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Productivity: Why offline downtime is important to startup entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurs are celebrated for being jacks-of-all-trades and working crazy hours as they bootstrap their business to get it off the ground. But all work and no play can have a major impact on physical and mental health that can jeopardise the future of the business they are trying to build.

Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology and health at Lancaster University Management School, warns:

“It really is a big problem, and the smaller the business, the more likely it is. Ultimately, not taking enough time off can prove extremely harmful to the owner, their family and their business.”

It’s very easy to find yourself all-consumed by starting a new business – you not only need to build the product, find clients, and drive sale, but also be your own accountant, lawyer, IT specialist, and more. You see the stories of billion dollar unicorns that appear to have been born over night just through the hard work and sacrifices of the founders and you think to yourself – I need to work harder. But the real key to entrepreneurialism is to know when to work hard and when to switch off.

If you just try and power through, you will get burned out. How and when you will burn out varies from person to person, but if you are working insane hours seven days per week for a long period it will happen to you. Allison Gabriel, an assistant professor of management at Virginia Commonwealth University who studies job demands and employee motivation, told Entreprenuer.com:

“When you are constantly draining your resources, you are not being as productive as you can be. If you get depleted, we see performance decline. You’re able to persist less and have trouble solving tasks.”

In our always-connected world, just getting away form the office is not enough. If you are sitting on a beach and still replying to emails and chatting on Slack, then that does not count as a break, and so it is more important than ever to take the time to get away and really switch off. This means no laptop, no iPad, and most importantly no smartphone. Your emails will still be there on Monday, and any problems that might arise will probably be more quickly and effectively fixed by a person who is rested and ready to put their creativity to work anyway.

For some people, that mindful time could be surfing, for others it may be skiing, and for some like Grace from Grace Lever Reviews that is exploring the local vineyards and countryside, because as she says:

“How good is it to disconnect and enjoy good people, food and life?!”

Photograph by 12019 / Pixabay

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