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Time to back off

Emma Grey

“When there’s nothing left in the tank, there’s no sense trying to push ourselves up a hill. It’s refuelling that we need, before anything else.’

I’m in an informal ‘mastermind’ group, and we have a call every few weeks to share ideas, keep track of our goals and help each other figure out challenges with our work. 

Last week, one of the members explained she’s suffering a bad case of the ‘can’t be bothereds’ and has been for a while. She’s been working hard all year, and managing some acute family problems that have necessarily distracted her, and zapped her motivation. 

What she wanted from us was advice on how to push through, work harder and get more done. What we suggested was the opposite. Switch off. Do less. Stop. Have a real break. 

When there’s nothing left in the tank, there’s no sense trying to push ourselves up a hill. It’s refuelling that we need, before anything else. 

Another friend disclosed a medical problem last week and said she had ‘no time to go to the doctor’. That’s simply not true though, is it. None of the things that feel more pressing than our health really are. Not even the family responsibilities that loom large. 

There’s a fear that if we take a proper break, we’ll lose opportunities. If we take a ‘social media sabbatical‘ we’ll lose momentum in our businesses or lose track of our relationships. We worry that if we fall behind, we’ll never catch up. 

Backing off in our own lives gives us an opportunity to lead. It’s a chance to tell people how close we’ve come to burnout, and model what we’re doing about it. 

Far from turn people off, when we’re honest about this, there’s usually more than one person breathing a sigh of relief and saying, “I thought I was the only one…”

It’s Christmas in two months, and perhaps it’s tempting to want to push through until summer, or until the worst bit of this project is finished, or until after your sister’s wedding, then take better care of your wellbeing. 

Pushing yourself up that hill on zero fuel isn’t going to work. At best the quality of your work and relationships will suffer. At worst … well, you probably don’t need a recently widowed woman to spell it out. 

Back off from your own life. Extract yourself from the pressure. Not later. Now. There are no valid excuses not to. 


Emma Grey

Emma Grey is the Canberra-based author of ‘Wits’ End Before Breakfast! Confessions of a Working Mum’ and ‘Unrequited: Girl Meets Boy Band’. She’s director of the life-balance consultancy, WorkLifeBliss and co-founder of a fresh approach to time-management, My 15 Minutes. She lives just over the ACT border with her two teen daughters and young son. More about the Author

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