How do you respond to pressure? Work/life balance under threat?

It seems that working life in the 21st century has two speeds -- flat out or unemployed.

When you are the "go-to" guy or gal for a large number of customers it is easy to find yourself being pressured to fly from one job to the next, in order to keep as many of them as possible happy and on side.

The truth of it is if you are too busy to take an occasional break and de-stress you will not be able to keep any of them happy.

Recently I found that I had skipped more lunch breaks than I had taken and this prompted me to stop and re-evaluate my priorities. I decided that my work life balance was in dire peril of tipping over.

I had been rushing from an equipment installation in Salisbury, Wiltshire to a repair job in Weymouth, Dorset. I stopped the car, took out my sandwich box, turned on the radio and relaxed.

Inevitably, the phone rang. Without thinking I answered, to find my next customer asking when I would be there. He was about 30 miles away so I told him I would be with him in an hour.

His reply was one that instantly got my back up:

"Make it 30 minutes, we need you here!"

Yes, the customer is important but your personal health is more important. If I fall ill and don't go to work none of them will be happy. Needless to say, I finished my lunch, took a short stroll, as per my doctor's instructions, and then drove to the job, where I arrived within the aforementioned hour. The customer's problem was user error, not equipment fault so, as you can imagine, I took no great pleasure in completing the documentation for invoicing.

I had a couple of days of annual leave to use up so I booked a Friday and a Monday, to give myself a long weekend off. I needed to rest an injured shoulder and in the last few weeks I have regularly wrenched my damaged tendons, setting my recovery back even further. I thought that a few days of writing, walking by the sea and some gentle banjo picking might help.

The reaction of the customers was mixed. Some wished me a happy holiday, others were indignant that I would not be at their back and call. One even told me that he would be asking my boss to refuse my request, just in case he needed me. Needless to say he was out of luck, I went ahead and took my leave, after all, nobody ever died because his paper handling equipment was out of action for a day.