I am lucky enough to work closely with many business owners. They operate in different sectors and in different industries. They live and work in different countries, in different parts of the world. They are men and women from the ages of 27 to 68 (No the 68-year-old isn’t Dave Dean!!) and whereas they do a lot of different things and live very different lives, they all struggle with the same things, to less or greater degrees.  

One thing that I see time and time again is the reluctance to give themselves permission to undertake any task outside of work within the standard working day.  

Let’s get something straight. A normal working day for many employees may start at 8am and finish at 6pm and variations within. They may take breaks, even have the luxury of a lunch hour away from their desk. One thing they’ll do is when they leave the office at the end of the working day, they get to go home and forget about work until they walk through the office door the next day.

Obviously, I appreciate that not everyone is like this, we are all lucky enough to work with some great members of staff but even they get to check out at some stage. That, in my view, isn’t a bad thing and quite frankly should be encouraged. I have witnessed and been responsible for great employee burn out and that isn’t something I am proud of. 

What I see in many of the business owners, actually all of the business owners I know and deal with, is that guilty feeling when they step away from the workplace.

Let me give you an example of what I mean. 

Last week, I was talking to a lady Sales Director that I’ve been coaching and mentoring for several years. She is amazing at what she does.

She works in the technology or software arena and I have watched her open the doors to some of the UK’s, EU’s and USA’s largest PLC’s. Her avatar is normally employing 5000+ staff and turning over hundreds of millions in revenue and most likely is multinational.

This is a tough gig and due to the time zones that her clients operate in, the sun rises over the eastern fringes of the EU at 4am UK time and sets on Silicon Valley at around 3am UK time.  

She has clients spread across that footprint. Her email is always buzzing, her voice mail and phone always on. We sometimes meet for dinner and I have never seen her not talk or be fixated about work, it’s her passion and it’s her life.  

I know that Claire isn’t special or alone in that. No matter how big your business, how many staff you have, or what time zone you operate in, if you run your own business then the chances are you are in the same boat as Claire. You too will be passionate about your business and the reality is you keep no “regular” business hours.

Come on now, you know what I mean. Yes, you may get home at a reasonable time, you may put the kids to bed or watch a box set with the wife, but how many nights are you actually “there”?

One thing that I see time and time again is the reluctance to give themselves permission to undertake any task outside of work within the standard working day

Now imagine my surprise during a session with Claire the other day when she had an attack of guilt, when she explained how she had “wasted” 2 hours of the day accompanying her husband to the local Homebase store to pick out some garden plants and decorations.

She was admonishing herself that she needed to, her exact words, “Give myself a good kick up the backside and get back focused”. I have heard this hundreds of times before.  

Our lives, as business owners, are not normal and as such we shouldn’t compare ourselves to normal employees. That isn’t fair on them – you end up resenting that they don’t put the hours in your do or have the passion that you have. It also isn’t fair on yourself. You are failing to acknowledge the fact that you never really switch off.

 In Claire’s instance, she was without doubt answering email until at least 10pm, she was probably taking calls in that time also. Even if she wasn’t then I can 100% guarantee that she was thinking about work and, hello, yes, that counts as work as well. 

Once you accept that you are not normal (you are definitely not normal if you run your own business), you can then start giving yourself permission to step away from the laptop or phone to do something that makes you happy or something that you want to do. 

Disclaimer here: 

If you are stepping away every day to play golf or tennis or shop or have a boozy lunch with friends then that is not good, and I do not give you permission to do that and neither should you!!  

I’m talking about that couple of hours here or there. 

I find it strangely ironic that we never feel bad about giving up our Saturday morning to work an extra few hours or catch up on emails. We never feel bad about missing that program to write that proposal. We hardly notice that we spend hours thinking about growing our business or solving the day’s issues while the rest of the family talks over dinner that you can’t even remember preparing because your mind was elsewhere. 

We do however always feel bad about giving up a few hours in the working day. 

My next month’s article is about setting goals and time blocking slots in your diary that will allow you to see that these little side distractions are good for headspace and in honesty, good for your health and wellbeing.

 Until then, the next time you find yourself chastising yourself for managing to get to the gym at 10am on a Tuesday morning or picking out garden furniture at 3pm on a Wednesday in your local Homebase, give yourself permission to enjoy it and be in the moment.

Likewise, the next time you give up your Saturday or that box set settee date then you give yourself permission to say well done and good effort. 

What will you allow yourself to “get away with” this week? 

You have my permission (for what it’s worth!!)