Whether on paper or in the flesh, Alex Fielding is a prime example of success. By the time he was 18 years old, he was working for Apple and working on projects with such big names at Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. Since then, he’s gone on to found many different ventures, including his own hugely successful company, Ripcord.
Ripcord, the world’s first robotic digitization record company, is worth over 500 million dollars today, and Alex Fielding has dedicated uncountable amounts of time and energy into making it a success.
His responsibilities at Ripcord are numerous. In addition to being its founder and CEO, he’s also responsible for establishing and upholding Ripcord’s vision, managing and overseeing the company’s leadership, and ensuring that every aspect of the company is running smoothly. He must also ensure that the ideas, policies, plans, and operations of the company are put in place and enacted in a timely fashion.
With so much on his plate and so much riding on him, how does Alex Fielding keep himself from stressing, becoming overworked, and burning out? The answer is simpler than you might think.
He takes breaks and makes time for himself.
The Importance of Personal Time Alone
“You have to take a little time out of every day to center yourself and de-stress,” Alex Fielding says. “You have to! Otherwise you get burned out, and nothing you do is as productive as you want it to be.”
Working yourself to the point of burn-out ultimately is not productive. Many studies have shown that employees at all levels work harder when they’re given liberal break, lunch, vacation time and holiday policies.
Employees who have ample time throughout the day for breaks and ample time throughout the year for paid time off are more motivated to stay with the company. They also work harder because they aren’t so burned out from the monotonous drudgery of doing nothing but work, work, work, work and more work.
Whether they take a ten-day paid vacation or simply a twenty- or thirty-minute walk outside the office during the workday, employees come back from these events feeling refreshed, happy and ready to work.
Employees who don’t get breaks during the day become tired, frustrated, and unhappy. Towards the end of each day, their work is subpar and unproductive because they simply want to go home. Employees who don’t get paid time off also quickly become dissatisfied with their jobs and begin looking for better opportunities. Companies without acceptable break policies often have low company morale and high turnover rates.
Alex Fielding understands the need for breaks and time off, and he encourages his Ripcord employees to take time for themselves often.
He also has a personal system that has worked well for him so far. At the beginning of each week, he goes over his schedule and list of appointments and responsibilities for each day. Then, after finalizing his schedule, he picks at least a 30-minute window of time each day just to be by himself. Some days it may come in the mornings; other days it may be in the evenings or even in the middle of the day.
However, once his window has been scheduled, he sticks to it 100%. “It’s too easy to make time for yourself and then get caught up in something and push back that time you’ve made for yourself in favor of getting a project finished,” Fielding says.
He goes on to say that you can’t allow yourself to do that, and he doesn’t allow himself to do that either. He tries his best to schedule his window of personal time at a time when nothing else should interfere with it. However, if something messes up his schedule and he ends up in the middle of something when his window hits, he stops what he’s doing and takes his personal time.
“It’s hard sometimes,” he says. “Especially if you’re right in the middle of something great. You’ll be tempted to say to yourself, ‘Just this once…,’ but you can’t do that. If you start down that path, you’ll never stop.”
He encourages each and every one of his employees to implement this same system for themselves, as well.
30 Minutes Alone
The thing most people want to know when Alex Fielding tells them about his thirty-minute breaks is what he does while he’s taking them. Fielding insists that what he does during those breaks isn’t as important as the simple act of taking them.
“The important thing is taking the time for yourself,” Fielding says.
A lot of times, he uses this time to meditate and re-center himself. The benefits of meditation are numerous and have repeatedly been proven to be real. Meditation breaks, even small ones, can help improve your focus, reduce your anxiety and stress levels, help regulate your blood pressure, and even extend your life.
Meditation can also help people who have substance-abuse issues or problems with anger or quick tempers. Meditation helps you get in touch with your inner self and feel more at one with the world around you, which can also lead to increased feelings of connectedness and belonging, and decreased feelings of loneliness or isolation. It can help fight depression and improve your mental health, cognitive functions, and vigilance and reaction speeds.
Those are a lot of benefits from something which takes very little time and even less energy. Fielding recommends regular meditation to all his employees and anyone else who asks. Doctors and therapists across the country recommend it, as well.
Other times, Fielding uses this time for self-reflection. He sits and reflects over how he’s spent his time over the last few days. “You can’t confuse self-reflection with self-flagellation,” Alex Fielding says. “Use the time to reflect on your past, not your past mistakes.”
Nothing can be gained from sitting silently in a room and berating yourself over something you did wrong. That’s not what self-reflection is about. Self-reflection is mentally combing over things you’ve done and realistically considering whether they were beneficial to your life and your purpose.
If, while reflecting, you find something you did that brought negativity in your life, you then ponder on whether or not you need to bring that situation back into your life again in the future. If you decide that yes, it’s something you can’t avoid, then you use your time to figure out how to better handle it when it comes around again. However, you don’t spend the time internally screaming at yourself for handling it wrong the first time.
Self-reflection is an excellent way to gain self-awareness and better yourself. Self-flagellation, on the other hand, is nothing but a waste of time and will do nothing but make you feel drained, stressed, and bad about yourself. It’s never healthy or beneficial.
Other times, Fielding does nothing during his 30-minute windows. He sits, drinks his coffee or water, and just relaxes. “Some days, I just go somewhere beautiful, somewhere peaceful and just sit. I don’t meditate. I don’t self-reflect. I just enjoy the peace and the silence. Sometimes that’s all you need,” he says.
Whether you meditate, self-reflect, enjoy the silence or spend your alone time in another fashion, it’s just important that you take time for yourself. Dedicate a chunk of time every day to get away from work, family, friends, pets and responsibilities of all kinds.
Go somewhere you feel safe and at peace, and practice self-care any way you enjoy. If a thirty-minute run is what you need, then take that run. If you want to sit in a comfy chair with a candle burning and soft music playing, do that. If you want to relax in a bubble bath with the lights dimmed, take that bath. There are no wrong answers, as long as you are taking time just for you.
Vacations Are Important
Another way Fielding stays focused and keeps from burning out too quickly is by taking time off from his job. This is real time off, not just little breaks in the day, but actual days at a time away from Ripcord and his other responsibilities.
“There is such a thing as focusing too intently on work,” he says. He is an extremely hard worker, and his company is one of the most important things in the world to him. Even so, he knows he can’t remain focused on the company and his responsibilities 365 days a year.
He arranges small getaways for himself, sometimes alone and sometimes with family and/or friends. Sometimes these trips are simply short, overnight trips. Other times, he takes longer vacations. “It’s hard, sometimes, on a long vacation to relax and let go of work for that long,” he says. “If I’m gone from the company for more than three days, I sometimes feel like I’m abandoning my baby,” he says with a laugh.
He encourages people to take trips and vacations for themselves, too. He certainly understands how hard it can be to leave your job for days at a time, especially if it’s a company you built yourself; it’s like your child. When you’re gone too long, you feel like you’re leaving a part of yourself behind to fend for itself.
But sometimes in your relationship with your career, just like in any other relationship, you need to take some time for yourself.
Time away from work doesn’t have to be expensive or elaborate either. There are overnight and weekend trips that are very reasonably priced. Staycations can be just as effective as taking a long trip across the country. It isn’t necessarily about the trip or the “going somewhere.”
Instead, it’s just about getting away from work and taking time for yourself. Many people like to do this by hopping on a plane and flying to another country. Others like to take long drives to a new state. Still others like to spend their time away from work at home with their friends, family or pets, just lying around and enjoying their lives.
Fielding enjoys a mixture of both. He loves to travel, and sometimes a week away in a totally new environment is just what he needs to recharge and come back to work refreshed and full of new ideas. Other times, he loves just going for a weekend away in one of his favorite cities.
Occasionally, he doesn’t go anywhere at all. He likes taking time off and just going home. This gives him time to do all the things he loves doing but for which he doesn’t always have the time. During these staycations, he catches up on his favorite shows, listens to his favorite albums, does some gaming and finally gets to play with some of the new tech he’s purchased but never seems to have time to enjoy while he’s working.
The Bottom Line
When it comes right down to it, the most important advice Fielding gives to anyone who asks him how not to burn out on work is this: take some time for yourself.
How you take this time for yourself isn’t the important thing. It’s just important that you do it. No matter how old you are, how much money you make or what your job title is, you can always make time for yourself in one way or another.
If you can afford it and your schedule allows it, take time off from work to travel. Visiting new places can be incredibly stimulating for both the mind and the body. Fielding swears that he’s come up with some of his very best ideas after returning from somewhere new. There’s just something very inspiring and invigorating about visiting the unknown.
However, if travel of this type isn’t possible for you for whatever reason, don’t travel. You can still take plenty of time for yourself without taking a single day off work or spending a single cent. Ensuring that you take a half hour for yourself before you go to bed at night or before you leave for work in the mornings can be just as beneficial as a trip across the world.
The important thing is to maintain balance. Alex Fielding works to live; he doesn’t live to work. No matter what else is going on in his life, he makes self-care a priority, and he encourages everyone around him to do the same.