Confessions of a recovering workaholic

I’m now in my third week of taking time out. I’ve carved out two and a half days of my working week to do other stuff.

There has been the odd small encroachment when “work” has bled into my “discovery” time, but overall, I’ve stuck to it and I’m loving it. Thanks to my amazing team for giving me the freedom to do it.

I’ve read, walked, run, and chatted to people about different things. I’ve chatted to others who have been through a similar process or are curious about it. It’s an odd balance of not being at work, and not being on holiday either.

There is a form of entrepreneurs’ guilt about not working on a business. I’m learning to let go of all of that. I thoroughly enjoy my work, but have been gorging on it.

Life balance as a paddy field 

Before it used to be like a paddy field filled with water, the work flooded everywhere if you were not careful, so you had to build little barriers so that life had boundaries. Time for exercise, time for the kids etc. Now the opposite is true, work is in a container and life is flooding everywhere.

The most surprising change is that it’s brought a new perspective when I do go back to work. Like Edward Morra taking his NZT in Limitless. I have a new level of clarity. Strategy seems more obvious, what needs to happen next is more obvious.

I feel less likely to want to reach for a beer at the end of the working day and the creative ideas are really flowing. It’s like someone has slipped some LSD into my tea, creativity is unhindered. It’s been amazing.

As anyone that is involved in a business and has kids can appreciate. From when the kids get up, whenever that is, 6-7am through to when they go to bed, and during the day whilst working, you don’t really get any good quality thinking time. Come evening time, it’s not exactly optimal brain time.

So having experimented with time off I can vouch for the value of a four-day work week. Assuming that the fifth day is actually utilised as it should be, fully switched off.

Free time is the new currency

So, all this leads me to believe that although I have a feeling that I want to explore new things, perhaps it was also a yearning to simply do less.

Confessions of a recovering workaholic
Walking in the Slovak countryside with my father in law

I’m beginning to realise I’m a recovering workaholic. Listening to a recent session on burnout on instagram the other day it wasn’t a case of whether I had burnout or not, so much as how long have I been saddled with it. 

I’ve spoken to countless successful professionals who keep working endlessly chasing some carrot because they wouldn’t know what else to do. They ask “If I was to stop, what on earth would I do with myself?” Worst still, I’ve heard too many stories of professionals dying within a year or two of retirement, having worked their whole life towards “living” in retirement. 

Why are we working?

The economist John Maynard Keynes predicted in the 1920’s that in a hundred years we would have a 15 hour work week due to gains in productivity. But it’s difficult to take this step if you are saddled with an enormous mortgage and expensive lifestyle. It also begs the question: what would you do all day? If robots take over most of the work in the future and we live a life of leisure – where do we find our purpose?

I’m not claiming to have mastered any of this. Nor am I about to renounce attachment to all of my worldly possessions and sit cross legged in a field all day. But it’s a stark reminder to ask – why are we working?

Free time is the currency of the future. The call to adventure continues.

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