My first job was at the Fanwood, New Jersey A & P, and the union man, Angelo, gave me the bad news right away.
“The more you make, the more they take,” he said.
Thus began my career as a grocery cashier–if a summer can be called a career.
Today I take issue with Angelo’s choice of words, but I understand the spirit of his remark: more work hours do not necessarily equal more money. My experience and that of my clients is that when we repeatedly add work time and subtract play time, we go directly to the land of burnout—do not pass Go, do not collect $200.
With this in mind, the first question I ask people who are suffering from burnout is, “Have you had any fun lately?” When we forget about fun, we forget we’re people first, business people second. It’s a short road from there to forgetting that our clients, employees, and others on our team are also people and, as we forget their humanity and treat them harshly, they rebel and our profits suffer.
Also, that adrenaline coursing through our veins can cause us to miss the warning signals our bodies give us to slow down and, as many writers have observed, ignoring these signals puts us at risk of serious illness or injury and a possible permanent vacation.
So take a break—please. In fact, take two: one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Crank the music all the way up (if you work at home) or walk around the block and sing (or bring some music with you). Buy yourself flowers. Look at the pictures you took on that trip. Sit in a café and people-watch. Or write a letter. Call a friend.
Heck, spend your break-time anyway you want. It’s yours. Just please take those breaks and take lunch, including non-deductible lunches where you get together with a friend and just giggle, or where you sit by yourself and think about whatever you like, so long as it isn’t work. Try it. You’ll find that when you do return to work, you’ll work better. What’s more, you’ll live longer.
(Originally published in the Bay Area Businesswoman.)