One of the mistakes I made while running my internet company was not taking a vacation. I never made time for myself. Instead, I got to the office at 10 a.m. and was frequently still working at 11 p.m. or even 1 a.m., having dinner at that hour before heading home to start all over again the next day.
I'm fascinated by women who work hard but have learned the value of making time to play, especially when that play is just as extreme as their work efforts. How does their intense down time affect their work?
"I am available anytime my clients need me. If someone calls Fuentek at 5 p.m. looking for help with strategy by noon the next day, we deliver," says Laura A. Schoppe, 45, president of Fuentek LLC , an intellectual property and technology management services consultancy. Weekends and evenings aren't off-limits to her clients as her company aims to surpass $2 million in revenue this year.
Schoppe takes a week off annually to "go somewhere hot with access to a great pool." Every few years, she takes off more time. She spent a month in New Zealand touring the country on a motorcycle and went bungee jumping. Another time, she spent two weeks on a motorcycle in northern Spain. Next year, she's off to Costa Rica to go off-roading and zip lining. One of her goals is to skydive with a long free fall.
"I like speed a lot, but I also like to balance it with total relaxation," Schoppe says. "Hanging by the pool reading a book is a great way to flush away all the stresses and concerns. Zipping by on a motorcycle helps to re-energize me."
Schoppe says her activities help her to do a better job of handling anything work throws at her, but she also is able to make business decisions calmly. She believes that being away is good for her team, too. The downside of her preferred leisure activities is the possibility that she might get injured, which would impact her company.
Eight weeks of vacation per year and a lot of three-day weekends are how Jessica Browder-Stackpoole, 34, achieves balance between work and life. The founder and CEO of the $5.5 million to $10 million event-staffing company EventPro Strategies has rock climbed the red rocks in Las Vegas and Sedona, Arizona; ocean kayaked and camped the Sea of Cortez islands in Mexico; river kayaked the Snake River, Jackson, Wyoming--all 11 of the rapids, including Big Kahuna and Lunchbox; and surfed, zip lined, boated and snorkeled at her wedding in Suyulita, Mexico.
"Upon my return from my adventurous trips, my big-picture thinking is always enriched. I feel inspired, healthier and truly recharged inside and out," she says.
While kayaking down the Snake River, Browder-Stackpoole fought a strong desire to turn back amid fears of moving forward. She finished her journey stronger mentally, physically and spiritually.
"I crave the fresh air, the scenery, challenge, adrenaline, the feeling of increased creativity and the best sleep imaginable after a day of testing myself in new ways," she says. "These 'off-the-grid' escapes allow me to truly focus on the moment without distractions. During these times, I disconnect from my staff and find that they become more empowered as a result."
She always follows up her extreme activities with massages, great wine and food, plus time to transform back into the "girlie-girl" she also loves being.
"My outlet is competition," says Diane Kuehn, 43, president and CEO of VisionPoint Marketing . At 40, she decided to take up tennis. "I now play tennis an average of six days a week, sometimes for four to five hours a day. I'll usually change into my tennis clothes at the office and depart 30 minutes before a match or practice, then play for two to three hours before heading home to see the family."
Kuehn says tennis gives her a healthy outlet to be competitive as well as get some exercise. She has met several business contacts through tennis and, on occasion, takes clients out to play a round.
Adds Kuehn, "The golf course isn't the only place that business is done."