How to Achieve Peak Performance by Taking Daily Breaks and Vacations
Sam Ovens & Nick Fisher
As business owners we are constantly faced with the internal and external conflict of achieving "work-life balance". At times we can feel guilty for working too much and at other times for not working enough.
We hear the saying to "work smarter, not harder", but how do we know if we're working hard enough? On the contrary, there are people working extremely hard with very little reward for their efforts who may need some time for reflection and planning to gain perspective of the bigger picture.
Today, Nick Fisher & I discuss my daily routine and approach toward achieving work-life balance.
In this episode we cover:
Why I personally don't feel the need to take vacations
How to get in the zone
The importance of spending time outside of the zone
My daily routine
Experiencing real burnout vs falling for the trap of the illusion
Check it out and let me know what you think in the comments.
Nick: One of the questions that got up that came in a few different variations was, "Sam seems to always be working. He's not ever having any fun. Does he take vacations? Is life all about business for him, or does he like to do other things?" Then we'll touch on some other things: People want to know how you wind down at night before you start the next day, how do you find fulfillment outside of work, and just what do you like to do in your leisure time? I guess, let's start with the first one: "Does Sam vacation? Just wondering, haha," is the full-
Sam: Yeah, I do, but only really like ... I do it because of, like, my girlfriend. She wants to go on vacation. If it was just up to me, I probably wouldn't because I really enjoy what I do, so I don't need to escape. Most people use vacations as escape from everyday life. Most people don’t like their job, they don’t like their life, so vacation is like, “Ah, paradise,” and then they go back to hell, but every day is paradise for me. So, vacation is like worse. I generally am not as excited on a vacation. I more do it because I know it’s good for me to rest a bit, and I do it because of my girlfriend. I’ve got to be fair to her, so that’s why I do it, but if I had my own way I probably wouldn’t do them.
Nick: When you're on vacation do you prefer to work, or do you prefer to completely shut down and kind of recenter?
Sam: I just am one or the other, like, off or on. So, if on vacation I generally will try and do no work at all because otherwise is not a vacation. It’s just work in a more distracting place.
Nick: Yeah. That makes sense. Cool. Then what you do outside of vacation to kind of wind down at night? When you get done at night you have still a few hours left that you can do before you have to be in bed, what do you prefer to do with your time there?
Sam: Well, it takes me three hours to get into the zone and three to get out, or three to really get in and out, and two to just kind of get in and kind of out. So, in the morning I wake up, and then I go to the gym for like an hour, and do exercise. Then I will have a cold shower. Then I will have, like, breakfast, and then I would do meditation. That takes like two hours, and then I’ll start working, and the first hour of work is kind of ratcheting up towards being right in the zone. Then I will power through the day in the zone. Then to get out at the end, it will take about one hour of kind of winding down work, which is typically just making sure the key things are done for the day, and creating my schedule and to do list for the next day. I will do that, and then I will go, and I have to do something that’s completely not work for at least two hours before I’ll be able to go to sleep. If I just stop work and then tried to go to sleep nothing would happen, and so I will … I pretty much immediately have a cold shower because that’s a good way to snap out of it-
Nick: After work’s done for the day you mean?
Sam: So, I get-
Nick: So, you have one at the beginning and one at the end?
Sam: Yeah, so it’s good because there’s like a signal to the body and the mind like going in, going out. So, there’s these two things which are there, and they're almost 12 hours apart, like on identical hours. One happens at eight; one happens at like eight or nine. So, they're almost in perfect balance with each other, and that’s really good because your brain and everything learns. It becomes like a ritual, and that’s a good way, but it still takes me longer. Then I’ll have the cold shower. Then I’ll get into bed, and I won’t touch any work. My phone goes on airplane mode and everything, and then if I’m not too tired I will read a book, but if I’m exhausted, I would just watch, like, TV. And not TV … TV, I will watch a movie on my laptop, or watch, like, a documentary or a TV series. Nothing with ads in it, or any … nothing crazy like that. Only something which I’m purposefully watching because I want to, and I want to unwind.
Nick: Got it. Why not ads? What would an ad do?
Sam: They stimulate your brain. They’re designed … all of these things are designed to stimulate your brain. They’re kind of like drugs, and so those are the last things you want when you’re trying to unplug and unwind. You can’t have any of that stuff. You don’t want your phone buzzing. You don’t want new stimulus coming into your world. My phone goes on airplane mode the moment I have that cold shower, so if anyone has any crisis after that, I’m out. Like, you can’t reach me because you have to be like that if you want to unwind. If you read an email, and you're like, “Huh!” You’re not going to be able to go to sleep.
So, you have to detach from everything, and then if you’re purposefully watching something, then it’s … the way it happens with your brain, it’s like, “I’m going to watch that, then go to sleep,” and then if you watch that and go to sleep you’ve got control of the situation, but if you watch TV where it has ads and people are flicking between channels, that messes the brain up because is changing and it’s jumping and it’s thinking, “Should I watch this new thing? Should I go that way? Should I go that way?” It’s seriously stimulating the brain, and they're tempting themselves to watch longer things and do things which they didn’t have the intention to do. It’s very important that you say, “I’m going to do this and then go to sleep.”
Nick: Got it. When you’re watching movies before sleep, blue light blocking glasses or something else?
Sam: No. I just have the f.lux app on the computer. It just makes the screen like yellower. It becomes like yellow or orange at night, which is good because that white light, it’s supposed to mess up your sleep.
Nick: Right. Yep. What’s the best documentary or series that you’ve seen in the last month?
Sam: Best documentary? There’s lots of good ones. I don’t know about a clear, absolute winner, but the one that stuck out to me the most probably this year would be watching the Michael Jordan documentaries, just because he’s so good.
Nick: Yeah. I watched a few of the one's that you showed me.
Sam: Just because he’s so good. You know there’s some learning there. Anyone who climbs to a level that high, if you look at their story and listen to what they did and everything, and get to know the person, you’re going to learn a lot. So, that’s typically, like, the higher the person is in, the more they’ve achieved, the more you’re going to learn if you start digging. So, I started watching all of his documentaries-
Nick: Yeah. There is way more than I thought. You sent me, like, 12. I was like, “I didn’t know this many existed on Michael Jordan.”
Sam: Yeah, and it’s amazing what you learn by watching those things. He taught me a lot about focus and not falling out of love of the game, and falling for its distractions. What happens, typically, is when you get into something like business you want to get really good at this and have the best product or have the best service and beat your competition and all of that, and when you first when the basketball, to use that as a parallel example, you want to be a really good basketball player, you want to get points, you want your team to win. As you start getting really good, all of these things start getting drawn to you. Like with basketball, girls, they start coming in the thousands or the hundreds of thousands.
Then you’ve got all of these offers from everyone. People want you to be the face of their brands. They want you to do a deal with them and all of this. There’s advertising opportunities, endorsement opportunities, and then you’ve got all of these fans, social media. Like, the public opinion, the news, and the media, and interviews, and all of this shit just starts just swarming around you. The people that fall for it, they always end up losing because what happens is like they’ll get into basketball in the beginning because they love the game and they want to win, but then comes the girls, the lifestyle, and the money, and the cars, and the parties, and they forget, and they start attaching to that.
Then by attaching to that, they neglect this, the game, and then they suck at the game. Then they end up losing, and then this disappears as well. It gets everyone because it distracts you, and then you lose both things when you fall for the distraction. When Michael Jordan quick basketball for, like, a year to go and play baseball, part of why he stopped is because he said that he’d fallen out of love with the game of basketball. He knew if he kept going like that he would lose and it’d ruin his legacy.
Part of what made him distracted was that he’d started doing all these TV commercials. He started polluting the pureness of his practice. His practice used to be so pure, and now it had become polluted with all this stuff, and he didn’t like it anymore because of all of this. So, he quit, and then just started playing baseball, but then when he started to crave it again he went back, and then he won again. You’ve got to be careful not to fall for the distractions of your work because the more money you make, the more money you’ve got to spend, and you don’t want to fall in love with buying things when your main goal is to get better at what you do.
Nick: Right. That makes sense. It took him from going to baseball for a few years to realize that he actually did miss it, or maybe when he went to baseball too, because I know that was one of his old … like, his first love in sports was that because he thought, “Maybe this is it. Maybe I’ll find more fulfillment in baseball that I would in basketball.” Ultimately, yeah, that makes complete sense. Have you ever seen that in your life where you were like, “You know, I don’t think I am in love with this anymore,” and then you left it alone for a little bit and you're like, “Oh yeah, I really was. I definitely got to come back.”
Sam: Yeah, it’s when you get burnt out. Quite a lot of the time, I’d say once every month or something, I would just get kind of drained. Then I would just decide like, “I’m just not going to work for the next two days,” and I would just like lie on the couch and watch documentaries, and just do that for like two days. Then when it comes back, that feeling that I really want to work again, then I would jump back into it. You’ve got to be very careful that you learn when it is actually real versus an illusion, but when you’re starting out, it’s always just an illusion. You’re not burnt out because most people aren’t doing anything, so it’s just an illusion that they should rest and everything. Because it takes working like 15 hours a day for 30 days straight to really get even near fatigued and burnout, so unless you’ve done that then you know that you're falling for an illusion.
Nick: Yeah. You have to have some sort of baseline to judge different-
Sam: You have to know if it’s real or not. Yeah.
Nick: Got it. That makes sense. Well, that pretty much … Oh, fulfillment outside of work too. You kind of touched on that, but just in general what’s fulfilling outside of work for you besides watching shows or reading?
Sam: Really just doing nothing. I don’t have to … when I stop working I don’t really want to do an activity. I just want to be. Like, just have a conversation. Just do whatever. I don’t want to fill it up with another action thing. You know what I mean?
Nick: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Sam: Outside of work, my favorite things to do would probably be reading a book, watching documentaries. I like things where you can cheat a little bit. Like, you can be relaxing and taking time off, but really you’re learning, and you’re getting better. I like those ones. That’s like books, documentaries, or just like socializing with people who have good things to say. That you’re not just talking shit. Like, they’ve got good insights, and they're doing interesting things themselves. Because those are ways to recharge and learn at the same time.
Nick: Yeah. That makes sense. Do you ever find motivation from going out from others, and they’re telling you about the things they’re doing?
Sam: Only if the person’s really good. If they’ve given everything for something, then they’re generally good to talk to, but if they’re just thinking about it, it’s agonizing. The worst one is when it’s fake because that’s just the worst. It totally depends how dedicated someone is to their thing, but it doesn’t even have to be business. That’s why looking to sports a lot and athletes and all of this stuff because it’s all the same. They’ve just mastered something. They’ve mastered a game, and business is pretty much a game.