I had to properly stop and recharge at the end of last year.
The last few years have been brutal and for a variety of reasons which I’m not going to recount here. Not only me of course, pretty much everyone has been under the same cosh.
I do love to work hard, and this attitude has served me well for most of my life. For the last three years I’ve had to learn many new things. The challenging world of online training technology being one of them.
I then worked super-hard as an online trainer, training designer and 121 coach. I need to pay my bills. I’m also building up my passion project content along with starting a YouTube channel.
This is not a time-management article. We’re not looking at identifying any fixes or alternatives. I’m using it only to illustrate what many people are still going through.
This coming year is not going to be any easier
You have likely identified that my list is too big of an ask. Too many things to juggle. I agree. I am only one man, and it’s not easy by any means. Conceptually, I was and still am fully aware of this. However, like many people doing something they love, I wasn’t paying any attention to emotional costs. Now I’m paying attention.
I’ve been lucky this time and had a much-needed wake-up call. Things worked out. My body made some excellent decisions for me. It could have gone a different way.
I now have new (refreshed?) self-knowledge to apply in the coming year and beyond. Take more breaks. I need to stop and recharge more often and for longer each time.
BTW – if you prefer an audio version of this, I have included one at the end of this article.
All the “stop and recharge” clues were right there
The thing is with us humans, we’re good at noticing step changes but we struggle when things creep up on us. Lots of little things add up. We don’t always notice gradual changes until a certain point when they become obvious. Sometimes we notice way too late. Sometimes we don’t notice at all.
Approaching Christmas this year I was working right up to the wire. Great for the bank balance but, even though I love what I do, it was not good for me physically or mentally.
It’s hard to see the big picture when you’re in the middle of things and battling hard.
Poker players use the term “tell” to indicate an unconscious emotional give away from an opponent. We all have them. Humans cannot not communicate. Humans leak information all the time.
In emotional intelligence (EI) terms this is all part of self-awareness and self-regulation. I can’t overstate how important developing your EI is in the modern world.
EI is a work in progress and clearly, I am no saint or infallible wizard when it comes to navigating life. We’re all just humans and generally doing the best we can with what we have available.
The trick for me is to know what my pre-crash tells are and to be watching for them. Then, and this is the important bit, I need to take some appropriate action.
Here are some of my “need to stop and recharge” tells:
- An almost irrational desire to clean and organise various spaces. This is not inherently a bad thing, but it is a big indicator of displacement and stalling. It does get the house in better order though.
- Mouth ulcers (I’ve heard them called canker sores in the United States). For me this is a big sign that I am physically rundown.
- Not knowing or caring what day it was and just ploughing on. Of course, many people must do this to pay the bills, so I am nothing special here. However, it’s all too easy for the days to blend into one long cycle of work/sleep/work/sleep…. I must give a massive shout out to our local refuse collection team who have been awesome over the last few years. Thanks to their efforts I do know when it is a Tuesday.
- Feeling guilty about not “producing” something or other. I start to get uncomfortable when I’m not filling space with something I deem to be productive. Not good as it means I can’t switch off. My brain is always racing. I find reading books (old-fashioned paper books) helps enormously here.
- Tired but not sleepy. It’s all too easy to just watch one more episode of something or read one more chapter. Bedtime gets moved out later and later. Getting up gets more difficult. It’s a slippery slope which needs addressing asap. Going for long walks helps but can be impacted by bad weather.
There were/are probably others but those were the clear indicators, which I either missed or chose to ignore, towards the end of the year.
Energy isn’t infinite and I’m not indestructible
Rather than properly stop and recharge, I was assuming the old “a change is as good as a rest” factor would kick in and do the business for me. It’s all about maximising time, right?
I had all sorts of grand plans for the break. I was going to write several more articles, plan loads of videos, re-organise my workspace, go for long walks, tidy up the garage and loft.
Now there was no client work until January, I could focus wholly on my own projects.
The thing is, at time of writing I’m 57 and not 27. I’m still hale and hearty but I’m not 27 years old anymore. I don’t have the energy levels and fortitude I had when I was 27 years old. I can like it or lump it, but the facts are the facts, and I must respect them.
Because I enjoy what I do so much I keep trying to do more and more of it. I put myself way out of balance and flirted with disaster.
Good decisions by my body forced me to stop and recharge
On reflection, I realise I was only at a very early stage of burnout – let’s call it the pre-crash zone.
When you’re self-employed it can be very difficult to turn down paying work. As it happened, external customers stopped wanting training otherwise I’d have worked right through. It’s no good being the richest man in the graveyard as the old saying goes.
Fortunately, the planets aligned, and the Christmas break intervened. None of my planned projects and diversions took place. My body basically took over and made me stop and recharge.
I’m glad it did and I’m feeling way better.
It was a big wake-up call for me this year and I’ll be watching closely from now on.
I’m getting older whether I like it or not and here are my new and updated personal checklist items for my mental, emotional and physical wellbeing.
I will be:
- Listening to my body more respectfully and I will also pay far more attention to my emotional states.
- Keeping an eye on my pre-crash “tells” and looking out for new ones.
- Separating and delineating paid work from personal projects and downtime more clearly.
- Building-in more frequent and specific “fun” events and deliberate downtime into my life. I will also try to feel far less guilty about them.
As far as I know, I only have one life and a finite amount of time in which to enjoy it. It’s vital to stop and recharge regularly and often.
How about you? What are your indications or “tells”? Are you going to stop and recharge as often as you need to?
I’m now ready to rock and roll for 2023. Bring it on but with lots more breaks this time.
That is all for this one
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PPS Here is the audio version of this article if you would prefer to listen.