Back from the brink

By | March 29, 2017

“If you carry on like this, you are very likely to have a heart attack in the next 5 to 10 years” ~ John

That’s the kind of message that hits home. John’s argument as to why he thought this was very convincing: if I didn’t change my actions, my lifestyle was going to have a catastrophic effect on me in the medium-term (or maybe even sooner). Thinking about his words still brings tears to my eyes.

But we weren’t talking about my diet, alcohol intake or lack of exercise … this was about work.

The problem is:

  • I love what I do
  • I enjoy getting involved in so many things (I don’t like the feeling that I’m missing out)
  • I have a passion for learning
  • I get a buzz from achieving

All of this resulted in me working 7 days a week and achieving an incredible amount of things: coaching fascinating teams, writing a book, producing a card game that has sold around the globe, running one of London’s most popular meetups, being part of a mentoring group, creating and running multiple training courses and workshops, speaking around the world, receiving invitations to wonderful places, and so on. Thinking about it makes me proud. But was it worth dying for? I decided it wasn’t.

So I no longer work at the weekends: that is sacred time for my family. I also take two evenings off a week as chill out time.

To start with it was tough. Anyone who has kicked an addiction knows that the first few days are surreal: you find yourself reaching for the [insert artefact of past addiction] without thinking, only to find that it’s not there. You feel unsatisfied and frustrated. You feel jittery and unfulfilled. You feel like time is being wasted. But I went for a bike ride with my children, we played games, we had meals together without a device on the table, we talked. It’s been a couple of months now and I’m starting to enjoy it. It has liberating and I don’t miss it as much as I imagined.

But what about my output?! Will my business crumble because I’m doing so much less? Although I managed my work-in-progress limits before, I’ve now reduced my WIP to a ridiculous level: apart from my clients, there is only one major project in progress. I’m not picking anything else up until that’s done. Of course, we know that this means it will be done quicker and to a better quality than if I was switching back-and-forth. My business isn’t going to crumble. I suspect that I won’t waste a single minute of work time going forwards because it’s even more precious than before. There are still a few minor items that flow around the primary epic, but my mind has one main focus when I’m not with a client. It’s still tempting to relapse at times when a small request comes in or a fascinating idea is presented – and probably always will be [I’ve been a non-smoker for over 15 years but my hand sometimes still reaches for the ghost of a cigarette packet].

And the situation is still far from ideal. But I’m making small improvements all the time. This week I’m resolved to deal with an issue that has been hanging over me like a cloud for about 3 years: my enormous icebox of items. But more about that next week.


Footnote: I’m not telling you this to make out I’m a saint; if I tell people this is what I do, then I’m more likely to stick to it. So, thanks for reading and holding me to account (even if we’ve never met!)

Image courtesy of Karolina

What about you? How often do you take time out? Do you work weekends or do you have a strict no-work policy?

2 thoughts on “Back from the brink

  1. SFdude

    Get better, my friend.
    Work less but be more effective.

    I cut down on many time-consumming activities which were not really productive, (but took a lot of time…). ie:
    – some useless RSS feeds like Lifehacker (they used to be good)
    – some Twitter people I follow who post a lot each day, but who only occasionally will tweet something interesting.
    – and so on…

    Just do those things you love MOST!.
    Drop the less useful things.
    You’ll have more time for leisure.

    Best of luck!

    Reply
    1. David Lowe Post author

      Thanks for the encouragement. I’ll keep striving!

      Reply

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