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Self-Care and Productivity

I’m enjoying the quiet August month here in Canada, and it’s been a little while since I’ve sent a Do What You Love E-mail.

Did you know that August happens to be the slowest month in most Internet businesses? The reason why is that a lot of people are on vacation, away from their computer, or too busy with preparing their kids to go back to school.

In my business, the strongest months have always been the winter months. The best months of the year in terms of sales are typically January and February (which is different than other businesses, where business slows down at that time).

December is also a very strong month. October and November are also excellent. Things start to pick up in September, the summer is always slower.

I try to not have any major product releases in July or August, as at that time they tend to go unnoticed.

But this month I will nonetheless release a product on a totally unrelated topic than things I generally do, which is on learning languages.

I intend to actually build a new mailing list on that topic because it’s one of my passions. I’m even learning Chinese at the moment using my method, to prove that it really works.

But now onto today’s topic. I want to talk a little bit about self-care and productivity.

At the end of July I took a 2-week vacation. It was much needed after everything that happened in my life in the last year. But what I also realized is that I should be doing this much more often.

We often think that the best way to become more productive is to actually spend more time doing something. So instead of working 20 hours on a project, we increase that amount and spend 40 hours on a project.

Almost every start-up entrepreneur has a feeling of guilt gnawing on the inside when they’re working less than the standard 40 or 50 hours week. In fact, it’s common to see most entrepreneurs work 60 to 80 hours week (or more!), with often a sence of pride that they’re working “hard”.

They should consider that a lot of that time is actually wasted, and that working “more” is never the answer.

The answer is to work “smarter”, and the way to do that is to actually reduce the number of hours you work.

Something incredible has been found.

It’s been found that allowing *less* time on a project actually increases productivity.

A guy named C. Northcote Parkinson even gave his name to what is now called the “Parkinson’s Law”. According to the observations made by Parkinson, “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”

In other words, if you have 20 hours to complete a project, you’re going to take 20 hours to do it.

If we give you 30 hours, you’re going to take 30 hours.

If we give you 40 hours, you’re going to take 40 hours.

But incredibly enough… if we give you 5 hours… you’re going to find a way to get it done in five!

That’s why there’s a common saying, “If you want something done, give it to a busy person”.

Why is that?

How could you get something done in 5 hours, if it can take someone else 40 hours to complete?

The reason is that having less time to complete the task actually pressures you to become more creative and therefore, more productive.

You may decide to delegate some elements of the project, instead of handling everything yourself.

You’ll act out of survival and only do the things that matter, and do them efficiently.

What I’ve found myself is that I’m never as much productive as the day before I have to leave for a vacation! The pressure of having to get everything done *that day* makes for a very efficient way of working.

A few months ago, I realized that if I wanted to keep enjoying what I’m doing and stay healthy in the process, I had to change my way of working.

So I cut down the number of hours I work from about 8 to 12 per day to around 4 hours a day, and started to take most weekends off, instead of working constantly.

And guess what? I actually became more productive! Suddenly I could no longer afford to waste time on e-mails, web surfing and phone calls. I started to delegate more and only worked in spurts on tasks that really matter, according to a very specific order of priority.

In the same line of thought, after my recent vacation, I realized that I needed more of this for my own self-care.

So I decided that I would try to take 2 weeks off every 2 months, so basically alternate 6 weeks of work and 2 weeks of vacation.

That’s a radical departure, and a shock to most people used to getting 2 weeks a year of vacation time, but I’m certain this will actually *increase* my productivity again.

In the first week of my vacation, I got my best business ideas.

Granted, I was not working, but I couldn’t help myself but to think and get ideas. So in order to clear my mind, I wrote them down.

When you’re working constantly, you can’t get enough perspective.

By being away from your normal work environment, creativity is enhanced. And that’s not to speak of how much more well rested you’ll feel when you’re actually working, and how much more productive you could become.

Initially, as you’re building your business, you won’t be able to do that.

But you can learn to become extremely productive by working a limited number of hours and using that time well.

Frederic Patenaude
Frederic Patenaude
Frederic Patenaude has been an important influence in the raw food and natural health movement since he started writing and publishing in 1998, first by being the editor of Just Eat an Apple magazine. He is the author of over 20 books, including The Raw Secrets, the Sunfood Cuisine and Raw Food Controversies. Since 2013 he’s been the Editor-in-Chief of Renegade Health.

Frederic loves to relentlessly debunk nutritional myths. He advocates a low-fat, plant-based diet and has had over 10 years of experience with raw vegan diets. He lives in Montreal, Canada.