The importance of time away from work.


Time away from work, like time away from kids or taking care of loved ones or whatever it might be that defines your daily life, is good. But it’s also jarring.

Why is that?

In my case, I feel overwhelming guilt and anxiety at ‘abandoning my post’ as the boss of a startup because I think a lot of thoughts about what I could be doing, should be doing or what could go wrong because I’m taking a breather.

But does that make it wrong? Surely I need a break. Surely I can’t do everything just for my business. It doesn’t get rid of my stressful feelings immediately but it does help in due time.

Shifting from overcommitted CEO to being on break took my emotions on a wild ride, and here’s how I dealt with it.

  • I coached myself with thoughts like, “Taking care of yourself is good for your business.” “You’re your #1 employee, so taking care of yourself is just like taking care of your team.” “Rest is necessary for success.” “There is joy in sitting still.”

  • And when that kinda didn’t work (too aspirational to feel true), I went simpler with my thoughts. “Your business will not fail just because you take time for Thanksgiving. Your business is not guaranteed to succeed just because you don’t rest.” “This feels terrible, but it will pass.” “Worrying helps nothing.” “You are doing what is required of a successful CEO even if it doesn’t feel like it.” “Focus on what you enjoy.”

  • In the absence of work, I did stress for a moment, then I looked around and found that I could do some actual things I love: Organizing + setting up my home office, cooking + baking, writing, watching movies and taking walks. I had breakfast with friends. I watched football (only made me feel worse actually). In other words, I found that I was an actual person with stuff that I liked other than work.

Running a startup that I love turned quickly into having way too much responsibility thrust upon me in a super short span of time.

And it’s beginning to break me.

Time away from work:

  • helps me build resilience to the demands that I face daily

  • reminds me that life isn’t all about work

  • sparks my creative fire which I desperately need in order to love my life

  • lets me see myself in a loving light because at work I am chief complaints officer for staff, shoppers, vendors, collaborators (in other words, I hear 100 bad things about myself weekly there and it’s sort of enough to snuff out much of my self confidence)

  • let’s me prioritize other parts of my life, like health and my home

  • helps me be better at work