Successful small business owners tend to be incredibly driven. Unlike a traditional “job”, you can find you’ve made yourself available 24/7 to customers, staff, vendors, and colleagues via your cell phone or computer. When was the last time you turned everything off (except perhaps some nice classical Baroque music), sat back and did…nothing?

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, author of “Flow”, is one of the most often quoted researchers on the importance of leisure to optimize productivity and “flow”. Flow is “the mental state of operation in which a person in an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity. ” You know the feeling: when you get completely lost in a project. But, while flow is crucial to improving our ability to innovate, problem solve and be happy, two of the requirements to get to that state are t-i-m-e and freedom from distraction.

For small business owners, the only way to make leisure time happen is to schedule it. You must put it on everyone’s calendars and make a goal of working yourself into a shorter work week as part of your long-term plan. Even if this doesn’t feel like a priority or a possibility because you or your business is young and/or struggling, trust me, you need to make this a written goal.

For a small business and a person to thrive, they must have down time. No phones. No computers. No TV. No (gasp) iPad. It’s not surprising that many new ideas or solved problems occur in the shower or when we are driving in silence. Imagine making one day a week “unplugged”?

Begin building a team of people at your business who can truly support and step in for you while you are gone. Make this a business priority and then begin to increase your time “off”. Engaging in a hobby or passion, including volunterring, outside of your business can actually foster new ideas at work, especially if it takes you into a state of flow.


by Steven Schlagel