Owning a small business is hard work. There is always a hefty to-do list, and even after you’ve finished your daily tasks, you still need to put on your business owner hat and start to plan ways to promote, strategise, increase profits etc. It can often feel like a Neverending Story – without the big fluffy flying dog to help you through! And more often than not, as the rest of the country plans their Christmas break, small business owners look to what is a traditionally quiet period (for those not in retail or hospitality that is) to catch up on work or tick off those niggling little jobs you don’t make time for during the rest of the year.
But will this actually help you get ahead next year? Well, according to science, no. The opposite, in fact – constant working is doing you more harm than good. So in the interest of business owner safety, we waded through the research and found these reoccurring conclusions offered two powerful reasons why you should switch off this Christmas New Year period and take a well-earned break.
Staring at the same walls every day, performing the same tasks and meeting the same people, rob us of our ability to gain a big-picture perspective. Without time away from the everyday tasks that demand our time, we lose the ability to innovate. As a study by Scientific American found:
“[work] breaks replenish our energy, improve self-control and decision-making, and fuel productivity. Depending on how we spend them, breaks can also heighten our attention and make us more creative.”
Furthermore, psychologists have established that holidays revitalise the body and mind. By distancing people from job-related stress and immersing them in new places, cuisines and social circles, it was more likely for people to gain original ideas and greater insights. Perspective and resilience were also boosted when people had the opportunity to get a good night’s sleep and to let their minds drift from one experience to the next, rather than forcing their brains to concentrate on a single task for hours at a time. Epiphanies, be it for new projects or new clients to work with, or solutions to problems that have plagued your business all year, may seem to come out of nowhere, but they are often the product of unconscious mental activity during downtime.
So science backs it up – taking a break is better for your business because it allows your brain a chance to switch off, which results in clearer thinking. By gaining perspective and allowing your brain time to reflect on your current situation or plan for the upcoming year means a potentially more successful and profitable business, and a better you as well.
Not to get too doom and gloom, but working without a break is bad for our health. A study from Marianna Virtanen of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health found:
“white-collar workers who worked 10 hours a day were 60% more likely to have heart-related health problems than white-collar workers who worked seven hours a day. A follow-up study found that people who worked long hours were 40% more likely to suffer from coronary heart disease than those who worked standard hours.”
And if that’s not enough incentive to take a holiday break, researchers have found that overwork (and its accompanying stress and exhaustion) can make interpersonal communication like, making judgment calls, reading other people’s faces, or managing your own emotional reactions — pretty much all things that the modern office requires — more difficult.
According to more of Virtanen’s studies, overwork can also lead to increased alcohol consumption, lack of sleep and physical complications from sitting in a sedentary position too long. That’s a whole heap of negative side effects. So as you can see, you owe it to your body to put down that laptop, get out the sunscreen and do as Frankie says – R.E.L.A.X this Christmas and New Years period. You’re no good to anybody sick or injured.
Still not convinced you owe it to yourself and your business to take time off this holiday period? Maybe you just need to reframe your thinking. As micro business owner David Howell recently wrote in Forbes magazine:
“the time you spend away from your business isn’t wasted, it’s some of the most important you will ever spend. Anyone can work 24/7. The shrewd business owner works hard but also works smartly with breaks away from their enterprise a vital component of that business intelligence.”