Why switching off can be the best thing for business

Four years ago, I found myself on a plane destined for a conference I'd dreamt about going to in New York. As I do for all major flights, I'd bought a book at the airport for the journey. Its title? The Off Switch.

As the plane prepared for take off I was still on my phone, trying to calm down two of my staff who were freaking out about a email segmentation issue whilst also replying on my laptop to an agent in New York that had suddenly threatened to pull our campaign model from a shoot the following week. 

Sometimes books choose you.

For the next 20 hours onboard, I wrote emails and worked on campaign plans. When I landed at JFK, I was straight back on the phone and for the entire week that book took a back seat to 24/7 work emails, dashes to meetings and negotiation battles with agents. It was only upon my return flight, after finally having a minute to flick through it that I realised how much I'd missed in that week. My aim had been to take in this incredible conference and city, yet I felt I had never actually switched off enough to do so. 

So, when you're running or starting your own business how exactly do you find time to switch off? Here are five ideas I work with clients on:

1. Accept that there is no right time
You don't need to wait for a week in Bali or a month long vacation to switch off. Switching off might simply mean giving yourself 15 minutes every morning to meditate, going for a walk or even dancing around your bedroom. Or, it may be mapping out a few hours once a week where you shut every device off and draw, journal, exercise or cook (if that's your thing). 

2. Work smarter, not harder
Part of the work I do with clients is to assess their major goals (such as triple revenue) against their output and find ways to achieve them without overwork and stress. For example, could one major collaboration or partnership do as much for the bottom line as 10 smaller, just as labor intensive, partnerships? Could they bundle product offerings or focus on stockist retention marketing to increase repeat purchases? How could you work smarter, not harder?

3. Adopt the 80/20 rule
I don't quite believe we can work a 4-Hour Work Week but the one thing I took away from Tim Ferriss' famous book was that 20% of your effort often brings in 80% of your revenue and (unfortunately) vice versa. Start tracking your time and look at how you can reduce, outsource or eliminate activities not directly related to your goals. This in turn will give you more time to focus on what's really important. 

4. Understand creativity needs calm
Running a creative business? It's scientifically proven than we come up with better ideas when we have the space to do so. Anytime our amygdala (the switch that operates our fight/flight response) is activated the brain shuts down everything that's not imperative, leading to "brain fog" or what Daniel Goleman calls "amygdala hijack". If you want to consistently succeed in a creative business where outside-the-box ideas are essential, taking time out is a non-negotiable.

5. Challenge yourself for one week
Take one week and challenge yourself to switch the phone off from 7pm to 7am. Look at how you physically feel on the first day. Are you freaking out? Getting anxious? Then, look at what happens the next morning when you switch it back on. What did you miss that was SO important? Chances are, not much. Start with one week then gradually add in more hours until you're able to switch off without stress. 

You are what you allow to be. If you're stressed or finding yourself overwhelmed by your to-do list, look at how you are allowing that to manifest in your life and what small changes you can make to alleviate it. That may sound #wayharsh, but we are often our own worst enemy when it comes to overloading ourselves. 

Fiona Killackey