip side, you are not being selfish or weak or lazy by taking a rest day. You are giving torn muscles time to repair and grow. Entrepreneurs readily identify with "go fast and break stuff." They're crap at repairing what breaks.
Four Tips to Apply a Rest Day to Business Growth
Just like with physical health, it's not the program that's complicated, it's keeping up the motivation to stay with said program until you see results.
- Take at least one rest day on the weekend, either Saturday or Sunday, and don't do anything related to your work. You are repairing your business muscles to outperform over the next six days.
- Take a couple hours in the middle of the week, like Wednesday from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., and do something -- anything -- non-work related. This will allow you to finish your week strong.
- Take every fourth or fifth sprint (or sixth or whatever, up to you), and dedicate it to experimental, fun ways to think about your business. This will open new paths for growth.
- Let new projects, versions, features, initiatives, or experiments sit for a while before trying to decide what they mean to the big picture. This will give them time to produce results.
I'm sure you can come up with a dozen more on your own once you understand why the "rest period" is a necessary factor in the growth of your business.
Don't wait until those "new" old habits become harder to break.