Work, work, work, push, push, push, never stop no matter what. In my first year and half of business this was certainly the case for me. Between managing inventory, making time to network, forecasting and strategizing, and building my website, I was working non-stop. I quit working out, drank coffee all day long, and said no to the majority of the non-business social events that came my way. I wasn’t alone. My colleagues were completely subscribed to the same sort of mentality. I can recall countless conversations spent one-upping each other in exhaustion. Our commitment to overworking became a badge of honor. “I haven’t showered in days.” “I haven’t left my home office in a week.” “I just don’t have time for fun.”
Fast forward to my two year mark of business. I was given a book on the subject of prioritization and how to define what is essential to my success on a daily basis. While so much of it affected me, there was one question in particular that really hit home. “What is one thing LESS you can do today to make you more productive tomorrow?” This concept of doing less was absolutely counterintuitive. Doing less certainly wasn’t the way of the entrepreneur. How could I face my peers if I started doing less?
Ask yourself this question regularly and apply it to your personal life as well as your small business. What would it look like to exchange checking your e-mail first thing in the morning for a five minute meditation? How much more clearly would you be able to think if you chose to get an extra hour of sleep instead of staying up late to work on a proposal? Physically imagine the difference you would see trading coffee for water or a healthy snack.
This approach might seem lofty but it’s actually the secret weapon to succeeding at entrepreneurship. I can remember a phone call from a friend who sobbed deliriously to me. He was exhausted from months of selling at multiple marketplaces, running his online shop and barely sleeping for about 3 weeks. He hit his breaking point as he boarded a flight for a investment meeting across the country. It would be difficult to argue this state as one of ultimate productivity.
Prioritizing self care begins with prioritizing self awareness – understanding your capacity is key. Before you add to your plate, decide if you can actually fulfill the request, given the time and resources available to you. Guard against the practice of trying to fit one more thing into your schedule. Choose to be the kind of person and type of business that does fewer things extremely well.
Before placing my personal care over my profession, I was seeing my health decline quickly. I began regularly battling colds, adrenal fatigue and exhaustion. It was taking me longer to do simple tasks, make decisions and focus. I was emotional and frustrated. Identifying my rhythms helped me to remedy these side effects almost instantly. Take a few moments to jot down when you feel energized and what your ideal “balanced” day looks like. I noted that sleeping, high intensity workouts, time spent outside, play and healthy meals throughout the day is the recipe for a much more productive me. Those adjustments allowed for better decision making, more creativity and significantly lower stress levels, in other words high productivity.
It might seem simple but when you’re under pressure or even hyper-focused on something it’s easy to forget to do these things. Here are five rhythms to get you started.
- Journal daily – Even if it’s two sentences, this allows you to slow down and reflect on your day. Ask yourself how the day went. Be sure to acknowledge who/what you’re grateful for.
- Breathe/Meditate – Ten deep breathes or a pause to meditate for five minutes can drastically change your stress levels. Try this once a day for an added sense of peace and clarity.
- Protect your sleep – Whether you need ten hours a night or five, make sure it happens and make sure it happens well. The quality of your sleep will energize you for days to come.
- Play/Use your imagination – Play is an imperative form of self care for entrepreneurs. It speeds up our learning, enhances productivity, keeps us functional under stress and triggers creativity and innovation. Even in the smallest form play is effective!
- Take breaks/vacations – Unplugging to get away is highly rejuvenating. It gives us entrepreneurs something to look forward to and permission to relax. Whether it’s a weekend trip or two week excursion use vacations to be inspired and find rest.
Prioritizing personal care will only allow you to find even more energy and it will serve as an competitive edge in the long run. When everyone else has burned out, you will absolutely still be thriving!