Douglas Beech, 37, is a serial entrepreneur who knows how important self-care can be. While running HiretheWorld, a Vancouver company that connects employers with professional designers around the world, he worked 12- to 16-hour days that left him exhausted. After selling the company, he’s now taking a different approach in his new business Jumping High Five which creates collaborative educational board games.
My best strategy for success is to make my health and happiness my number one priority on my daily to-do list.
As the owner of a business, you might work from the time you wake up until right before you go to sleep. You might also not be able to remember the last time you had a real vacation.
So, what can you do to avoid burning out when it’s tough to completely disconnect from your business? Here are seven self-care tips for business owners from Doug and other entrepreneurs.
1. Understand why self-care is important.
Self-care might seem like a luxury, but it’s actually critical to running your business says Trina Isakson, 37, of 27 Shift Consulting.
“As a business owner, I can’t rely on other people for things like sick leave or disability leave, and so I try to take care of myself at all times,” she said. “That way, I will be less likely to find myself in a situation where I’m stuck because I don’t have someone to fill in for me, or I don’t have income coming in.”
Concerned about what might happen to your business if you’re unable to work? You might want to look into disability insurance and key person insurance, which may give you a payout that can be used to hire someone temporarily or cover overhead if you (or any key employee) becomes disabled.
2. Start your day right.
When it comes to getting yourself into the right mindset to face your hectic day, Beech suggests creating a morning routine.
“I wake up, make tea, meditate, stretch, and do a workout that raises my heart rate,” he says. This helps him feel more relaxed and centered so he can respond without anxiety to any unexpected setbacks or last-minute customer requests.
According to Harvard Medical School, exercise may be key to reducing your stress, and doing any physical activity for as little as 20 minutes may make an impact on improving your mental health. Working out in the morning may even mean you benefit from lower stress levels all day long.
3. Understand your energy peaks and valleys.
Amy Robichaud, 31, principal at AR Strategies, suggests scheduling your days according to when you tend to have the most energy.
“A big part of my self-care is structuring my days so that my most critical work happens at times of peak energy,” she said. For her, that’s in the mornings. Since she considers herself an introvert, she often feels lower energy and the need to decompress after social activities.
“If I’m facilitating a workshop, or presenting a keynote, I know my energy will be drained afterwards,” she says. “So I schedule in time for some solitude and try to ensure that any business tasks that follow aren’t particularly demanding.”
4. Take advantage of a flexible schedule.
Many business owners work more hours than their salaried friends but have more flexible schedules. Isakson likes to break up her work day by going bargain hunting at thrift stores or going hiking. These are things that are easier to do during work hours, she says, than on the weekends when thrift stores are busier and hiking trails are more in use .
Having a flexible schedule means you may also get personal errands done at times when fewer people are around. For example, you may save time by going grocery shopping at 10:00 a.m. rather than after most people get off work.
5. Disconnect temporarily.
You might not be able to get away to a secluded beach on a regular basis, but you can likely take a night off every now and then, or take a vacation over a long weekend. But sometimes disconnecting can be as simple as switching off your phone at a particular time every night.
Robichaud, who works from home, has a ritual to disconnect from her business.
“I physically put my laptop away and clean my desk at the end of each day,” she says. “My phone goes into ‘do not disturb’ mode by nine at night so that none of my email or messages ping me.”
To ensure that her clients don’t expect her to be working 24/7, she sets expectations upfront around her working hours and lets clients know ahead of time if she is going to be out of the office or not reachable.
6. Charge what you’re worth.
If you're feeling overwhelmed with work, Isakson suggest you might not be charging enough for your products or services.
“Being really busy often can come from undervaluing one’s self, and that might look like charging less than you’re worth,” she says. “It could also mean taking on work out of guilt rather than excitement, joy, or love for the work.” Isakson cautions against taking on too much work rather than taking on the right work.
7. Schedule your leisure.
When you feel overwhelmed with work, you might forget to schedule things that are fun in your downtime. To fix that, consider signing up for a weekly class, making a date with your spouse once a week, or having a family fun night every month. If it’s in your calendar, you’ll be more likely to do it.
Beech plans time with friends in the evenings — whether it’s meeting up for a quick meal or going for a hike. “In the winter, I try to plan at least one half day skiing every single week. I also play hockey and a bunch of other sports,” he says.
He believes scheduling non-work activities keeps him from getting too stressed out and allows him to work harder the rest of the time.
Your health may impact your bottom line.
Ultimately, all the entrepreneurs interviewed believed that practicing proper self-care was not only worthwhile, but also had a positive impact on their businesses.
“When health and well-being underpin your days,” says Robichaud, “Business ownership is rewarding and freeing, and it all becomes part of a virtuous cycle of personal resilience and professional prosperity.”
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