Energy levels are not what they were this time last year.
Whilst the end of year is always a little harder, with the nights drawing in, summer feeling far away, and the run-up to xmas being far from relaxing, yet this year has been a corker, and we’re all feeling even more drained than usual. I’ve been hitting a wall around 2pm-3pm where my brain is just giving up, and my body not long after. It makes me think of a fuel gauge as a metaphor, where the ‘running low’ light comes on before your petrol is all used up. The light is coming on much earlier than usual.
It’s like COVID has poured a bag of sand into the tank, which not only messes up with the fuel, but reduces just how much our tank can hold.
It should seem simple to just take more breaks to refuel more often, but this is where the analogy to mechanics breaks down. We aren’t cars which can just be topped up, and go again. Rather than holding the idea that we’re all running at slightly lower efficiency, we need to recognise we just have smaller tanks, and this means we cannot travel as far. We cannot do as much, push ourselves to the same extend we once could, no matter how much refuelling.
It’s time to scratch off the numbers on your fuel tank, and reset them for a while. Set the ‘FULL’ mark to half way and accept that for a while, we’re all going to be running slower and shorter, rather than dipping into that reserve tank.
Maybe that means the idea of 9-5 needs to become 9-2. Maybe that means Monday to Friday needs to become Monday-Thursday. Maybe it means everyone works 20% less, and that creates more opportunities for others to work some of the time. There could be huge benefits economically and emotionally by everyone trying to take on less.
Having more control over how we work is one of the main reasons anyone goes self-employed - yet we mostly fall into similar patterns to when the rest of the working world is active. It’s not surprising that if your clients are in a 9-5/M-F model, you’ll probably match it to a certain extent, but we’re in a position where ways of working can be re-designed right now. There’s an acceptance that remote and distributed working needs to be designed differently, and a recognition that sustainable ways of working don’t look the same as the past 100 years of industry.
The only way things will change is we start designing how we best work and communicate it clearly: "I’m not available after 3pm” - or whatever your particular work habits are. It’s not about being difficult, it’s about being effective. It’s about working when the tank is fully fuelled, rather than running on vapours.
Ultimately, all our clients care about is getting good work done on time - and if your best work is done after rest, then emptying the tank every day isn’t going to help you reach that goal.