Being an entrepreneur is like being a professional athlete. Entrepreneurs are high performers as well and could take a few lessons from them. The pro athlete's job is to perform at the top of his game, day after day, week after week, year after year — and he doesn’t feel guilty about taking time to care for himself physically.
Entrepreneurs can learn to think the same way. In order to be smart, creative, visionary, capable…all the things you want to be, you must take care of the physical you. It is one of your responsibilities as CEO.
Imagine what you could do at your very best.
Break Bad Habits
If you are like most of us entrepreneurs, you think you have to put in more and more hours to get ahead. Weekdays, weekends, holidays; there are simply not enough hours in the day to do everything that needs doing. The run you planned after work or the lunchtime yoga class keep falling by the wayside. The night to catch up on sleep is filled with another networking event. “The company is more important,” you tell yourself. “There will be time for that later.” Except later rarely comes.
When you were first starting out in your business you probably had the energy to just power through day after day. Now that you have been doing this for years, holding onto these habits that wear you down can put you on the path towards burning out. Taking care of your physical needs is critical to performing at your highest level.
You Are Your Company’s Highest Leverage Point
We spend a lot of time as entrepreneurs considering key leverage points for our companies. What new sales strategy will skyrocket revenue? What speaker/book/conference will give us the tools to drive profit, engage employees, or whatever improvement we are seeking? Most of us spend a lot of time and money working for these changes.
Consider the fact that YOU are your company’s key leverage point. You drive the values. You set the vision. You lead the team and set an example for how things will operate. You have had many of the brilliant ideas that keep the company going. At times, you have dragged that company forward through pure force of will. Even a small change in your performance can have an enormous impact on your company — for better or worse. When you invest in your physical self, you ensure that the impact is positive.
Leave Guilt Behind
Many of us feel great about investing in our products, customers, or employees, yet we feel guilty spending time and money on ourselves. Just as pro athletes don’t feel indulgent about getting a massage, we need to resist feeling guilty for spending time at the gym. You will be surprised at how your energy increases and how much more effective you’ll be in the hours that you do work.
Other guilt-free activities include:
- Going for walks
- Taking a break every 60-90 minutes
- Doing a short guided meditation
- Taking a nap (no, really)
- Turning off the electronic devices (this can be a hard one)
Break Bad Habits
To stay on track, put your healthy habits on your calendar and treat them just like you would any other important meeting or task. Once you get started you will feel the benefits, which reinforce those habits and help us keep going.
Over time, you will build up your capacity and capabilities until you are operating at a much higher level with less stress. It takes time, but eventually you will actually miss these activities if you don’t do them. (Even that grueling gym class, I promise!)
Start slowly; start small. Don’t decide you will start following an extreme new diet cold turkey or spend an hour a day at the gym seven days a week. Most of us fall off the wagon pretty quickly when we make dramatic changes too quickly. Instead, start with small changes that feel absurdly easy to accomplish.
Where to Start
You can start by becoming aware of how you feel from day to day. One of my coaching clients, John, wanted to reduce his stress. I had him rate his stress level at the end of every day, so we would know his stress trends and connect them to his daily activities. We found a few unexpected correlations between some of John’s activities and his stress levels.
The next step is to build small habits that benefit the physical you. We started introducing small healthy habits to John’s routine. He was surprised to see how 15 minute walks, short workouts, weekly massages, and leaving the office earlier reduced his stress. He was very surprised to see that he was actually getting more done in less time, with far less stress and pain. He was also making better, faster decisions under pressure, decisions that moved his company forward in a big way. Now when John feels his stress levels going up, he knows to combat them by taking care of himself physically.
Experiment to find what works for you. Something that works for someone else may not have the same effect. If you try a new workout and aren’t enjoying it, it’s perfectly ok to try something different. You are the only one who can evaluate what activities make you feel better, smarter, and stronger.
Have Fun With It
While these changes can feel like a lot to add to an already busy life, it shouldn’t be painful. Make it fun. Make it Awesome! Find a physical activity you want to do, as research shows that doing activities you hate actually increases stress. Don’t like running? Ride a bike! Bored to tears meditating on the floor? Try a guided walking meditation.
Consider the impact that improved physical health, stamina, and resilience would have on your business, your family, and your state of mind. Small investments will pay huge dividends over time, and allow you to avoid burnout and continue being an entrepreneur for life.