I literally tell everyone (my readers, my clients, myself, anyone who will listen) that consistently creating content is essential for online business success. It keeps you top of mind and provides a steady stream of guidance/inspiration/information/belly laughs/whatever your specialty is to the people who can benefit from it — and may have come to expect it.
But what if I told you that it was OK to periodically hit the pause button on the content machine (aka: your brain)? What if I told you that it was actually quite a good thing to step back from the constant churn?
Well, it is!
Even though we’ve evolved (regressed?!) to feel pain when we’re not productive, we need to ignore those pangs and be idle now and again. (Fun fact: I actually live on Lake Idyll and I love to be idle when I spend every day by the lake — ha!)
The (Brief, Non-Scientifically Backed) Case for Leisure
Taking breaks staves off the dreaded burnout monster who effectively saps the joy from your work and the spark from your soul when you toil away for too long. If you keep your energy level high, and your passion’s fire stoked, you’ll produce more and better work during the course of your life. Oh, and there’s the added bonus of actually enjoying your existence! 🙂
Further, just as creating content helps us to define and refine our voice, so can taking a respite from the creative process. It’s tough to be an idea machine, a wordsmith, or a sharp, charismatic personality when you’re simply tired. Getting some rest will help you feel (and create) more like yourself again.
Plus, when you put some distance between your brain and your work, your content could take on a new shape. You may see areas for improvement that you previously missed, new angles to try out, or completely fresh topics that seemed to materialize out of thin air. That near miracle is brought to you by: planned, intentional laziness.
Related Reading: The Importance of Being Idle is a great read about why we should hit that big ol’ pause button more often.
Unconvinced? Let me present a case study.
Vacation = Pause Button
Keeping up with our less than academic exploration of the importance of rest, I present to you a case study with an extremely small sample size: 1. (It’s me!)
Last week, I visited family in MA (where I was born, raised, and resided for the first 29 years of my life). I brought my laptop in case I wanted to get ahead during down time. It would make the transition back to the office go more smoothly.
I thought I was being responsible, a go getter. In reality, I was being a stooge who still had not completely embraced the freedom of being self-employed.
I planned for this. I worked long days before my vacation so that I could go worry free. I’d work hard when I got back. And I’d still make enough cash overall to stay relatively on budget.
I knew I was going to make a bit less due to being away (no corporate PTO plan anymore!), but I thought I had made peace with that. By taking my laptop “just in case”, I was telling myself (and everyone else) that I wasn’t totally keen on the idea. Scarcity mindset, anyone? Clean up for self-imposed guilt trip on aisle 1!
I got to the point where I sketched out exactly what I was going to work on and I knew when I was going to do it. For the first half of my trip, the internet access was poor. I got a free pass! But for the back half, I was staying with a relative that went to bed early and had a strong internet signal with plenty of space to work.
In the days leading up to strong internet access, I took comfort knowing that I would be productive again soon. I actually quelled a certain level of anxiety by mentally going over my to do list.
But then I made a realization and a choice.
The Internal Battle
As I was fighting the urge to draft an article or three for my clients, it hit me. I was being productive! Sure, being leisurely has its benefits for our wellbeing — and that’s valuable. But, I was honestly producing, real and (sometimes) tangible goods during my time off.
Let’s get sappy first. I made memories — irreplaceable, precious memories. I spent a good deal of time with my grandmothers during my vacation. I think they’re doing great for gals in their 80’s, but I’m not naïve. There’s a lot of physical distance between us so visits are infrequent and I can never be sure when goodbye is really goodbye.
We did a lot together. We cooked, cleaned, shared meals, ran errands, attended local social events, and even sat in companionable silence watching Animal Planet or cop shows from the 70’s. It was wonderful.
One of my grandmothers is the queen of knitting and has been after me for YEARS to let her teach me how. I finally relented (it just didn’t appeal to me before) and I quickly mastered two different types of looms. In a few short days, I made a scarf (she put on the trim) and a winter hat. (Photographic proof below!)
She was so proud of me (OK, I was pleased with myself, too) and just so tickled to share what she loves with who she loves. I’m forever grateful for that time.
Overcoming the Unease
So you see — idle hands didn’t do the Devil’s work. They brought joy to both myself and those who are very dear to me.
When I realized that I was doing just fine without my laptop and personal finance articles, I decided to keep the computer away for the duration of my trip.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about business stuff. Heck, I checked my email on my phone, booked a prospective client call for later in the month, and wrote a few reminders for myself. But I didn’t earn a single dollar for 10 whole days — and I lived to tell about it.
The sky isn’t falling. June’s bills will be paid. I still have a small cushion in the bank. Yep, pretty much how I left it.
Of course, I take my business very seriously and I’m ratcheting things up for the summer — because that’s how I am. But I know that I have to get over myself sometimes and just hit pause. I’m not so important, so big, so influential that a week away is going to cause my financial world to crumble.
The notion is both freeing (for obvious reasons) and humbling. I couldn’t always do something like this. Many others can’t and may never be able to. If I were truly living paycheck to paycheck (been there!), I wouldn’t be able to take 33% of a month off and just be OK with it. But I can — and dang it, I will again!
If you’re able — please consider doing it, too.
Tools of the (Paused) Trade
If (when!) you decide to give your brain a break, there are a few things you can do to keep the anxiety at bay:
- Create your posts and email blasts in advance and then schedule them to publish while you’re away. Platforms like WordPress and ConvertKit make this super easy.
- Use a program like Smarterqueue that posts to your social profiles and pages automatically. Just load up the queue with what you want to run and it will take care of the rest.
- Hire a VA to respond to emails, schedule posts, follow up on social media comments, etc.
I did the first two bullets before my trip and it helped quite a bit. I at least knew that my name was going to stay out there even though I was physically somewhere else. Eventually, I’d love to hire a VA. If I hit my income goals, I may be able to do this at the end of this year or the beginning of next.
For a post on being lazy, this one sure ran long. But it felt good to write it. I’m not sure that I will ever just be able to sit quietly, without thinking about my mega list of goals. But the actions I took during my vacation were steps in the right direction. Next time I fly home, I may just leave my laptop where it belongs — on my desk in FL.
Tell me: Do you struggle to turn your brain off and to step away from your work? What do you do to help with this?
I don’t struggle to step away because life usually gets in the way before I have a chance to burn out from my work. I do agree that it’s good to step away from your work once in awhile. It’s just hard to find your groove again. That’s the hardest part in my opinion.
It can definitely be hard to find the groove again! I hope you get to tell life when it’s time for a break one day soon. I’ve been commanded to stop by circumstance and not my own idea before, too. It’s usually a blessing (even if the situation that prompted the break is sad or hard).