HR & Management

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Why free days matter for business leaders

3 Mins

On the contrary, they stay at the office late into the evening, go in on the weekend “just for a few hours”, or take calls and messages while out with their family. In the end, they’ve simply given themselves a job, and as their own boss, they’re much more demanding of themselves than they ever would—or could—be of a staff member.

At the outset of starting a business, when there’s much to do and limited resources, these demands might be unavoidable. But as your business grows, this kind of work life becomes nothing more than a bad habit. What causes entrepreneurs to fall into this trap?

The challenge is that many entrepreneurs are still operating within a bureaucratic notion of time that belongs to the Industrial Revolution. Every day is the same, and they expect uniform, predictable, repeatable results from themselves. It’s a model more suited to producing standardised objects than doing creative work. 

Previous generations at least had the idea of keeping one day “off limits” from work, but now there’s the added challenge of being constantly available around the clock for technological disruptions, which blurs the distinction between personal time and business time.

The longer this goes on, the more you may feel that your business has you. Your health can pay a price and your personal relationships can become strained, too.

To make the picture even more confusing, business is often fun: It’s rewarding to see your ideas become real, to make noticeable progress and reap the rewards of your efforts. The very phrase “time off” carries with it the implication of time being wasted.

I’m sure you’ve heard a lot about “work-life balance”. I agree with the idea that it’s essential to strike a healthy equilibrium between your business and personal lives. ButI’d go even further: in my experience, these two aspects of life actually reinforce and strengthen each other. If you want to be a great entrepreneur, you need to be really good at rejuvenating yourself. That’s why the foundation of the time system I teach my clients is the Free Day™.

A Free Day is a 24-hour period that contains no work-related activity—no number-crunching, no phone calls or emails, no reading industry journals. Not even conversations about work. If you’re somewhere else and you’re still thinking about the office, you might as well be at the office.

The purpose of a Free Day is to recharge your physical, mental, and emotional capabilities. The concept acknowledges that you can’t operate at 100 per cent indefinitely. 

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