Unless you’re David Goggins, chances are, you’d benefit from a day or two of rest. Most of us aren’t as finely-tuned in as he is. Many of us don’t have a body that can tolerate that kind of stress. I loved reading about David Goggins, but whenever I see people running in circles, and burning themselves out, I just want to yell out, “you’re not him!!”. I bring him up because he’s such an icon among some of my friends. I imagine that many entrepreneurs out there tend to admire people who have beaten all odds, so they try to copy their journey.
We all want to believe that the pain and suffering we endure to get somewhere will be worth it in the end. So many entrepreneurs spend their nights alone, refining a process, inventing a new product, or coming up with their next idea. They skip social events, they skip anniversaries, they have no idea what’s cool on Netflix right now. They’re sleep deprived, their diet sucks, and their back is aching. The thing is, in my books, there’s a big difference between discipline, and obsession.
Discipline, in my opinion, means dedicating yourself to something, and committing to it. For example, it might mean you do one hour of coding every day. It might mean eliminating sugary drinks for good, and sticking to it. Discipline is a balanced, and heartfelt dedication to something, because you know that there will be compounding advantages from having dedicated that time to your growth, your health, and your knowledge.
Obsession, on the other hand, is just passion unchecked. It’s a sprint. It reminds me a bit of my artsy days, when all sense of time would disappear, and I’d get sucked into an activity for hours on end. Spurts of obsession can translate to incredible achievement. But, it can also leaving you feeling a bit unhinged, and unsatisfied when you run out of energy. I find that obession is driven by pure emotion: “I love this!”. But, if you don’t reign in that obsession, it will burn you out.
Here’s the thing, I think that some people work best with a regular regimen, and some people work best with a bit of a hybrid model. As someone who has a hard time focusing, I find that I work best if I give myself “time banks”. This way, I can do the work when I’m focused. It requires discipline, but it allows for obsessive spurts, too. As long as I get X amount of hours done per week, it doesn’t matter how, or when, I do them. And, that time bank includes a day of rest, alone. (As an introvert by nature, I need that alone time.)
When it comes to time off, I too struggle with guilt. I struggle with urgency, mostly. Someone from an agency reminded me of competition, the other day. “Remember who you’re competing with.” Oh, I know. And I know exactly how to beat the competition, but it’s not going to happen in a day. It’ll take years. And it’ll require a solid portfolio. I know what I’m doing. But, like any other human being, I feel a sense of urgency. The desire to get things done NOW is really testing my patience. And that’s a terrible way to approach time off.
Everything is fast, these days. Everything is convenient. If you’re not careful, you’ll fall prey to a sense of urgency that will invite you to take short cuts. “Fake it ’til you make it” is an approach that works, because there’s so much incompetence these days. I’m of the opinion that I’d rather take the time to know something really well, and then kick my imposter syndrome in the face. If you take the time to practice something, you’ll master it. Take. Your. Time.
Bertrand Russell wrote about the importance of idleness. It’s a concept that we’ve long forgotten about. Russell argues that too much weight is placed on work, and not enough is placed on leisure. In fact, he was one of the first people to propose a four-hour workday for workers:
“There was formerly a capacity for lightheartedness and play which has been to some extent inhibited by the cult of efficiency. The modern man thinks that everything ought to be done for the sake of something else, and never for its own sake.” (Bertrand Russell)
Doing nothing, for the sake of doing nothing, has been my saving-grace. Sadly, I often read accounts of people doing things on days off because it’ll grow their side incomes, or it’ll benefit their job. Russell reminds us that this kind of mentality just plays into this modern thinking that everything has to be linked to productivity. So, whenever I’m feeling guilty about taking time off, I read a chapter from his book because sometimes, I forget that it’s ok to just have fun.
It also doesn’t matter if your day off is paid, or not. As someone who’s self-employed, and who, prior to this year, was stuck with the mentality that vacation time should be paid, I’ve realized that if I don’t take time off, there’s a toll. You always end up paying for it in some way or another. (If you absolutely need the psychological backing of a paid day off, then pay yourself first, and setup your own vacation fund.)
So, take a day off. Take regular days off. The sooner we can accept time off as an act of pleasure, and a means to rest, the sooner we can get rid of this mentality that everything in life should be done in the name of competition, and productivity. I admire dedication. And I totally recognize that there are some super-humans out there that have managed to thrive on a life of sacrifice and discipline. But, I like time off. My mind and body need it. I encourage you to find what works best for you. Find what makes you thrive, and if it’s planned laziness, then go for it!