Are You An Over Achiever Under Collapse?

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Catherine Hughes

Director of the 8 Women Dream Project at 8 Women Dream
Catherine’s dream is to make 8 Women Dream the premier online publication for women looking to pursue their dreams. She is a published author, a freelance writer, and a guide for those who want their dreams to come true online. Catherine would someday like to be invited to speak at TED about her observations about her 8WD project inviting women to take a chance on their dreams. Wine was required... Catherine posts on Sunday evenings and fills in dream stories as needed. If you aren't sure how to comment on this story, click here.

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Are You An Over Achiever Under Collapse? Over Achievers taking time off going over the Golden Gate Bridge

For the first time in 5 years of working on 8 Women Dream I took some real time off.

I took time off from writing and time off from the other work I do for various sites around the Internet.

It’s difficult when you are always living in “launch mode” raising families and dealing with aging parents to etch out time for yourself, especially if you live part of your life online, which tends to stay open 24/7, even if you don’t.

There’s also the guilt that comes with the idea of taking time off when your creative projects are not where you want them to be, or they need to be tweaked yesterday, or completely scraped and redone.

I tend to be a hunker-down-the-hatches kind of a person who can ride anything out for the long run, but it’s not an admirable way to live one’s entire life. My father died at the age of 49. I am past that age (shh don’t tell anyone).

Do I really want to spend all of the 2nd precious part of my life sitting in front of a computer 7 days a week, 365 days a year — for years on end?

Are You An Over Achiever Under Collapse? Over achievers relax at the Monterey Coast

So I went away.

I didn’t even look at email, which is something I haven’t done in years. But I could tell that my body and mind were close to the breaking point. Those closest to me could see that I was too overdue for a break and so they pushed (or pulled) me to get away.

Working too much is a common entrepreneurial trait and part of a silent epidemic in the technical world of over achievers. We are hesitant to let people know that we are burned out because our passions are supposed to be fueling us–not depleting us.

We think of it as some sort of personal failing to take time off before what we’ve launched is bringing us the kind of returns only seen in our dreams.

If we keep on working through holidays and time with our family, then what we are attempting to launch feels like a success . . . when maybe all it is really doing is costing us our health, family, and a life richly enjoyed.

Are You An Over Achiever Under Collapse? Over achieving mom takes a vacation to watch her son Brian play rugby

But we don’t see it because we never step away from it long enough to look at it objectively.  We don’t see what we are really missing.

Nick Francis, CEO of Help Scout told serial start up launcher David Hauser the following about life spent launching your own work:

My business partner and I really used to put in major hours the first years… We were working 80+ a week. After working ourselves to a point of being burned out we realized that if we put in 40 x 2 hours the company didn’t move forward 2x faster. In fact those extra 40 hour were less productive than the first 40 hours. The reality is you’ll never be “done” with your work, you’ll never finish all the tasks, build all the features and have the perfect design. At the end of the day, around 4 pm, we close our laptops and go home. Never forget work is here to enable your personal life fruitful. (Source: 25 Entrepreneurs Tell What They Wish They’d Known Before Founding Their First Start-up)

And after taking time off I have to admit that my mood is better, I am taking better care of myself and it has allowed me to look at what needs changing from a fresh perspective.

Are You An Over Achiever Under Collapse? Over-achieving Catherine is finally smiling and having fun

But most importantly, I realized that I am not a failure for needing time off.

I’m human.

Catherine Hughes
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  • I was beyond excited when you left town and got away. I can only imagine how relaxing no tech was, even for a few days! Congratulations on admitting that despite super-human efforts and determination, you are in fact human. And thank you for sharing your experience in taking the time off. Big hugs!