By Alex Birkett
I do a lot of things. You probably do, too (since you’re reading a productivity blog, I can make that inference quite readily.)
Sometimes, I think about what I’d do if I had a less demanding career. Would I spend all that time reading classic Irish literature?
In reality, I’d probably fill my time with equally demanding hobbies or projects. It’s the Type A personality in me, something very common in tech and digital spaces.
With that in mind, it’s imperative to build some daily practices to rest, recover, and recharge. It’s absolutely impossible to have your nose to the grindstone at all times. The body is not a productivity machine, despite the best intentions of some corporate productivity gurus and toxic management teams.
Also, tons of research has shown that sleep improves decision making, the productivity curve slopes off after a certain number of hours, and better rested people are generally more productive people.
Still, it’s something tons of people (myself included) struggle with, so I wanted to share some tips that have helped me recharge as I work on growth at HubSpot, grow a content agency, and find time to see friends and family.
7 Tips for Rest and Recovery for Busy Entrepreneurs
1. Clearly delineate your working and non-working hours and working and non-working spaces
As a remote worker and as a founder, it’s nearly impossible to delineate my day between ‘working’ and ‘not working.’ While I love my flexibility, it’s constantly a battle for me to guard my down time. Especially during busy times (which seem to occur quite regularly), I can push myself beyond my desired cutoff point, working late into the night.
This affects my sleep, causing me to wake up more exhausted the next day, which causes a negative feedback loop of stress, caffeine, late nights, and repeated nights of poor sleep.
All you need to do to throw a wrench in this downward spiral is to hold yourself to a cutoff point, where you won’t do any work after a specific time. Could be 6pm for you. Could be that you work from 9am until noon and then from 6pm until 10pm. I’m not here to pick your schedule for you, but it’s very important that you pick times to work and times not to work and guard that downtime for your sanity and your own productivity. Everything else on this list is sort of secondary to the simple act of guarding your downtime, which is really aimed at preventing burnout.
Clearly defining when you’re working vs. not working goes beyond timing, though.
Mark Lindquist, marketing strategist at Mailshake, believes in the importance of having a separate space dedicated to work. “I work from my apartment most days, but I rarely work from my couch, and I never work in my bedroom,” according to Mark.
“I have a desk in a section of my living room, and I make sure to use that space for work, and only work. I really believe it’s important to get into the right mindset for work, and for relaxing. If you’re sending mixed signals to your brain and body that you’re in one mode when you’re trying to get into the other, you’ll suffer on both.”
2. Have a hobby stripped from “productive” goals
I typically end every year with a review of the past year as well as goals for the upcoming one. Until recently, I realized that I had really concrete, time-based goals for many of my hobbies (“get this level in krav maga by X date,” “be a B2 in Spanish by March 1st”). I also realized that took a lot of the fun out of doing them.
I like learning new things just for fun that don’t even have an indirect goal of helping my career or with self-improvement. That’s important. I do this with language acquisition (learned Spanish and now working on German). My current curiosity is with art. I’m a terrible artist, but I’ve gotten by through judicious use of graphic design tools and Canva and other alternatives.
However, I’ve been visiting tons of art and design museums lately and have been getting more and more interested in giving it a crack myself. Heck, it worked for Winston Churchill and George W Bush.
My business partner and colleague David Ly Khim also made the good point that the simple act of doing things outside of your jobs does typically indirectly help you at work too:
“It’s often said that creativity is the ability to combine disparate concepts and ideas to create something novel or original. Hobbies outside of your day job help with that. The benefit of engaging in various activities is you flex different parts of your brain and different modes of thinking. This means you have different contexts to pull ideas from and see different angles to approach a problem you might face at work.”
But don’t go sailing or skiing just because you think it’ll make you more creative at work, please.
3. Try more relaxing social gatherings
The typical hard driving urban lifestyle comes with a typical motto: work hard, play hard.
It’s a lifestyle driven by FOMO; you’ve got to be crushing it, from your morning workout, through your 10+ hour work day, up until your industry happy hour, and all of that floods into the weekend unmarred by any social pressure or boundaries.
Social activities then turn into just another exhausting corporatist checklist item draining you of energy.
The remedy isn’t to eliminate social activities; it’s to turn them into something a bit more relaxing.
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