Sure, for most people December is the time for parties, reflection and planning for next year. But what if your head is still lost in deadlines, targets and billings? If you can relate to any of these points, you definitely needed some more time out in the last year!
After eight years building Firefish and nine years running my own recruitment agency, I’ve picked up on a few tell-tale signals along the way that in my experience, say you need to take a bit more time out! Here’s what they are…
1. Your chat is really badAt a recent Christmas party, I overheard a conversation that flipped straight from the “how are you?” chat to “how is work?” chat almost instantly. I smiled internally: here was someone else who felt more comfortable on a Saturday night chatting about the working year than making polite chit-chat about the weather. Similarly, the person asking the questions knew to instantly channel the conversation towards the person’s comfort zone... their work!
Let’s face it, if all you’ve been doing is pulling 80-hour weeks at work, you’ve not had much time to experience anything else of any interest to talk about with the outside world. And whilst this might feel perfectly acceptable to you, it’s not going to produce any award-winning stories to tell of amazing places you’ve visited that year, or provide you with information to share about the best mini-break hotels to visit. If you’re finding that work is literally all you have to talk about at parties, it’s time to get out the office a bit more!
2. Your eye keeps twitching
So this example is a personal one, and I’m mentioning it because my eye has been twitching for days now and it’s really annoying! However, this is just one of the many ways your body tries to tell you that you’re run down: a constant cold, a cough, a lack of energy or just a general lack of get-up-and-go are signals too.
I’ve developed an unproven scientific theory: entrepreneurs learn to function with a much higher level of stress than most, and this just becomes our normal state of living! Your body is the only thing that can’t always keep up, and has its ways of telling you “that’s enough”. So do yourself a favour and start acknowledging these signals when you see them and take some time off!
3. Your go-to escape route is annoying you
I totally appreciate the fact that at times everyone wants a bit of you, to help with decisions, give answers and advice. Now normally, this is absolutely fine – it’s your job! But we all need a bit of quiet now and then to catch up on some much needed head-down time. For me, this invariably involves blaring the latest UK charts on Spotify. But what do you do when even that isn’t doing its job as your happy place?
The point here is that if you find yourself getting more and more frustrated with the small things that normally wouldn’t bother you, this is a very strong indicator that it’s time to take a step back to get some perspective. If you’re in the right frame of mind, Mariah Carey’s ‘All I want for Christmas is You’ shouldn’t really make you want to scream!
4. Your weaknesses are creeping through
If you’re managing a team, it’s likely you’ve learned a lot about your strengths, and more importantly, your weaknesses! When you’re tired, under stress and have a million and one things to do to meet a deadline, your weaknesses can start to shine through.
For me, it’s patience: under extreme stress I have zero patience for anyone, and instead enter into complete overdrive mode. Sure, I get an incredible amount of tasks completed, but in return I’m a total nightmare to work with. I somehow expect everyone to keep up with me, and have no time for anyone that could hold me back in what I need to get done.
However, instead of trying to accelerate things myself by entering into an unsustainable work mode, I know it’s much more productive to take some time out and return in a better state of mind when I can motivate the team to move things forward together.
5. Your loved ones don’t know you exist
This one is really difficult – choosing to run your own business inevitably involves making some sacrifices in order to succeed, and you’d be naive to think that this won’t take its toll on your loved ones.
However, it’s all about trying to find a balance. For example, two days ago I pulled into my driveway so focused on work I had to do that night that I suddenly realised my daughter’s Christmas concert was about to start in 10 minutes! Fortunately, a quick U-turn and I made it just in time, but this was another sign that there are still balances to consider. It’s important to make time for the memories with those who count.
Christmas is a great time for business owners to take some time off, so please take advantage of this! Pay attention to those signs that you may have pushed the barriers a little too far in the past year, and take some time to recharge your batteries – you’ve certainly earned it.
Merry Christmas 😊
Wendy McDougall is Chief Fish of Firefish Software. In her spare time, you'll find her playing squash or feeding her inner geek with the latest technology!