Take Care of the Goose: 8 Questions to Ask Yourself Right Now
Indulge me (and yourself) for a minute or two. We deserve it.
Pretend that you’re five. Now, snuggle up — it’s story time!
A man and his wife owned a very special goose. Every day the goose would lay a golden egg, which made the couple quite rich.
“Just think,” said the man’s wife, “If we could have all the golden eggs that are inside the goose, we could get richer a lot faster.”
“You’re right,” said her husband, “We wouldn’t have to wait around every day for the goose to lay her egg.”
So, the couple killed the goose and cut her open, only to find that she was just like every other goose. She had no golden eggs inside of her at all, and they had no more golden eggs.
Aesop’s lesson was that too much greed results in nothing, but this isn’t about greed at all.
It's about taking care of the goose.
The goose produced something of value on a daily basis. Unfortunately, the couple did not take care of her. They lost the goose and also lost the valuable eggs that the goose produced.
If you’re a business owner, a startup founder, a CEO, an entrepreneur, a parent, a teacher — whatever it is that you do, although you may not lay golden eggs, you do produce something of value.
If you don’t take care of yourself, whatever it is that you’re producing will eventually come to a halt.
People who are in business for themselves tend to take the weight of the world on their shoulders. They work at an unrelenting, frenzied pace because if they don’t respond to those emails, if they don’t keep up with their social media calendar, if they don’t post a new blog, if they don’t send out that expected Monday morning email, no one else will. Right?
However, if you are neglecting or even abusing the goose by not taking care of yourself, eventually, whatever it is of value that you’re producing will stop because you are the source. Ben Franklin knew what he was talking about when he said “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Here are eight questions to ask yourself to see if you’re taking care of the goose.
1. Are you taking a day of rest?
In the story of creation, God took a day of rest. The weekly Shabbat continues to be an important and celebrated part of life for many. There is ancient wisdom here that we should all take a lesson from.
Try it for a month. Hey, you can even write an article about it when you’re all done to report the results to the world. “I rested one day a week for a whole month and you’ll never believe what happened next!” (I kid. No more titles like that. Please.)
But seriously, take one day a week, and rest from your labors. Do something fun, get outside, hang out with great friends who make you laugh, go on a date or have a fun family game night. Silence social media if you need to, and get your mind off of work.
You will more than likely find that as your experiment progresses, your work week will become more and more productive. When you’re working seven days a week, you will be less productive. Taking a day to recharge will have an amazing effect on the rest of your week.
Devotion to business does not translate to greater productivity. You need downtime. You will find that if you push yourself too hard, your brain and your body will start to push back.
“In one experiment, members of a five-person consultant team were instructed to take one day off every week. In another, executives accustomed to working every evening were told to keep one evening work-free. Though they were reluctant to try it, fearing work would pile up during the breaks, participants actually loved the schedule. Months later they reported better work-life balance, which is hardly surprising. More interestingly, they also reported being more productive and prouder of their accomplishments. Clearly, more hours spent working does not equal better work.” (Source)
2. Are you getting enough sleep at night?
More than likely, you know how much sleep you need, and more than likely, you’re not getting it. According to Gallup, 42% of U.S. adults report getting less than the minimum number of hours (7) of sleep recommended by the National Sleep Foundation.
In a study of nearly 400 employees, published last year, researchers found that sleeping too little — defined as less than six hours each night — was one of the best predictors of on-the-job burn-out. A recent Harvard study estimated that sleep deprivation costs American companies $63.2 billion a year in lost productivity. (Source)
Getting enough sleep:
improves your memory
increases your lifespan
sharpens your attention
helps you maintain a healthy weight
lowers your stress level
3. Are you getting enough downtime during the day?
Okay, so what does that actually mean?
Well, have you ever been having a really productive workday, just zipping through your to-do list, or “agile workflow process” or whatever — anyway, you’re having a great day and getting lots of stuff done, right?
Then, you just can’t. (Or can’t even. Again, whatever.)
Your brain’s mental processes screech to a halt out of nowhere. You find yourself rereading the same sentence over and over again because nothing is sinking in.
You’ve probably been pushing your brain non-stop with no downtime, and your brain finally steps up and pushes back.
According to Scientific American:
“What research to date also clarifies, however, is that even when we are relaxing or daydreaming, the brain does not really slow down or stop working. Rather — just as a dazzling array of molecular, genetic and physiological processes occur primarily or even exclusively when we sleep at night — many important mental processes seem to require what we call downtime and other forms of rest during the day. Downtime replenishes the brain’s stores of attention and motivation, encourages productivity and creativity, and is essential to both achieve our highest levels of performance and simply form stable memories in everyday life. A wandering mind unsticks us in time so that we can learn from the past and plan for the future. Moments of respite may even be necessary to keep one’s moral compass in working order and maintain a sense of self.”
According to research, we cycle in and out of deep sleep to light sleep and back again approximately every 90 minutes during the night. In the same way, during the day we progressively cycle from a state of alertness towards a state of physiological fatigue approximately every 90 minutes.
So, find a way to squeeze in a little downtime. Even 5 minutes makes a huge difference. Set a timer on your phone. Take a quick walk. Do some squats or lunges, stretch and wiggle your toes. Turn on some music and dance for a few minutes if you’re in a work environment that would encourage such things. Who knows, you might even start a trend.
If you work out of the home like 52% of all small businesses, give your brain a break by taking the dog for a walk. No dog? Take yourself. Want a really great idea for downtime from your home office? Vacuum, dust or clean the bathrooms as fast as you can for 10–15 minutes. (Throwing in this bit of advice for those of you who want to get major relationship points — plus there’s a chance my husband or kids might read this, and you never know…)
So please, get your downtime.
If you need a plan, try to work with your body’s natural cycles and for every 90 minutes of work, take a break for 15 minutes. Do this for 5 days in a row.
Set alerts on your phone Sunday night so you don’t forget. See if you can tell a difference in your productivity and mood, and let me know how it goes!
4. Are you staying hydrated?
My kids make fun of me because no matter what’s wrong with them, the first thing I say is “Drink water.” or “Have you had enough water?” They say if their arms fell off, my first piece of advice would be to drink water.
Seriously, though, 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated, which is alarming since the well-being of every system in your body relies on water.
Hydrate yourself properly, and here are just a few benefits you’ll experience:
a boost in brainpower
cardiovascular health improvements
the cleansing of toxins from your body
muscles and joints that work better
— just to name a few.
Avoid too much caffeine and please, I implore you, don’t reach for an energy drink when you need a boost. If your mom hasn’t fussed at you about consuming energy drinks on a regular basis, I’m going to do it on her behalf right now.
Reaching for an energy drink is like putting a piece of tape over your car’s emergency light and congratulating yourself for fixing your car.
If you are so exhausted that you need to rely on a drink to get through your day, get to the root of why you’re exhausted and do whatever you must do to create some margin in your life.
Continuing to drive your car while ignoring the warning it’s giving you is not a long-term solution. The problem will not go away on its own, but will get worse with time and more difficult and expensive to correct. Plus, those drinks are filled with gunk that is sooo damaging to your health.
I only say this out of love, you know. Now, go get a hug from someone and throw those things in the trash.
5. Are you eating well?
Are you getting your proteins, fresh fruits and veggies?
Lower your sugar and carbs if you can (notice I didn’t say cut completely) and you’ll find that you’ll have more energy, your focus will improve, and your productivity will increase.
A good rule of thumb for, well, everything is “Everything in moderation.”
Gathering around food with family and friends is an amazing way to celebrate and enjoy life and the people we are blessed to know, but check yourself and make sure you aren’t so emotionally attached to food that you think of it as a reward or a punishment. That kind of thinking never results in healthy habits.
Remember that we are created as a whole person, and our emotions are tied to our physical bodies. The mental, emotional, spiritual and physical parts of us are all legitimate and if one part is ignored, the rest of the parts will eventually feel the effects and suffer. Care for your physical self by making healthier food choices, and the other parts of yourself will benefit.
6. Are you getting enough exercise?
Getting your heart rate up once a day is linked with overall well-being. Research has shown that exercise boosts blood flow, leading to improved focus and attention plus a natural mood lift.
Need more motivation to exercise on a regular basis, besides the often-overlooked fact that you’ll save a TON of money on doctor visits and medications? Here you go.
You’ll keep your heart healthy. Inactivity is the single most prevalent risk factor for heart disease. You’ll lower your blood pressure and triglyceride levels, and help to raise HDL cholesterol levels. You’ll reduce your risk of cancer and stroke. You’ll be less constipated. You’ll improve arthritis symptoms. Increased muscle strength restores range of motion and flexibility and reduces pain. You’ll slim down. When you do aerobic exercise, you rev up your metabolism and burn calories. You’ll beat the blues. Studies show that aerobic exercise is a quicker mood elevator than antidepressants. Your blood sugar will decrease, and your body’s ability to use insulin will increase, preventing insulin resistance and diabetes. You’ll age more gracefully. When flexibility, bone mass and muscle tone improve, you look and act younger. You’ll sleep like a baby. Not only will you fall asleep more quickly and sleep more deeply, your concentration and memory will improve and you’ll stay on a more even keel emotionally. You’ll feel more amorous. Exercise not only increases growth hormone, a potent anti-aging hormone, it also improves body image, making you feel better about yourself. (Source)
Stretch during the day and get up and move if your work keeps you tied to the computer. There are lots of great ideas out there for 5 minute stretch routines you can do at your desk. Just getting out of the office to walk for a few minutes can rejuvenate you way more than the temporary effects of caffeine or sugar.
Take care of your eyes, too, if you’re staring at a screen for hours on end. Try downloading a program like this one to help take the strain off. https://justgetflux.com/
7. Are you getting fresh air?
Get outside — we all need that Vitamin D. An estimated 40–75% of people are deficient. Yes, wear your sunscreen, but don’t go to the extreme of avoiding the sun at all costs either. Go ahead and soak up a few rays whenever you get a chance. You’ll feel better and fresh air can give you an energy boost when you’re feeling low midday.
Fresh air cleans the lungs and helps to bring more oxygen to the cells and improves the cleansing action of your lungs. When you exhale and breathe out through your lungs, you release airborne toxins from your body. (Source)
“The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers recommends that ventilation systems pump in 20 cubic feet of fresh air per minute for every person in office spaces. In many cases, however, building operators pump in only 5 cubic feet — giving the building air the appeal of a long-distance plane flight.”
The air in many office spaces consist of what some refer to as chemical stew. Consider fresh-air intakes that carry in carbon monoxide from parking garages and loading docks. If smokers take a smoke break near an air intake vent, those inside the building may be breathing in second-hand smoke. Pesticides from exterminators, ozone from copiers and printers, construction dust, paint fumes, and “off-gassing” fumes from new carpets can all combine to create a mix of air that you must breathe from 8–10 hours a day, like it or not. If your building is environmentally friendly, it may also be sealed, which means you can’t open the windows.
So — get outside to a nearby park at lunch or just take a walk and breathe some fresh air.
Clean out your lungs and get rid of those toxins as often as you can.
Oh, and don’t forget to take your guitar with you.
A green plant on your desk and a mini-air purifier might not hurt either.
8. Do you have boundaries?
Are people pulling on you too much? Learn to say no. Your family and close friends come first. If they don’t, this is not good.
Do yourself a big favor now and make whatever changes you need to make to start prioritizing your people in the right order. I have encouraged many a guilt-ridden Southern belle to say no when she needs to. It’s so much fun to watch them experience that freedom for the first time.
So many people, especially women, it seems, are conditioned from an early age to people-please and take on guilt that doesn’t belong to them. One sweet lady just told me the other day about how she was starting to say no to certain obligations and then she laughed and told me no about something, and joyfully said, “You’ve created a monster!”
It’s freeing to say no, and it’s surprising and sad how many people have never learned how to do it. Everything that needs to get done in the world is not, in fact, on your shoulders.
Just because there is something that needs to be done and there is no one available to do it does not mean that all of a sudden that particular task is your responsibility.
I get the fact that if your boss asks you to do something, you can’t just say no. You can, however, depending on your situation, learn to negotiate a bit and communicate in such a way that in the end, your boss will walk away from the conversation feeling thankful for such a wise and mindful employee.
If you’re not sure whether you should say yes or no to something, try to determine your motivation to say yes. If your motivation is guilt, just say no.
Resist the urge to feel overwhelmed. Pick 1 of these 8 areas and choose to make one change this week. You’ll find that making changes in one area will make it easier to change another area.
Start taking care of the goose today, and keep those golden eggs coming.
Work your way through the list at your own pace. That’s what I’m doing. You can be sure that if I’m writing about something, it’s probably because I need to preach to myself about it. I’ll be starting with the 90 minute work/15 minute downtime schedule.
What area are you going to work on first? Let me know in the comments below!