I grew up in the Midwest (Wisconsin) where hard work is not just valued but revered.
Taking care of yourself is not.
Of all the lessons I've had to learn in my business (and trust me there have been many) this is probably one of the hardest for me, and one I have to make a point of remembering.
Maybe this sounds familiar -- you work and work until something happens and you stop for awhile. Maybe you get sick. Maybe you get over tired. Maybe a personal emergency happens (and be honest -- it probably happened because you were neglecting your personal life to begin with) and you have to drop everything to deal with it.
Whatever it is, outside circumstances force you to take a break. You're not taking a break for YOU.
Everyone is different, but for me I would battle feelings of guilt when I would take some time off. I should be working. There's a to-do list sitting on my desk I should be going through. But the reality is your business is like your house. There is ALWAYS something you could be doing, but that doesn't necessarily mean you should (or have to) be doing it.
If any of this is sounding familiar, read on. I'm going to share three reasons why you need to take regular breaks and be good to yourself.
1. There's only one "you." As an entrepreneur, your energy level is intimately tied to the success of your business. If you are constantly sick or have no energy, how on earth can you grow your business? And, for that matter, when you aren't feeling well, do you really think you're giving your clients the best service you could be? For the sake of your business and your clients, you owe it to yourself to take time off so you can be the best you can be during work times.
2. Get more done faster. Which scenario sounds better for your business -- you wake at 7 am, exhausted and stressed, because you haven't gotten enough sleep having gone to bed at midnight (and not falling asleep until 2 am) trying to finish "one last thing?" Or you wake at 7 am (or maybe 6 am) refreshed and energized for your work day, because you knocked off work at 5 pm, took some time off for yourself or your family, and was asleep by 10 pm?
I think you know the answer.
Yes, it can be very seductive to try and get "one more thing" done before you turn in for the night. But the reality is, you need your sleep. And you need time to unwind and get away from the computer before trying to fall asleep, or you aren't going to sleep well.
Then, what ends up happening? You wake up dragging. So you're not working as fast or as efficient as you could be. And you don't finish everything you need to during a normal work day. So you try and catch up at night -- and then you screw up your sleep for another night.
It's a vicious cycle. But if you can flip that, start getting a good night's sleep each night, you'll find that you have more energy during the day, you'll get more done, and you don't have to stay up late to finish those last to-do items.
This one can be tough to reverse. Be good to yourself. You might have to reorganize your schedule or to-do list for a week or two, so you have less to do during the day and can actually knock off at a reasonable time each night until you get yourself on a regular schedule.
3. Projects expand to fit the amount of time allowed to them. I never took physics but if this isn't a physics law, it should be. As a freelancer, I experienced this all the time. During my slow periods, I still found myself working nearly the same amount as during my busy periods.
If I had one hour of work to do, and all day to do it, somehow it would take me all day to do it. If I had six hours of work to do and four hours to do it, I might not get everything done, but I would definitely zip through most of my to-do list.
It's like when you're about to go on vacation. There's always this list of stuff you want to get done. You might not get everything done, but you're probably more efficient the week before your vacation then the month prior.
Now if you start valuing taking time off for yourself, for instance maybe one day you decide you're knocking off at 2 to go to a movie or take a nap or go to your kid's soccer game, you'll probably discover you get more done that day then you do on the days where you have a huge amount of open time available and no set "end" to your day.
The end result of all of this? You'll end up working less hours overall, but during those hours you do work, you'll probably be more efficient, productive, and happy (and you'll also see your business grow more effortlessly and your clients will also be more satisfied).