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53. I need a break! What it takes to confidently shut down your system.

A friend of mine has a very demanding position within a Fortune 500 company. His inbox is constantly overflowing. Nonetheless, he doesn’t work late or on weekends. I see him with his kids all the time, he volunteers, and he’s even got hobbies. How is this possible?

I think that this ability to set boundaries and work pre-defined, reasonable hours is two-fold.

First, you need to be so good at what you do that your organization doesn’t mind waiting more than 24 hours to get your opinion.

If you really are the best at what you do, they’re not going to let you go because you don’t respond to every inquiry within five minutes. Easier said than done, I know. But this highlights the newest incentives for being a high performer: autonomy and flexibility.

Second, you need to have enough confidence and self-control that you feel comfortable shutting down your system.

Stress management literature would suggest that taking a psychological break from the onslaught of complex stimuli will help us recenter. But we incorrectly believe that if we work through it, and chip away at the never-ending requests, that we’ll feel less stressed. It takes a very disciplined person to recognize the real solution to the problem.

Unfortunately, most organizations “reward” highly productive people with more work. It’s up to you to articulate your value and set boundaries.


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