Today, we share a guest post from blogger and multi-award winning professional coach, Lori Karpman. Enjoy :)
We all need time off from work to either “recuperate” or ‘recharge”, depending on your point of view. The concept of a “Free Day” comes from the world renowned Strategic Coach program for Entrepreneurs and is defined as a 24 hour “work free zone”. The day goes from midnight to midnight, and during this period anything or rather “everything”, work related is taboo. This means absolutely no checking your work email account, no conversations about work with anyone, no catching up on industry reading, no planning, nothing work, zip, nada, zilch. If friends are coming for a BBQ dinner, there can be no discussion of work related issues. I can hear the cries of horror as I write.
Many, if not most, people will cringe and declare “I can’t do that, no email? No reading? Or even talking about work?” I can almost feel some of you convulsing at the thought of not checking emails or texts, thinking what if a client sends a text, what if I have this deal going on??? What if, what if?
Well, what if you end up in the hospital because of work induced exhaustion? What if you are so run down that your body triggers a switch, leaving you with a lifelong chronic disease? I lived the latter scenario. I worked like a dog and ended up being diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, most likely triggered by the stress of working 65-hour weeks. Although it is a 24-hour day, you do sleep during part of it as the day is based on waking hours. However, do not take advantage; free time only means time away from work, not from mowing the lawn or getting your taxes done. And, you can take it on any day. Personally, my Free Day is Sunday. I am used to putting in some work hours on Saturday, but Sunday is sacred. I enjoy hobbies, my dog and my personal chores.
Free Days are so important because unlike the traditional thinking on “days off”, they are based on a completely different theory.
Current culture believes that you must work hard, and if you do, you will be rewarded with time off or a vacation. The big problem with this theory is that by the time you take that vacation, or day off, you are too worn out and exhausted to enjoy it. It’s a common misconception to think that it is a badge of honor to not have taken vacation in years or to work 70 hours a week with no rest. To me, that is not something to be proud of, but rather, worried about! Time off is not a reward, it’s a necessity!
Free Days are based on the principle that you absolutely need to recharge your batteries at minimum weekly to face the days AHEAD with the vigor and vision to make them productive, to have the time to un-clutter your mind, remove any thoughts of work, get respite from any stress, and to prepare yourself mentally and emotionally for any upcoming obstacles you may have to deal with. When you look at it as a necessity versus a reward or badge of honor, it becomes clearer how important this day is. Some of my best ideas and solutions have come to me during or after these days and in general my work days are much more productive and creative.
These essential Free Days provide me with a fresh new perspective that was contained in my subconscious mind, but with all that mind-numbing clutter in there, could not come to the surface.
Truth of the matter is, you can’t afford not to take a Free Day. Your brain needs to regenerate and can only do so effectively when it is free of work related issues. It gives your mind a complete respite from any obstacles or challenges you may be facing, (or to come), and relieves any stress (good or bad) you may have. By doing this, you free up your mind to create new thoughts and novel ideas and solutions that your conscious brain never could have otherwise without this time for it to breathe. You allow your subconscious mind the freedom and the space to create the kind of brilliant ideas that usually come to you in a flash - like when you have “aha” moments.
These cannot happen if your brain is so full of negativity, worry and fear, or just plain stress, that a normal workday may have. Albert Einstein once said, and I paraphrase, “You cannot create a solution using the same mind that created the problem”. So, it’s only by clearing out the mind clutter that our brains are free to roam uncharted areas of the subconscious and where unique and inspiring ideas can form.
The Free Day is part of a week that also contains Buffer Days and Focus Days. Too long to be fully discussed in this blog, Buffer Days are preparation, meeting and task days where you perform tasks that are important and need to be done but are not revenue producing. Focus Days are for work that you expect will generate income within the next 90 days and work you are already being paid for. These 3 days constitute Strategic Coach’s “Entrepreneurial Time Management System” (ETMS).
Because everyone’s responsibilities are different, the System is completely personalized based on each person’s situation. An activity can be a Focus for one person and a Buffer for another. For example, if you are invited to give a keynote address at a convention, the drafting of it may be a buffer for someone in the industry coming to talk about their experience, however, if you are a speaker by profession, you are likely to be earning a living from that speech so the drafting of it would be a focus activity.
Once you have mastered how your tasks are categorized, your quality of life will begin to improve dramatically, you will be more productive, work less and make more. I can guarantee you that if you implement this one change in your life, taking a Free Day every week, you will see a dramatic change in the overall quality of it. Even if you do not work or are a stay-at-home parent, this system gives you complete control over your time, not the other way around, which is how most people live. In turn, you will sense a reduction of overall stress levels, the ability to generate innovative ideas, increased confidence and focus and more, generally within a month. The benefits are cumulative, so the more you use it the better you get at it - especially if you are using the entire ETM System with all 3 different day categories.
However, the Free Day, in and of itself, is a powerful regenerative tool. It takes time to master, but is most definitely worth mastering! Start off with 1/2 a Buffer Day and work your way up if you cannot do it all at once, but promise yourself and commit to getting to the full 24-hour period. I learned the ETMS some 10 years ago, and it continues to have the most significant impact on my life. I enjoy an outstanding work/life balance and am immensely productive on the right things at the right time.
Just imagine for a second how incredible it would feel to be completely in control of your agenda and how you use your time.
How would it feel to control your time instead of it controlling you? Enjoy your Free Days with abandon, without guilt or remorse for not “working”. Just know that this time-out makes you a better “worker” and someone who controls their own destiny!
Please come back to comment and share your first Free Day experience with others in the comments below!
Lori Karpman is the CEO of Lori Karpman & Company, a full service management consulting firm and Head Coach at Coach Lori, her personal and professional coaching practice. A multi-award winning professional and former attorney, Lori is passionate about helping others reach their potential and lead a fulfilling life. To learn more, click here.