Every time you get on an airplane, you will hear the same instructions: if the oxygen masks descend, put yours on before helping your kids or others who might need assistance. It’s simple: if you pass out, you’re no help to anyone. The same is true for your business. As entrepreneurs, it’s too easy to go down the path of working 90 hours and ignoring your body and health. The reality is, however, that you are your business and if you don’t take care of yourself, your business has no chance.
“But if I don’t work 100 hours, I won’t succeed!”
And if you drop dead of a heart attack, you won’t succeed. If your family leaves you because they haven’t seen you in six months, you won’t succeed. If you eat take out every day and haven’t seen the outdoors in months, you won’t succeed.
“But Elon Musk says I have to.”
This ‘advice’ is the kind of thing that people get so caught up in, to their detriment. If their particular guru says it’s so, then it must be so. “If other people are putting in 40 hours in a week, and you’re putting in 100, you will achieve in four months, what it takes them a year to achieve. That’s the type of work ethic an entrepreneur needs to have, according to Elon.” (SOURCE)
There is SOME truth in what he says. There is no getting around the fact that you have to work very long and hard to succeed as an entrepreneur. You always, however, have to consider the costs:
“But what I find is I’m able to be with [my kids] and still be on email. I can be with them and still be working at the same time … If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be able to get my job done.” (SOURCE)
I think most parents would disagree on this being quality time with the kids. There are costs to being driven and you need to know what those costs are, and what your priorities are, before you can decide that they’re worth it.
Evaluate the costs of doing business
I’m not talking about the actual dollars and cents here. I’m talking about the mental cost, the physical cost, the cost to your personal / family life. I’m talking about stress and health.
Stress kills. We know that. “Stress carries several negative health consequences, including heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, as well as immune and circulatory complications. Exposure to stress can also contribute to behaviours such as smoking, over-consumption of alcohol, and less-healthy eating habits.” (SOURCE)
But stress, for entrepreneurs, is also an inevitable side-effect of being driven to succeed. You need to be aware of stress and its effects on you and those around you.
Decide what your priorities are
I’m here to tell you something that you probably don’t want to hear: At least at first, you can’t have it all. There. I said it. When you are in the early stages of building a business, you can’t be present for your children for hours a day. You can’t be home for dinner every night. You can’t manage a date night with your spouse more than once a month, if that. You just can’t. But maybe, for you, building a successful business is how you feel you can best serve your family. Maybe for you, the way to your spouse’s heart is to be able to someday buy a cottage and retire early. You have to look at all the things you want to accomplish and prioritize them. Forget the judgment of others, forget what you think you’re ‘supposed to do’ according to some version of society’s rules. What are YOUR rules?
Realistic ways to stay on top of your health AND your business
Self-care is one of those terms that doesn’t resonate with a lot of people simply because it’s perceived as self-indulgent, even weak. That taking time out for your health is somehow ‘wrong’ and not part of the entrepreneurial work ethic. But here’s the thing: you cannot build a successful business if you are running yourself into the ground with work. So get used to the term ‘self-care’. Take it on board and make it part of your daily priorities. Yes, daily. Because you eat everyday, you sleep everyday, and you move around everyday. So, incorporating self-care as part of those daily functions has to become as natural as eating or sleeping.
Find a system, whether it’s a paper planner or project management software and get yourself organized. A lot of stress is reduced when you have a clear, physical view of what you need to do to get from A to B. It can also help you to eliminate time wasting tasks that aren’t contributing to your priorities, personally or professionally. Make sure that your planning and scheduling includes time for self-care and caring for others. Plan your meals, so that you don’t have to run out for take-out. Plan your workouts, so it’s harder to ignore them. Plan time with friends and family so that you are accountable to someone else and can’t always blow them off.
Know your body
If you know that you are most effective at 9 a.m. until about 1 p.m., schedule all the high-intensity work for that time. You will get more done in less time if you’re using time effectively versus trying to do everything at once.
If you know you tend to slump in the late afternoon, give yourself an energy boost and put your workout in that time. It’s not like you’re going to be overly productive right then, so you might as well get something done that is good for your body and mind too. This is one area where you might find multitasking actually does work: pick up your kids at school and bike home via the park; go to the grocery store on foot, taking the long route; find ways to
Give yourself a timeout
When kids get overtired, they tend to get whiny or cranky and parents are inclined to give them a timeout, so that the child can regroup. Give yourself a timeout too. No need to sit on the ‘naughty step’ but take the time to walk down the street and get a cup of coffee or sit on the porch and watch the world go by. It’s a few minutes that won’t make or break your bottom line but can cut through the frantic behaviour that is at the root of stress. And speaking of timeouts, it’s important to try and sleep. I can hear you: “Sure. Sleep. What’s that?” Our brains are whirring constantly when we’re in growth mode with a business and it’s hard to shut it down but it’s essential. Meditation is something anyone can do, anywhere. No, I’m not talking about sitting cross-legged and chanting “Om” (but if that’s what works for you, go for it!). I’m talking about purposely clearing your mind. There’s a great biofeedback technique that involves lying down and going through each part of your body, telling it to relax: “Relax the right should. Relax the left shoulder. Relax the right rib cage…” You get the gist, right? It focuses your mind, kind of like counting sheep, but can really help you to drift off to sleep. Try it.
Eat well and keep hydrated
This might seem like an obvious point but as the average entrepreneur what they ate and drank in the past 24 hours and if they can even remember, they will likely say things like coffee, take out, pizza… A quick bowl of soup standing over the kitchen sink. Just as with exercise, you can’t fuel your entrepreneurial dreams with pepperoni. Trust me on this. If you can’t take the time to plan and prepare proper meals, there are services where you can bulk prep a week’s worth of meals in an hour or two. Or have healthy meals delivered to your home for your dinners, so that at least one meal a day is good for you. Whatever you need to do to make eating right a priority, do it.
Do you have techniques that you use to keep your health in mind when you’re working 100 hours? What works for you? What doesn’t? Share with us!