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Pushing your limits and knowing when to take a break

Every once in a while most executives, managers, or anyone who is pushing hard to achieve a little more and perform a little better, is going to run into times that they’re going to have to go above and beyond. Times where you’re going to have to put in a lot of hours in a condensed period of time. If you’re not careful, you’re going to get blown out. Now I’ve recently experienced this and have been putting in a lot of work to kick start a new business venture. This has meant a lot of late nights and weekends. It’s essentially become all-consuming but one of the things that I’ve tried really hard to do in the face of all that is to ensure that I don’t carry it too far forward. By that I mean I’ll explicitly take time to get rest. There’s no way that, at least in my experience, that you can go 110% all the time.

If you get too many days in a row where you’re working 12, 14, or 16 hours and maybe only sleeping 3 or 4 hours, you will break down and your body will break down. You’ll get sick, the quality of your work will suffer, and you’ll take twice as long to get half as much done. So that is why you have to, no matter how pressing the timeline, force yourself to take a rest. It is very much a discipline thing. You have to force yourself to do things that are a part of your normal regime whether it’s exercise or something else. I know that even if I get very little sleep, a lot of times I get so amped up by the pursuit that I’m in midst of that I can’t sleep. So what I find, even after I’ve been up for a day straight, if I go to the gym and get a good sweat going it releases some of the mental tension that I have. It will enable me to get better rest. So I think that maintaining a reasonable level of physical activity and making sure that you take time to get good rest is critical. I don’t mean go 18 hours, crash out for 3 hours, get up and go another 18 hours. You have to give yourself some recharge time. You’ve got to know your limits.

I know for myself I can do 2 or 3 days with very little sleep but eventually I’ve got to circle back around and take care of myself. The tendency too often is to push until you can’t push anymore and that’s when you end up having other things slip through the cracks. You have to maintain enough reserve so that you can deal with contingencies. You need to have enough reserve so that you can react to other things that are going on in your life and in your business. So you have to be really careful about how far into the red you push yourself because if you don’t keep enough in reserve you’re destined to break down and you can have some really catastrophic failures. I’m curious to know how other people feel about this. I know that it is easier said than done and that the tendency is to push until you can’t push anymore. A lot of times we reward that sort of warrior mentality but I think that if you aren’t careful about it, you can really put yourself in a bad position. So I think it’s very important to be careful about just how hard you push yourself.

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