As the business owner of a fledgling business, there’s always a soul-crushing, existential-crisis-inducing amount of work to do. Because of this, many business owners feel a tremendous amount of guilt and pressure to work incredibly hard, non-stop.
I don’t believe in this.
Today is a Thursday. I didn’t do much work at all, and I don’t feel guilty. In fact, I’m totally okay with it.
I embrace lazy days for a number of reasons, and here’s the first one:
Reason 1: It’s unhealthy to be running at full speed, all the time.
Doing so is basically the recipe for burning out in spectacular fashion. Building a business is a marathon, not a sprint (and so is life, for that matter), so spending too much time at top speed just leads to burning out quicker. To borrow from a well-worn fable, I’d rather be the tortoise than the hare. In addition, I’m not the sort of person with overflowing energy, so keeping some in reserve and using it wisely is pretty important for me.
As a result, I believe in taking time out to rest and recharge so that I can live to fight another day.
Reason 2: My work hours reflect my working style and business responsibilities.
Since I’m in charge of my own work hours, it’s crucial to be self-aware about how best I work, so that I can create work hours that optimise for output.
The dumbest thing I could do is arbitrarily stick to regular office hours simply because it’s what everybody else does.
In my case, my working style tends to be more slow burn than bright spark. I enjoy having elegant solutions to problems, and don’t begrudge taking the time to arrive at them. Some problems take time to marinate before their solutions emerge. And this process can result in the occasional lazy day.
As a side note: This doesn’t mean I indulge in time-wasting perfection. I take care to balance speed with efficacy. It’s just that between the two, I tend to err on the side of efficacy. You might be different, and that’s okay.
Working style aside, as a business owner, I’m responsible for both the daily grind, and long term strategic thinking. The former is what most people view as good, honest hard work. In contrast, the latter can look a lot like daydreaming, even though its output is just as valuable.
Between my preferred working style and the responsibilities of building a business, I end up spending quite a bit of time thinking. I firmly believe that better planning and decisions happen when a person has the time and bandwidth to make them. If the foundations for my business were laid in a rush, they’d be pretty shaky, and I’d run into all sorts of problems in the future.
Instead of feeling guilty about all this, I try to stay aware that it’s all part of the process and has to be done, and be at peace with the seeming inefficiency.
Reason 3: How hard I work comes down to why I work.
A lot of people start their own business for the money. They want to be mother. fucking. rich. Working 100 hours a week to buy a mansion, Porsche and champagne showers is a great trade off for them. While I respect and admire the drive of the people in this camp, I do not belong there.
I belong in camp “because I want to”. I’ve wanted to run my own business for as long as I can remember. It’s taken me awhile to get here, and it’ll take me awhile yet to be successful, but I owe it to myself to give it the best I’ve got.
I was at a wedding last week, and met a friend whom I haven’t spoken to since Secondary school. At some point, she asked, in a way that sounded like she was confirming a known fact, if I studied business in university. When I replied in the affirmative and asked how she knew, she said I always seemed entrepreneurial, even back then.
It was weird for me to hear that, and I have no idea what led her to think so. Nevertheless, it reenforced my belief that this is something I’ve wanted to do for awhile.
Now of course, “because I want to” isn’t a good enough reason to embark on something as soul-sucking as a business.
I also belong in camp “I actually like it”. I like coming up with a vision and bringing it to life. I like applying strategies and frameworks, and working with people. I like the way a business forces you to put yourself aside, and attune yourself to the business and its customers. And I like the satisfaction and pride of seeing it develop and grow.
But everyone knows that doing something they like is the good stuff, and the good stuff is always easy. It’s really your appetite for the bad stuff that makes the difference.
So let me say this.
I am also in camp “embrace the bad stuff”. I embrace the vast sea of possibility, even though it can at times feel overwhelming. Failure is daunting, but is less fearsome to me than not trying. And finally, I embrace having to do uncomfortable things in order to get where I need to be.
So how does this relate to how hard I work?
It’s simple, I work because I enjoy it, and never want to get to a point where I hate and no long believe in what I do. This doesn’t mean I only do what’s fun, or that I don’t push myself. There are days where I work 12-14 hours straight, while eating meals in front of my laptop. I’ve also operated outside my comfort zone on such a regular basis, stepping out of it is barely a point of friction for me these days.
So it’s not that I’m indulgently choosing only the best parts and ignoring the pain and hard work. It’s just that I am careful to balance this out by taking time to smell the roses.
All decisions have their tradeoffs, and this one isn’t exempt. The tradeoff of taking time to smell the roses is that it takes longer to make money. I’m not delusional about the downside. And yet, it’s the path I’ve chosen.
To be clear, there is a distinction between taking longer to make money (which is what I said), and not making money at all. It’d be a joke to say making money isn’t important. No business owner in their right mind would be able to say they built a successful business if they didn’t make money. All I’m saying is that money isn’t a top priority for me at the present. And to go one step further, I’d venture that even in the long term, money is just one indicator of success.
Why did I bother sharing all this?
Sometimes, we all need a reminder that there is no shame in the occasional lazy day.
The Gary Vees of the world would have us believe that hustle is king. And it’s not that I disagree entirely. It’s just that too many people take this too far, and put hard work and crazy work hours on a pedestal. It’s become a source of pride to say we’ve worked a bajillion hours. We worry about being seen as lazy, and get swept up in a race where we try to outwork each other to death.
Honestly? I get caught up too. It was difficult for me to write this post. I worried I’d be judged, and that people would think I don’t take my work seriously because I don’t work 100-hour weeks.
On a personal front, I also have to remind myself constantly that I’m not letting myself down when I take a break.
But the reality is we all have lazy days, and we should acknowledge this as a normal part of life.
Imagine if we learnt to embrace the occasional lazy day for ourselves and each other. Wouldn’t it be great if we could let go of the guilt, denial, and shame that forces us to work even when we are just barely holding on? After all, the reality is that nobody can operate at top speed all the time without burning out. So why do we pretend this is possible?
In this post, I own up to the fact that I have lazy days where I do nothing. It was hard for me to say it, but I’m glad that I did.
What about you? Let me know what you do on your lazy days and whether you have a hard time owning up to yourself or your coworkers about them.