When you’re building a company from scratch, shutting the laptop never seems like a good idea. Plenty of startup founders simply don’t stop. They keep going, staring at the screen, producing and hustling. Although in time this might compromise their health, wellbeing and happiness, they are often successful in getting their business off the ground. So is their approach right or wrong? When should you rest and when should you work? While the anti-hustle movement is persuasive, it’s not right at every stage and the topic is more nuanced than one-size-fits-all.
Briony McKenzie has solutions. As an entrepreneur and personal development coach, she coaches ambitious professionals to connect to their purpose, unlock their potential and impact the world. McKenzie herself has been on a journey. Five years ago, she had everything society told her would make her happy, but felt stuck, empty and unsure of herself. Her journey of self-discovery, personal development and coaching transformed her life into one she loves waking up to every single day, and she’s helping thousands of others define, design and live their dreams.
One of the key components to success, McKenzie discovered, is rest and recouperation between periods of work. Rest means switching off, recharging and intentionally doing nothing. Decompression and downtime.
When to rest as an entrepreneur
McKenzie’s work with entrepreneurs and high-level professionals shows rest should differ between the phases of the entrepreneur journey. Know which stage you’re in before you work out how to do it. “In the early-stages, the purpose of rest is to refuel, refill your tank and go again,” said McKenzie. When you’re a sole operator, you cannot afford to get burned out. There’s no one else to run your business.”
McKenzie teaches entrepreneurs how to formulate good habits and how to rest before they need it in their early days. In the second phase of business, more consistent resources become available. “You’re now resting to access zoomed-out thinking.”
When the people around you can do things in your business, you’re in a different stage. “Once you have validated your business, proven your model and have consistent resources available, we teach entrepreneurs how to redesign their approach.” When you have the resources, you can afford to take a step back.
McKenzie said, “You can now take extended periods to reflect and strategize.” Do that too early and it doesn’t work. Do that too early and you might not have a business. In the early stages, rest to refuel your tank to power through to the next level. After that, rest to zoom out and think on a different level.
How to rest as an entrepreneur
On the first level, rest should be “much more productivity based.” McKenzie advised you, “Schedule rest, and rest before you need it.” Add rests and breaks as a celebration of milestones, which she said, “our clients respond well to. It doesn’t need to be a huge thing, but don’t do it reactively. Book it well in advance.” She added that, “before you have the budget for big trips, do spa days, nature walks and fancy lunches.”
McKenzie said productivity-based rest is required because of the sensory overload in the first few years of business. “You are learning so much, your brain is whirring away.” Ensuring it continues to fire hard requires continuous rest cycles and a change of scenery. “If you stay in the same environment, you’ll cue the same habits.”
Consistent rest breaks are key. McKenzie advised you, “line up micro-regulation breaks throughout the day.” In her first stage of business she, “had twelve hours of sales calls throughout the day but would make sure I had fifteen minutes between them.” Here she would, “put everything down and go and breathe outside or put my feet in the grass. Drink some water. This time can be powerful if you make use of it.”
In the second phase of business, your resources include people who keep your business running when you’re not there. Rest is now to review, reflect and think. McKenzie advised you, “take time out before and after big events or launches.” Get some space between you and the doing. “Get really disciplined at doing this outside of product launches, depending on what type of business you run.” McKenzie knows that, “after a big event you’ll want to keep going, but that means you just move to the next thing without downloading what you need to internalize.” Big mistake. Instead, diligently book your rests and stick to them.
McKenzie also recommends entrepreneurs, “block out white space in their calendar to make time for rest. Do nothing and see what ideas come through. Notice what you feel inspired to research. Let your creativity come back.” Sometimes do nothing, sometimes assess what worked and what didn’t work about your last sprint. She added to, “have at least a day a week with no tech, including not opening your laptop.” You’ve earned the right to do that.
Going between stages one and two of business can be challenging. From an entrepreneur on their own to the leader of a team. McKenzie explained, “the paradox of success is that everything that made you successful today is what will hold you back in the future.” Her team trains their clients out of being busy, because they have, “hit an upper limit of what results they can produce with that.” Instead it’s about hanging back, training and trusting your team to do their thing, while resting intentionally and thinking about your next move.
“Your level of consciousness should move up, from wilful (making sales and getting stuff done) to intellectual (thinking strategically), and then to intuitive (resting and pondering).” For ultimate self-awareness, use these categories to define your everyday actions.
How to make resting your superpower
“This comes with deeply understanding yourself,” said McKenzie. You probably already have self-mastery, you know discipline, but when you’re taking strategic time out is when rest becomes your superpower.” Here’s where you, “become so attuned to what you need that you know when to apply it, and you ride the waves of energy throughout your week.”
Rather than just something you do when you’re not working, resting becomes a skill. “When it’s your superpower, there is no guilt,” McKenzie added. “You know it’s critical to your sustainable success. You see it as a genuine experience and something fundamental.” Not a nice to have, not when you have the time, but a vital pillar of your life.
By this point you have more data on what works for you. “You’ve gone through the journey of resting in micro-pockets, and then in bigger stretches, so you can see the value of each element.” McKenzie adds that bigger stretches of rest in the early stages can be, “self-sabotage in disguise.” Saying you need more time or deliberating and hanging back, “becomes nothing but procrastination and hinders action for the wrong reasons.”
The right rest for the right reasons, at the right stage of business. Rest to recover and go again, then rest to access higher levels of zoomed-out thinking. Rest with a change of scenery then rest strategically. Either way, make it intentional. Rest can become your superpower when used in the best way for every stage of your journey.