When you’re building a business from scratch, shutting down the laptop never seems like a good idea. Many startup founders just don’t quit. They keep going, staring at the screen, producing and rushing. While over time this can jeopardize their health, well-being and happiness, they often manage to get their business off the ground. So is their approach right or wrong? When should you rest and when should you work? While the anti-hustle movement is compelling, it doesn’t make sense at every stage and the topic is more nuanced than one-size-fits-all.
Briony McKenzie has solutions. As an entrepreneur and personal development coach, she coaches ambitious professionals to connect with their purpose, unlock their potential and impact the world. McKenzie has been traveling herself. Five years ago, she had everything society told her that would make her happy, but she felt stuck, empty, and unsure of herself. Her journey of self-discovery, personal development and coaching transformed her life into one she loves to wake up to every day, helping thousands of others define, shape and make their dreams come true.
One of the key components to success, McKenzie discovered, is rest and recovery between work periods. Rest means switching off, charging and consciously doing nothing. Decompression and downtime.
When to take a rest as an entrepreneur
McKenzie’s work with high-level entrepreneurs and professionals shows that rest should differ between the stages of the entrepreneurial journey. Know what stage you are in before figuring out how to do it. “In the early stages, rest is the goal to refuel, refill your tank and go again,” McKenzie said. As a sole proprietor, you can’t afford to get burnt out. There is no one else to run your business.”
McKenzie teaches entrepreneurs how to formulate good habits and how to rest before they need it in their early days. In the second phase of the business, more consistent resources become available. “You rest now to access zoomed-out thinking.”
If the people around you can do things in your company, you are in a different phase. “Once you’ve validated your business, proven your model, and have consistent resources available, we teach entrepreneurs how to redesign their approach.” If you have the means, you can afford to take a step back.
McKenzie said, “You can now take longer time to think and strategize.” Do that too early and it won’t work. Do that too early and you may not have a business. In the initial phase, equip to refuel your tank to continue to the The next level. Then rest to zoom out and think about a different level.
How to rest as an entrepreneur
At the first level, rest should be “much more productivity-based.” McKenzie advised you, “Plan for rest and rest before you need it.” Add rest and breaks as a celebration of milestones, to which she said, “our customers are responding well. It doesn’t have to be huge, but don’t make it reactive. Book these well in advance.” She added, “Before you budget for big trips, do spa days, nature walks, and fancy lunches.”
McKenzie said productivity-based rest is necessary because of the sensory overload in the first few years of business. “You learn so much, your brain buzzes away.” Keeping it firing hard requires continuous rest cycles and a change of environment. “If you stay in the same environment, you learn the same habits.”
Consistent rest breaks are key. McKenzie advised you, “arrange microregulation breaks throughout the day.” In her first phase of business, she had “twelve hours of sales calls during the day, but she made sure I had fifteen minutes in between.” Here she would: “Put everything down and go breathe out or put my feet in the grass. Drink some water. This time can be powerful if you take advantage of it.”
In the second phase of doing business, your resources include people who keep your business running when you’re not around. Rest is now for judging, reflecting and thinking. McKenzie advised you, “Take time out before and after major events or launches.” Put some space between you and doing it. “Be disciplined to do this outside of product launches, depending on the type of business you run.” McKenzie knows that “after a big event you want to keep going, but that means just moving on to the next thing without downloading what you need to internalize.” Big mistake. Instead, diligently book your rest breaks and stick to them.
McKenzie also advises business owners to “block white space in their calendars to make time for rest. Do nothing and see what ideas come up. Notice what you feel inspired to explore. Let your creativity come back.” Sometimes do nothing, sometimes assess what worked and what didn’t work on your last sprint. She added, “have at least one day a week without technology, including not opening your laptop.” You have earned the right to do that.
Moving between the first and second stages of doing business can be challenging. From independent entrepreneur to leader of a team. McKenzie explained, “the paradox of success is that whatever made you successful today will hold you back in the future.” Her team trains their clients not to be busy because they have “reached an upper limit of the results they can get from doing so.” Instead, it’s about sitting back, training and trusting your team to do their thing, while intentionally resting and thinking about your next move.
“Your level of consciousness should go up, from intentional (making sales and getting things done) to intellectual (strategic thinking) and then intuitive (resting and thinking).” For ultimate self-awareness, use these categories to define your everyday actions.
How to make rest your superpower
“This comes with a deep understanding of yourself,” McKenzie said. You probably already have self-control, you know discipline, but when you take strategic time out, tranquility becomes your superpower. Here you get “so attuned to what you need that you know when to apply it, and you ride the waves of energy throughout the week.”
Instead of something you do when you’re not working, resting becomes a skill. “If it’s your superpower, there’s no guilt,” McKenzie added. “You know it is crucial to your sustainable success. You see it as a real experience and something fundamental.” Not a nice thing to have, not if you have time, but an essential pillar of your life.
At this point you have more data on what works for you. “You’ve gone through the journey of resting in micro-bags and then into larger pieces so you can see the value of each element.” McKenzie adds that larger periods of rest in the early stages may be “self-sabotage in disguise.” Saying you need more time or thinking and sitting back “becomes nothing but procrastination and hinders action for all the wrong reasons.”
The right rest for the right reasons, in the right phase of doing business. Rest to recover and move on, then rest to access higher levels of zoomed-out thinking. Equip with a change of scenery, then equip strategically. Anyway, make it intentional. Rest can become your superpower if you use it in the best way during every stage of your journey.