Posted by: bevmeldrum | February 12, 2008

How To Stop Working

by Justin HorrocksThis post is for anyone who could work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week if they could actually stay awake … I am one such person.

There might be a number of motivations behind this:

  • we just love what we do (this would be me)
  • we find working easier than having a social life
  • just being badly organised (read Getting Things Done and start getting a handle on everything)

I love going out and spending time with friends and family but I also love working – I love the creative stuff that I need to do to get my social enterprise off the ground. However, I have to keep a check on myself because I do have the ability to start prioritising work over family and friends … and that is never good.

Of course one approach you could try is to change to a Polyphasic sleep cycle. Here’s one guy’s experience – Steve Palina’s experience of Polyphasic Sleep

I am actually quite tempted by this idea … all that extra time on my hands! My main concern is the effect it would have on the people around me … my husband waking up when I do in the middle of the night because I’ve set my alarm.

For everyone else, who enjoys their sleep too much, here are some other suggestions on how to avoid working too much.

What I have found is that I have to book my time off into my calendar. I set up appointments for going to the cinema, watching my favourite TV programme (yes it is actually in my diary), the local pub quiz, going and sitting in a coffee shop, popping down to the shops, days out. If I don’t this and just try and remember in my head I find that I get so stuck into what piece of work I’m doing I forget to stop to have a life.

Set alarms if you have to!

It is important to start getting into the habit of booking time off for yourself on a regular basis. I now book in at least one cinema trip a week (the wonders of the monthly cinema pass) on top of my weekly day off.

Until you are in the habit of having time off you will probably find all sorts of excuses why you can’t possibly make the appointment to go the cinema, because of everything you need to do at work. You will have to be very firm about keeping your appointments with yourself to begin with – just as you would be if it was a work meeting.

Secondly, find somewhere to go where you cannot help but switch off. It can’t be the TV because it’s easy to work at the same time as watching the TV. Try having friends over for dinner or go to a coffee shop without your laptop or mobile.

My favourite is the cinema – that is the one place that really forces me to switch off mainly because once the trailers are over they switch the lights off and even I can’t work in the dark!

I love that bit of time between sitting down in the cinema and when it finally all goes dark. I always take a notebook and I spend the time dreaming up ideas for new products or services – I have had some amazing ideas sitting there in the cinema.

Finally, one thing to always remember:


If you haven’t got something to capture your thoughts in then if you have a cracking idea but then forget it you will never trust yourself to have time to switch off again JUST INCASE you forget something important.

Enjoy your time off!


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