Quitting my job just over a year ago, I knew there was going to be long hours and hard work ahead of me. Heading into another grueling tax time in July 2016 – the winter kilos were already gaining. 12+ hours a day and often 7 days a week spent in front of a computer sitting on my ass wasn’t doing me any favours. And whilst I was excited about this new journey I was on, being a business owner and having this extra “freedom”, I was feeling terrible, physically and mentally. It didn’t take long for me to figure out that something had to change. To put in long hours and perform at a high level, I needed to lift to another level and create a more balanced life.
I had fallen into the trap that many small business owners fall into: not eating well, gaining weight, and having some pretty bizarre sleeping patterns (what was sleep?). As a small business owner, you already have so much going on, who has time for balance? To be a business owner and entrepreneur meant that business came first, at the expense of all else, including health, family and friends.
The health of the business should not come at the expense of the business owner. Prioritise you. Be selfish. Self-care will allow you to be more effective and productive at the times when you are working.
While I still have a long way to go to and a lot to learn, here are some of the things I’ve learnt so far:
- Get fit & healthy (a constant work-in-progress)
Your energy levels are crucial to getting the most out of your day. If you aren’t in good physical condition, you can’t expect to get the best out of yourself, or those around you. Be a role model, it’s hard to inspire others when you aren’t healthy. Accounting software provider Xero found that almost four in five owners at small companies agreed their physical and emotional health had a direct impact on bottom line profits. Put this at the top of your list: exercise, eat well – and tell me you don’t feel better and that your business isn’t running more efficiently.
- Meditation (or down-time)
Stress and anxiety are productivity killers. If, like me, your brain is switched on and in overdrive almost 24 hours a day, you’re going to wear yourself out. Find something that works for you. Meditation might not be for everyone, but you need some downtime. Whether this is watching some trashy TV, walking the dog with some tunes or catching up with friends or family. For those keen to try meditation, try a guided track, or download the app “headspace”.
- Be clear on your vision (why do you do it?)
If you can’t clearly visualise what you are trying to achieve, it’s going to be very hard to get there. Figure out why you want and go after it with EVERYTHING YOU HAVE. You don’t need to know exactly what the VISION is now, but start working on it. Write it down, draw it. Discuss it with your team or loved ones. And then nail it. Simon Sinek’s “start with why” might get you going. The more we work on our vision at RBK the more focused I am day each day, knowing that every small task and goal we tick off takes us closer to achieving that vision.
- Be positive
Attitude & gratitude. Replacing negative terms and sentences with positive ones. The mind is such a powerful tool; you can control your own feelings. Try practicing gratitude and changing the way you think about things. We can waste more time complaining and worrying about this and that or use the time to fix the issue and learn from it.
- Rest and restore
I’m going to admit that I am still failing at this one, but for now I am used to firing on all cylinders on only 6 hours sleep. Yes, I am telling you that you need to find extra hours in the day to exercise and meditate, and then I want you to get enough rest. Not just sleeping enough to get by day-to-day; rest from working and being wired from working. Writing this after a weekend away I feel refreshed and ready to tackle another huge week. Xero ranked encouraging a positive work-life balance across all levels of a business as the second biggest productivity booster among owners. Find what works for you, but unplug from social media, be present with your loved ones, rest, restore, read, walk, sleep, be in nature.
- Have FUN
What’s the point in working so hard if you can’t enjoy it? Remember to have fun. Smile. Laugh. Be happy. If you aren’t enjoying yourself in what you spend the majority of your life doing, it’s time to rethink that business or career and go searching for whatever makes you happy. I honestly love what I do and have fun every day, but a lot of that comes down to the culture and values we have.