Quick! Have Another Holiday

If you can fill the unforgiving minute / With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run / Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it…

Regular readers know that quotation from Kipling is one of my favourites. Written in 1895 and first published in 1910, If is parental advice to the poet’s son, John. I’m sure Kipling didn’t mean it, but those three lines are also some of the best business advice around. If you can fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds’ worth of productive work you will undoubtedly succeed, my son.

So why am I going to use this week’s post to recommend that you fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds’ worth of lying on the beach?

Vacation Home

“Damn it, Ed, most of us have just come back from holiday. September to December: four months of solid work is what’s needed now. All targets achieved, everything in place for an even more successful 2016.”

Yes, you’re right. But just make sure that you have a break between now and December – and that ‘everything in place for 2016’ includes holidays.

…Because there is more and more evidence that going without holidays is seriously bad for you.

  • People who don’t take proper holidays have a substantially higher risk of heart disease
  • A British/Finnish survey linked long hours to a much higher incidence of depression
  • Swedish research found that taking regular holidays and short breaks boosts creativity and cognitive reasoning

It’s another of those cases where a quick internet search throws up more results than you can handle – but here’s the original article in Quartz that triggered this post.

There’s a link here with last week’s post about staying in control. It’s tempting to think that the office can’t function without you and that the only way to stay in control is to stay in the office. There are two simple answers to that point: firstly if the office can’t function without you then you haven’t built a business and, secondly, you and I both know that the longer you stay in the office without a break the less you’re in control.

If you want to see the law of diminishing returns at work in your business, cancel your holidays and work through the weekends.

Maybe we should ‘do the math’ as my American colleagues would say. If you work 40 weeks of the year and work 40 hours at maximum efficiency you’ll have 1,600 productive hours in the year. Work 50 hours for 50 weeks at 60% efficiency and you’ll have 1,500 productive hours – and every chance of visiting A&E sooner than you should.

The longer I’m in business – and the more I work with people running businesses – the more I think holidays and breaks are vital. It’s about working efficiently and productively. None of us are in the hours business: we’re all in the results business.

And you can’t produce the results if you’re stale, tired, depressed – or in a hospital bed.

Let me finish with what I think are two key points:

Record your time – or do something to check that you really are being productive. I still remember the shock when I first used Toggl and realised how much time I was wasting. I think the maths above is perfectly valid: but it’s only valid if you really are working productively.

Secondly, don’t waste your holidays, breaks and weekends. ‘Work hard, play hard’ is a dreadful cliché, but I do believe in ‘work productively, play productively.’ The holidays/breaks that leave me really refreshed are the ones where I’ve done something specific or learned something new. Maybe it’s my age (or maybe it’s having children!) but lying on the beach doesn’t do it for me any more.

With that I’ll leave you to enjoy a productive weekend – hopefully in every sense of the word…

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