Stop being a workaholic and start taking a lunch break.
In the Financial Times on Monday Lucy Kellaway wrote a column about the problem of work addiction, ‘January is for cutting down on long hours, not alcohol’. Lucy explains how she’d recently met a banker at a social event, the only guy in his group drinking champagne (while his colleagues adhered to ‘Dry January’):
“His resolution was to abstain from excessive work, not just for 31 days, but for the rest of his life. He was fed up with pointless meetings and of emailing at 11pm.”
I’m trying to cut down on excessive work too. The life of a lone self-employed consultant is a hard one (actually, it’s fucking hard). Although it’s a work life I’ve lived for sixteen years, it doesn’t get any easier. Alongside doing the work is the hunting for work. I thrive on making new contacts, exploring new opportunities, trying my hand at new projects; but boy oh boy it gets tiring. Then there are all the other things around the edges: the side projects, blogging, VAT returns, expenses and accounts. There’s always a lot to do.
It’s never easy to draw a line in the sand at the end of the day and say, “I’m done.”
But having started my ‘Good Times experiment’, I’m fortunate that I’m tuned in to how I spend my time and what gets me fired up. That means I’m trying to cut down on the work that doesn’t fire me up. I’m learning to be smarter with where I put my time.
I’ve become more aware of something so simple, yet so important: That THIS, right here, right now, is my life.
It’s the same for all of us. And what a tragedy it would be if we spent our lives at a desk or glued to a screen or in meaningless meetings.
On Wednesday this week, a meeting south of the river ended early so I found myself with time to spare mid-afternoon. I headed to Borough Market and treated myself to a bottle of beer with a copy of the FT at The Rake. It felt good.
It’s too easy to start work at 8am and to work through to 7pm five days a week. We can easily fill our days like that. But time slips by. And how we spend our days becomes how we spend our lives, and I don’t want to lose my life like that. So on the days I work from home I might go for a midday run, or in the summer a midday swim from my local beach (tide permitting).
But still, I know so many of my contacts who don’t even leave their office — let alone their desk — to eat lunch. Last week I went to see the band Mystery Jets perform during my lunch break. I was working at home that day, the band were playing a set at my local record shop two train stops away. It was a great punctuation mark in the day, it felt like a treat. I loved it! And they were great.
When a friend of mine saw that I’d been to see a band in my lunch break, he left a comment on Facebook that such was the ‘sweet life of the unemployed.’ Of course he was joking, but there is a serious point here.
Why don’t you get out of the office and go to your record shop at lunchtime? Are you really saying you are ‘too busy’ to leave? Are you really saying that you can’t get out for an hour and just work smarter or harder to get everything done? Are you forgetting how refreshed you’ll feel from taking a proper break??
Because, THIS is your life. If you’re tied to your desk all day, glued to your screen all night and you’re not using your lunch break to go for a run, have a swim, visit a gallery or read a book, then actually — what’s the fucking point?