It is easy to think that your personal habits have nothing to do with your success. Yet, taking good care of yourself is key to being a successful person both at home and at work.
When you start a business, you often are doing more than one person’s worth of work. You not only make products; you make deliveries and clean the bathroom too. Often the first things that are sacrificed are the ones most important to your ability to keep going. It isn’t unusual for this to happen in a little sequence of choices so that you look up and realize that your habits have slipped into unhealthy territory. If you aren’t careful, this continues as you add staff.
These are the things I see as most important:
I recently met with a client excited about the expansion of her business. As she was enthused about all the new things she could do, I asked what day of the week she was going to designate as her day off. It was clear that taking time off wasn’t on her radar at all. I know that if we fast forward a few months with no days off, that her enthusiasm will diminish because of exhaustion and burn out. Don’t wait for your body to make you stop. Plan for time off and define what time off is to you. Remember, if you are constantly checking your phone and texting with clients, that isn’t time off. At minimum you need a full day each week where you are not thinking of work.
It is so easy to get started on a project and just want to get finished, so you push through feeling tired, burning eyes, hunger and even urges to go to the bathroom. Research shows that the project will take longer and have more mistakes if you aren’t taking breaks. A good rule of thumb is working for 55 minutes and then taking a 5-minute break. Learn what refreshes you and do those things in your 5-minute window.
The advent of devices like the smart phone often means that we let our work get interrupted over and over. There are tasks you need to do that require you to concentrate. When you are interrupted, you start over again and again. Decide when you are going to do those things and make an appointment with yourself in your calendar. Don’t allow calls, emails, texts or people popping in to disrupt that dedicated time. You’ll be surprised how much more you get done!
There are many different eating plans. I know that what works for my body may not work for yours. Rather than trying to encourage you to do what works for my body, I’m encouraging you to figure out what works for yours. Do you feel better as a vegetarian? Eating meat? Eating carbs? Find what works for you and then do it 85-90% of the time. For example, I still feel good if, once in a while, I grab an order of fries but I don’t feel good if I eat fries all the time. This may mean planning for food differently so you don’t fall back on what is in the vending machine. If meal prep is something you struggle with, look for a service in your area that will meal prep for you – remember, you are responsible for ensuring it is done, not for doing everything yourself.
Fresh air and sunshine are good for the body and the soul. Your mood will improve and you’ll actually feel more energized. This might be a walk at lunch, a few of your 5-minute breaks, before or after work. Unless the weather truly makes it impossible, enjoy fresh air daily.
Just like I don’t want to dictate your meals, I also don’t want to dictate your exercise plan. Some people want to do something more strenuous than others. Your body works better when it moves. Go for a walk. Go dancing. Ride a bike. Do yoga. Run. Go to the gym. Stretch at home. Do something daily to move your body. Your body and your mood will both be positively impacted.
It is considered “common sense” that skimming on sleep is a way to get more done. The truth is that you are less productive, more likely to get sick, grumpier and feel less personal joy and satisfaction when you are tired. Most people need 7-9 hours per night. Studies show that adults are often working on 5-6 hours. Getting good sleep means turning the screens off, taking time to unwind and figuring out what makes it easy for you to sleep. Is it a warm bath before bed? A warm beverage? Certain pajamas? A meditation recording? Maybe you need a little melatonin. Figure out how to get the sleep you need and then make it something you consistently do.
It is easy to say that you’ll do the things that you love when you have left over time. If we’re honest, you will likely have a to do list that is never done. That means there will never be left over time. You must make the things you love a priority. Life has chapters – this chapter may have less leisure time in it but you need some leisure time. Make this an appointment with yourself. Book the dance lesson, tennis match, massage or martial arts class in your schedule and act just like it was a meeting with your top client – because it is just that important.
If you are feeling overwhelmed, pick just one thing and do that. When you get that down, pick something else. You don’t have to do any of this perfectly. You do need to make progress towards living in a healthier, happier way. Awareness is the first step so take an honest inventory of where you are and get clear about where you want to be. In the long run, you’ll be glad you did.