It’s not possible to expect people to function at 100%, 100% of the time. Including yourself.

When you work in or run, a firm, chances are you value your time based on your ability to make the most out of every single minute. However, at what cost?

This isn’t sustainable. After all, you wouldn’t overwork yourself or risk injury, so why would you risk your mental health?

Being ‘always-on’ can quickly lead to burnout if left out of control. And the domino effect of that will impact your ability to run your firm, lead your team, and manage your personal life.

Therefore, how can you break the ‘always-on’ cycle and get back to basics—back to feeling more like you? Back to running your company and not your company running you?

What does ‘always-on’ means?

It’s essential to first understand what is ‘always-on’ means. If you’re used to the feeling of being on a merry-go-round that never stops, then you know what exactly being always-on.

It’s when you never go offline. You are always in work mode, thinking about a client or wondering if you or your team are letting things fall through the cracks. You’re constantly checking emails, scrolling through Slack or Teams, being interrupted at all hours through day and night by notifications. The list goes on and on.

For some, working hard feels good. Yet, that doesn’t mean it’s always good for you.

Breaking the ‘always-on’ cycle is taking the time to rest and be away from the hustle. It means taking control of your time. It’s about clearing your mind and focusing on other non-work-related things. It means reconnecting with yourself, your family, and your friends. It means taking a step back from your busy work life, which ultimately, is for the greater good. 

Why it’s important to break the ‘always-on’ cycle

Whenever you struggle with a problem and took a moment to focus on something else, only to return to the problem with a fresh mind and find a solution, then you should already know the benefits of breaking this cycle.

As a business owner, you likely believe your firm deserves your focus. This adherence can have its benefits—it challenges you, keeps you engaged with your business, clients and employees, you learn new things and are able to make a difference in people’s lives.

However, just like in driving a car, going full speed without refueling will result in a breakdown. You’ll fizzle out, and potentially lose the sentiment that’s been driving you. After that, all your relationships—professional and personal—will suffer.

Having the time to disconnect and focus on the little things will help to refresh your mind. You’ll notice increases in your productivity, an enhanced ability to problem solve, and boosts to your energy levels.

Yet, it’s difficult to jump off the merry-go-round. Here are some simple tips to help you take that first step.

Break Always-on

Tips to break the ‘always-on’ cycle

1. Turn off notifications. 

Snooze your notifications even just for a set period each day is enough. As stated below by Stuart McLeod, CEO & Co-Founder, Karbon:

“The fewer notifications the better, and deep work always beats scattered toggling between tabs.”

2. Use time-blocking.

Define your day in time blocks. Organise your calendar to allocate certain hours to certain tasks—including your downtime. It will help you define your ‘on’ time vs. your ‘off’ time.

3. Declutter your tech stack. 

How many different apps (both work and personal) do you currently have? The more apps you have, the more notifications you’ll get, the more screens to check, the more data to get lost in.

Understand what information you actually need to have, and remove everything else if it’s not serving a direct and impactful purpose.

4. Try to consider the value you place on always being busy.

If your default state is to take pride in always being ‘on’, think carefully about why that is. If it’s because it provides you the feeling of success, you may need to rethink what does success means to you.

Perhaps, you may alter its meaning or value on how well you’re able to balance your professional and personal lives.

5. Reset your expectations.

Take a step back and assess what is reasonable. What are reasonable expectations for your own working hours, downtime, family time, etc.?

If it’s a challenge for you to be objective, think about what would be reasonable for a loved one. Would you expect them to work 12 hour days even on weekends? Or would you expect a healthier work-life balance?

Ready to break the cycle?

Being ‘always-on’ isn’t something to celebrate. It’s not a badge of honor. 

If you’re currently struggling, whether personally or professionally—and if you’re always on, it’s probably both—it’s time to reassess your habits. What can you do differently? Where can you pull back?

You don’t have to completely shift your lifestyle to break the ‘always-on’ cycle, but you can make small changes little by little that will have major benefits to your mental health, productivity, and relationships.

If you can only begin with one strategy to break the cycle—don’t be discouraged. Start with the one strategy, and see the merry-go-round begin to slow down.