9 and half hours. That is how long it took for us to get to the Lake District last Friday, arriving at our campsite at 21:45 to pitch our tent in the quickly descending darkness that the remote Lakeland fells provide. Nonetheless, under the lights of our car and the cheap, last-minute Argos special LED camping lamps, our accommodation was successfully built....sort of.
A couple of years ago work got the better of me. I was waking at 5 and sleeping at 11, with very little respite from work in-between. Some days, not even taking a lunch break. Just eating like a data zombie behind one of my many screens. This seems to be a trend now that some professionals pride themselves on.
"I didn't get to bed until 1 last night finishing that presentation'" and "I've done 65 hours this week."
In my experience, working late and doing lots of overtime was never something to brag about, I did it because I thought it would make me better at my job and give me more time. The harsh reality is that in the long term it was having the opposite effect. One evening after work I turned off all email notifications on my phone, left my laptop on my desk and went for a long cross country run - one of the many things I now do after a day at the office.
That tiring long journey up to the Lakes was worth it. For me, being in the outdoors, climbing and hiking, contributes towards a healthy, energised state of mind. I feel at home in the outdoors and I know that it helps me switch off from work, something many people my age struggle to do. There seems to be an ever-present pressure in our always-on world, with our always-on devices to be an always-on person. Responding to emails at 9 in the evening, jotting down ideas whilst eating dinner and feeling entitled to constantly remain involved in conversation. Now this, in my opinion, does not make a great employee/founder. It's not how I wish for my team to work.
Yes, to succeed you need to work hard, you need to graft, and you need to stretch your ability to get ahead in a heavily and increasingly competitive world…. but not at the expense of your mental health.
My work life balance is as good as it's ever been. I finish work and I jump into activities that I feel make me a better person. Whether that be a hike in the country, a long run, engaging in some of my charity work or binge-watching Netflix.... *I mean read a book* Whatever it is that makes me happy (outside of professional gains) then I make sure I find the time to fulfill that. The wind in my face, the mud on my boots and the absolute silence of the fells...that is my nirvana.
In the past I would be that guy checking emails on holiday and replying to them at dinner time. Was I better business person then? No. Giving myself that mental space to digest the day and energise for the next, through activities I love has made me a much more engaging, competent and creative individual.