Yesterday a thread started in one of the local business networks I contribute to expressing surprise that business owners who had no necessity to close down until today (necessities were suggested as having children who didn't start back at school until today, for example) had kept their businesses closed. It made me wonder just how hard we sometimes push ourselves when we are running - or indeed working in - small and medium sized businesses without thinking about the consequences of not taking the time to properly rest and recover.

Several people responded in the thread saying they were back to work on Boxing Day, or that they had a day or two off for the bank holidays but worked throughout the holiday season. Obviously some trades must remain open - the emergency services for example - 365 days a year, but that is not often the case in small business.

Taking the time to plan and prepare

choppingwoodThere is a great story which my Buddhist teachers and my business partner remind me regularly, where two rather competitive woodsmen set about cutting down some large trees. The first one sets to work immediately, sawing away at the trunk of the tree, laughing and jeering at the second, who ponders the task ahead of him and decides to sharpen his saw blade before getting started with the job.

The woodsmen cut down trees almost every day, and as you probably know,with regular use a saw blade can become blunt and less efficient. It took the second woodsman a good while to sharpen the blade, but he finished the job far quicker than his friend who was still struggling deep into the night.

You are the most important tool in your business

It's easy to forget just how hard we work and how much pressure we are under - indeed also how much we miss out on at home and in our local community - until we change our conditions and give ourselves permission to have a proper break.  You are the most important tool in your business, and it is absolutely vital to your business that you take the time to stay sharpsharp rather than endlessly ploughing ahead with a blunt blade.

Never lose sight of the importance of resting, and bringing a balance to your life between what is really important and what can wait. This year my scales have necessarily been tipped toward turning around my business, at the detriment to a lot of other areas of my life including my health. I hadn't realised quite what it could be like without that pressure until having a couple of weeks off over Christmas. My natural tendency is to work all hours of the day and night to get the job done, but like the woodsman in the story my blade has been blunt for some time because I would not allow myself the time to rest and recharge.

Plan your down-time

Book in front of an open fire - plan your downtimeIf you didn't get a chance to have a good rest over the holidays, book in some time now, or start putting in place the conditions that will allow you to take some quality time off this year.  It's the best gift you can give your business to keep your blade sharpened throughout the coming year, and will deliver more return on investment than you might think.

It really doesn't matter whether you spend a week curled up with some good books or playing with your children, whatever you find gives you the opportunity to rest, recharge and return full of energy and inspiration.