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Thursday, July 7, 2016

Put Down the Workahol and Take a Damn Break

From the ages of 19-29, I worked roughly eighty hours a week, rarely took vacations, and proudly wore my long working hours on my chest as a badge that said, “I work harder than anyone you’ve ever met,” like it was some kind of endearing quality that would make puppies and beautiful women flock to me in droves (note: nothing has ever flocked to me in droves except mosquitoes in the summer). 

The work I was doing was equal parts productive and mundane. Prepping for auditions, singing, waiting tables, bartending, looking up actors and directors on IMDB, and writing (albeit poorly in those early years).

As time went by, I started wearing more of an entrepreneurial hat and got better with the quality of work but not with my time. Eighty hours a week was spent on more classes, more projects, and finally I became quite successful with one project in particular and nearly let it take over my life.

I started speaking for a living and took on another eighty hours a week, presenting all over the world, writing, creating, podcast interviewing, book writing, helping people… until one day after four exhausting ninety minute speeches back-to-back, I realized I wasn’t helping or taking care of the most important thing I had—my brain, and ultimately myself. 

I loved my work but I hated my quality of life and how tired I felt every day. Working seven days a week, with no time off, little or no time for love, no room for relaxing travel or exploration—I was suffering from burnout. 

Hi. My name is Joshua… and I’m a workaholic. 

I had to redesign my life. I started building little breaks into each day to walk, exercise, meditate, rotate my work space, or to just eat a healthy meal. I would no longer work from 8am-9pm. Work started at 830am and ended no later than 630pm (baby steps, I know), and I would take at least one day off per week, sometimes two. And I would travel at least once per year for leisure. 

Three years later, I now take two days off per week. And those regular breaks in the day still exist. I got married in November (in case you haven’t heard me raging about it on this blog yet : ), and realized I could cram those 60-80 hours of work into 40ish (no more mid-day YouTube, or afternoon naps with my blankie). Oh, and I take roughly five vacation weeks of per year and just got back from my honeymoon, a stunning two weeks on the tropical Grand Cayman island.

No, that starfish is not my wife… we're just good friends—I swear
And for the past three years, I’ve noticed with regular breaks, I’m fresher and my brain is sharper and I am more in love with my loved ones and with my work. And every time I get back from a vacation, I feel a deeper connection to myself, my physical and mental health, and in my relationships. (Oh, and coincidently, the three years I’ve gone on long vacations, business has grown by 50%, 100%, and 15% respectively)

Life isn’t as sweet without stopping to take a look around while on this journey. We need breaks for brain rest and to remind ourselves that we’re human, we’re doing okay, and that we’re an integral part of the beauty surrounding us.

Regular short breaks are easy to plan into your day. If you don’t have at least ten minutes a day to just be with yourself—you don’t have time for anything. And if you don’t have the cash or time for a long vacation, day trips will do. Traveling on the cheap is always an option too (especially for me)—Air B&B, couch surfing, or airline credit cards that offer huge amounts of miles can be really helpful, too.

What are you doing to take breaks? Yoga? Regular walks? A badass vacation backpacking through the Swiss Alps? Please share with me (it’ll be private)—I’d love ideas and just to hear from you!