I used to burnout a lot. I would work almost every waking hour for months at a stretch. In fact, I expected to flame out around June every year. I would start hating everything and everyone – my work, my clients, and my life. Then I would be basically incapacitated for a month and then bounce back. I completely disrespected my personal rhythms.
Interest and Energy are cyclical…Alternating periods of activity and rest is necessary to survive, let alone thrive. Capacity, interest, and mental endurance all wax and wane. Plan accordingly.
– Tim Ferris (The 4 hour work week)
Hard work and hustle are important. You do have to push hard. Like Bruce Mau’s incomplete manifesto for growth says –
Stay up late. Strange things happen when you’ve gone too far, been up too long, worked too hard, and you’re separated from the rest of the world.
But you also need to unplug. You need to allow yourself to recover. Which can be very hard if you are a type A personality. Or you are obsessed. I have found myself lost for hours longer than I intended working. And after a long stretch of days with my nose to the grindstone, I find that a little rest wont cut it. I need unplug completely. So I take some days off, hang with friends, and do nothing, read, catch up on all my favourite shows and then I get back to it.
Everyone’s rhythm is different. Some people can work months non-stop without needing a break. I max out after 3-4 days of intense work, then I need at least one day of light work or rest. Every couple weeks or so of this, I would need at least 3-5 days to do a full reset. I find that if I respect this rhythm I can stay very productive over a longer stretch of times. Goodbye to those burn outs that would wipe out for a month at a time.
But beyond banishing burnout, unplugging periodically allows you to gain perspective. Working long and hard keeps you firmly in the thick of the forest, hacking and slashing away. Hitting that reset button allows you to step back and see the forest for the trees. You rise up to the big picture view, analyse your actions and results and recalibrate your efforts when you get back in the game. It also helps you reconnect to your ‘why’. Some times you need to remind yourself why you do what you do to avoid becoming jaded.
Being in that calm space, observing and listening opens you up to receiving answers to problems that have been plaguing you. It is the incubation space that allows all subconscious to work out the kinks and issues you have been wrestling with in the hustle. Unplugging creates the conditions for the famous flash of inspiration that jolts into our mind when we are least expecting it. Suddenly the answer appears, the smart-cut and months of wasted effort are shaved off your journey.
Working hard is necessary, but remember to rest. An unsharpened saw no matter how productive will get blunt over time from overuse.