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The Globe and Mail

Even tech junkies know: You have to unplug

A Globe and Mail front-page story last week featured a report from the Canadian Index of Wellbeing that suggested Canadians are spending less time on leisure, they are eating fewer family meals together, and they're exercising less.

In other words, our work/life balance is out of whack even though we're actually spending fewer hours at work. It's a sad state of affairs: our lives have become so busy that many people don't have time to stop and smell the roses.

For entrepreneurs, the balance between work and life is a constant struggle. Work blurs into life, and life blurs into work to the point where it can be impossible to separate the two. When you're supposed to be enjoying personal time, work commitments take you away. When you're working, personal commitments such as errands, dentist appointments and taking your children to school capture your time and attention.

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For all the talk about being able to enjoy lifestyle flexibility and the freedom to work when you want, being an entrepreneur can be all-consuming. It can become unhealthy because it impacts the quality of your personal life and the quality of your work.

In other words, all work and no play makes Jack and Jill a dull boy and girl.

So how can hard-driving entrepreneurs make sure they maintain a healthy personal and lifestyle balance, particularly those running one-person businesses in which there are no other employees to man the "front desk" when they are taking personal time?

My friend Mark Walker, who has been running his own high-tech consulting business for the past few years, contends the only way entrepreneurs can take a real break from work is by not working at all for at least 48 hours.

"You can think about work but you can't do work," he says. "You shouldn't do work, check your e-mail or talk to clients. By completely walking away from work, you can recharge and give yourself time to think."

Mr. Walker's point about time to think is probably one of the biggest upsides to not working. It is when you allow yourself a mental break that the ideas start to flow – there is little time for ideas to bubble up if you are working all the time.

The need to think was thrust into the spotlight recently when Peter Bregman, CEO of Bregman Partners Inc., decided to return his iPad, even though he described it as the "perfect" machine. The problem, he wrote in a blog post, was that it didn't give him any time to be bored.

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"Being bored is a precious thing, a state of mind we should pursue," he wrote. "My best ideas come to me when I am unproductive."

While not all of us need or want an iPad, Mr. Bregman's experience illustrates the importance of giving yourself a mental holiday to immerse in personal time – be it with family, participating in sports or other interests, or simply lying on the couch or hammock watching the world go by.

The reality is that when you do go back to work, it will still be there waiting for you. And, just as important, you will be refreshed and ready to tackle it with more enthusiasm and energy.

Special to the Globe and Mail

Mark Evans is a principal with ME Consulting , a content and social media strategic and tactical consultancy that creates and delivers 'stories' for companies looking to capture the attention of customers, bloggers, the media, business partners, employees and investors. Mark has worked with three start-ups – Blanketware, b5Media and PlanetEye – so he understands how they operate and what they need to do to be successful. He was a technology reporter for more than a decade with The Globe and Mail, Bloomberg News and the Financial Post. Mark is also one of the co-organizers of the mesh, meshUniversity and meshmarketing conferences.

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