Imagine, it’s the middle of the week and you are meeting a friend for lunch. After a leisurely lunch, your friend suggests you visit the local park for a walk in the sunshine. You agree. And as you walk through the park you become aware of a band playing on the bandstand. The sun is shining brightly, butterflies and birds are enjoying the day and the music is gently soothing. Your phone and email are switched off and work is farthest from your mind.
The next morning you step into your office guilt-free, totally refreshed and looking forward to the day.
Dan Sullivan, Strategic Coach describes this as a Free Day. It’s a 24-hour period completely free from work-related problem-solving, communication, and action.
Can you imagine being in a position to do just that, have a totally free day? Unfortunately the reality for most business owners is that the scenario of a completely free day doing nothing but enjoying themselves is too far-fetched. There’s just too much work to be done to take time off, there’s money to make and commitments they have to keep to clients. There are too many balls to keep in the air and if they stop it will likely all come tumbling down.
Most people think that to have a free day that you must work hard relentlessly to be able to take the very occasional day off. That’s the reward for all their hard work. I used to think so too … until I learned otherwise.
You see, it’s more important and I’d even go as far as being essential for achieving success and optimum productivity. You need to take time to rejuvenate before your productive periods – not after them. Think about it for a moment. If you are totally refreshed and energized BEFORE you begin your productive work, isn’t that better than feeling tired and run down?
That’s something I’ve noticed about successful people. They block time out of their diaries when they don’t have anything to do with work. Their phones are switched off. Their emails are not opened. Their brains are switched away from the work environment. They totally detract themselves out of the workplace as a necessity to re-energize and to become more successful.
To replicate the results of successful people (which is a pattern we can all follow) I decided to pay attention to this. I began to schedule in some free days into my schedule. Was it easy to do? No, it certainly wasn’t at first. There was always something that I still needed to do, or finish, or an email I had to send, or some admin that I attend to and … well, I’m sure you know how it goes. And if I’d listened to that and given in to it that’s all it would ever have been … more work and no free day off.
But I really wanted to improve the quality of my work and personal life too. I wanted to have some free days to do some of the hobbies I loved such as playing golf, walking my dog for miles across country, or having a lazy lunch and shopping trip with my girls. And starting to do that has made such a difference to the quality of both my personal life and my work.
So, how do you switch from working so hard to actually taking some time off?
Some of this is to do with your mindset. Because when it comes to earning money, we think of having to work to make money. And if there’s anything left over after that, then this is the free time we allow ourselves. Often it isn’t anywhere near enough, if any at all. This concept doesn’t work for time or for money.
What you have to do is to book your free time off first. Then plan the rest of your working activities around that. It won’t come easy at first because it’s something you’re not used to. It takes time and practice to get it working in this way. But it will get easier and you will find that your free days are a necessity rather than a luxury.
And think about it. If you had a Ferrari in your garage and it was it was your pride and joy, you’d want to look after it. You’d take time to keep it clean and serviced. You’d drive it on nice sunny days not the messy raining ones when it’d get dirty. Your Ferrari would be an incredible asset.
What about your business? Surely your main asset is YOU! Without you there won’t be a business. Without you, there is nothing going to happen. Taking time out for relaxation and total rejuvenation is what Stephen Covey calls ‘sharpening the saw’. It is a priority. You must make it a priority for you too.
What do you do on your free day? It depends on how you rejuvenate. For me it’s doing something active, going out or participating in sport or visiting a museum or the theatre. At other times, its simply reading a book, decorating the room I’ve promised myself I’d do, or watching a film with a close friend over a bottle of wine and box of chocolates (one of my favourite chill outs). In other words, it can be anything you choose it to be as we are all different people. We rejuvenate in different ways. If a day spent in front of the T.V. does it for you – then that’s it.
What’s most important about your free day is that it should be a world away from work, free from responsibilities, worries, concerns and even goals.
Don’t just read this and think ‘that’s a great idea’ as that’s not going to anything for you. Start right NOW. Plan your free day into your diary and stick to it. Make it a regular day that is sacred for you. Don’t allow others to infringe on it either – it’s just for you to enjoy as you wish.
I promise that you WILL be so much more creative and productive too!