Out of office
The summer of 2018.
It seems like an eternity ago, but at the same time holds memories which I hope will stay with me forever. Two glorious weeks in Tuscany with my wife, the kids and some incredible friends.
A fortnight later, I was back at my desk in London, wearing a suit which seemed to have shrunk in my absence, staring at an even more bloated inbox.
Fortunately whilst I can easily recount all of the flavours on offer at Gelateria Sauro, I can’t quite remember the exact number of emails I returned to. It was easily in the mid to high hundreds, not including the ones I’d read whilst away.
Technology has brought us many wonderful things. It’s made life so much easier on so many levels, especially when starting a new business.
Enabling downtime is not one of them.
Nearly four decades ago we were on holiday with my Mum’s family. My uncle had an issue at work, so he walked to the Spanish payphone twice a day to call his office. No other choice really, no smartphones. In fact, no mobile phones at all.
Fast forward 35 years and we live in a world which often glamorises the number of hours we can work. Nowhere is this more true than the USA.
Our friends from across the pond have seen a decline in the average annual holiday days taken, from 20.3 in 2000, to only 16.2 in 2015.
The pandemic is unlikely to have helped this. As flexible working becomes the normality, the distinction between work and downtime has become blurred.
According to a working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, in 2020 the average US workday lengthened by nearly an hour.
People are burned out.
Yet studies have shown that both rest and time away from work increases resilience. It also provides perspectives that can help us see new solutions to problems. Most importantly, it gives us the ability to spend time with the most important people of all.
I’ve spoken about this before - some of my best ideas have emerged when I’ve not been working.
A few weeks ago a potential client asked me to define a strategy for the sale of her house in Belgravia. My eureka moment came whilst I was laying on my Shakti Mat one evening.
I’m happy to say that we’re now in the early stages of realising that strategy. It’s really exciting, and enjoyable too. It’s a marked difference from reclining on to a bed of plastic spikes.
So knowing all of that, I really shouldn’t be feeling like this.
Next week is my first full week off since starting my business and honestly, I’m feeling anxious.
Not only because my wife will soon find out that I’m yet to pack. But also because I haven’t set up the garden watering system which she’s been encouraging me to do for weeks now…mañana.
Meanwhile, my kids are bouncing off the walls.
The excitement of spending seven days in the English countryside with sixteen other family members is almost too much. It reminds me of my own childhood. Those butterflies of excitement. One more sleep.
We’re going back to the same place for the fourth year in a row. It’s magical, in a Swallows and Amazons kind of way.
Horse riding, swimming and long walks through the forest. Bike riding, reading and sleeping.
Of course, eating too. My wife’s aunt is the best cook I know. Her Christmas dinner is hands down my favourite meal of the year. No contest.
So with all of that in mind, I’m really going to try and switch off, ignore the emails, the WhatsApps, the calls and the nagging sense of “I really should be doing….” and instead, just try to enjoy not doing anything at all.
See you next Friday.
Things I’ve been inspired by this week
Surely You're Joking Mr Feynman: Adventures of a Curious Character is a book which is on my reading list, having been recommended by a good friend.
Whilst I’m getting to it, some of his wisdom is available from beyond the grave. Via Twitter, naturally.