My body finally said “No more!” I was laid out on the couch for two weeks, stressed and exhausted. Four years of continuous strategizing and deliberating had taken its toll.
On top of running my businesses, I was involved in major campaign to clean up the air in Prince George, once considered the armpit of Canada. Our group garnered the support of the community, we negotiated with government, and industry came onboard and worked considerably to reduce their impact on the airshed. Odour was cut by 60 per cent and particulate was reduced by 40 per cent.
We made a difference. But every day for those four years, I worked on the project, even on my days off, and I paid the price.
One of the key principles of many of the creation stories integral to the major religions is the concept of having a day of rest. I’m old enough to remember the days when almost every business closed on Sunday. Sundays were a time for church, socializing and family dinners. You wouldn’t drive by a construction site and see workers, there would be no road works, no grocery shopping and no car sales.
Things are different now. But should they be?
Just as I worked myself to exhaustion because I didn’t give my brain a rest, many of us have given up on the thought of having a day off each week.
Many of the women I know work all week, and the weekend is for working at home, doing laundry and cooking up a storm for the coming week. Many of the men I know work five or six days a week and on their days off, they’re busy fixing up the house, completing the honey-do list.
Business owners work seven days a week to ensure that their business – which they now feel needs to be open seven days a week – is running smoothly. Many business owners, even on their day off, are thinking about the business. They can’t shut their minds off. They’re frazzled trying to figure out how to get the business working better, how to get it making money.
But does all this busyness pay?
My partner in our retail stores insisted from day one that we be open long hours, seven days a week. While I disagreed, he put up the money and had a little more pull than I did.
For many years, being open late and on Sundays were conveniences for our customers that didn’t really pay. A few years ago, we cut back our hours and measured the difference. I also decided to start closing one of our locations on Sunday to see if it would make a difference. It was difficult to find staff who wanted to work Sundays. In reality, Sunday sales were only marginal.
Cutting our hours and closing on Sundays did make a difference – a positive difference!
Closing Sundays didn’t hurt the business. In fact, our sales didn’t drop. People who shopped on Sunday now came during the week. Saturdays and Mondays became a little busier.
When we cut our hours and closed Sundays, the business became more profitable because our labour costs were reduced. My staff were happier since they didn’t have to work Sundays and could spend time with their families. Everyone seemed more rested.
As business owners, we think we need to continue to drive harder. We imagine we need to push ourselves, our staff and our organizations to work more, go further and have greater sales.
But our bodies end up saying no, our minds need a rest and our staff need to have breaks. Even our customers seem to appreciate us more if there is some scarcity.
Working harder doesn’t make more money. Working smarter does. We need time off to think about other things, to pursue recreation to refresh our minds and bodies, to socialize to refresh our spirits, and contemplate to replenish our souls.
If I could have turned my brain off more during our air quality campaign, or closed that store on Sundays years before, or had more do-nothing days with my family, I believe I’d be further ahead today. And I wouldn’t be suffering the lasting effects of years of chronic stress.
How often do you have do-nothing days? Is your body starting to say “No!” to working so hard? Does your business really need operate all the hours you’re open?
Perhaps the great religions have it right about having a day of rest. Think about how you can work less so you can earn more.
Dave Fuller, MBA, is an award winning business coach and a partner in the firm Pivotleader Inc. Comments on business at this time? Email firstname.lastname@example.org