Self-care is the key to good health and well-being.
8 min read
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Entrepreneurs are often terrible at taking care of themselves. They pride themselves on working long hours and barely leaving their desks. If you have ever found yourself still hunched over the computer in the wee hours of the morning, and suddenly realized the only thing you ate that day was from a vending machine, then you know exactly what I mean.
It happens to many of us when we’re so focused on getting the job done that self-care slides right out the window. But entrepreneurs and business leaders who have built long-term, successful careers have learned this lesson (often the hard way). They know first-hand that even during the busiest of times, you have to carve out space to take care of yourself.
It’s time to start managing your health and well-being from the inside out, starting with a major dose of self-care. Launch into a better, happier, healthier you, starting with these eight strategies for taking care of yourself while you take care of business.
1. Create “me time” in your daily routine.
Whether it’s meditating, journaling or even playing video games, successful entrepreneurs learn to bake some valuable “me time” into their daily schedule. This means finding moments where you can quiet your mind and check in with yourself.
It’s about taking time to be self-aware; to gather your thoughts, reflect on the day and take stock of where you’re at and where you’re headed. Reshma Saujani, CEO of Girls Who Code, insists that “me time” be written into her daily schedule. During that half hour or so, she is free to pursue whatever activity she chooses, so long as it’s not related to work.
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has a ritual of taking a “think week” to spend in the forest with nothing but books and quiet. While not all of us can afford to take a whole week off, building in shorter sessions of downtime can work, too. It may be as simple as slowing down and enjoying some extra time in the morning over a cup of coffee, instead of robotically throwing on your clothes and rushing out the door. Or, instead of eating lunch while responding to emails, you might choose to back away from the computer, and actually enjoy your meal and the quiet of the moment.
2. Exercise daily.
For self-made billionaires like Richard Branson and Mark Cuban, getting a good workout daily in is a must. According to Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, staying active is part of what has made him successful because it forces him to apply himself both mentally and physically.
On his blog, Branson notes that he starts every day with exercise, whether it be tennis, bicycling or kitesurfing. “I seriously doubt that I would have been as successful in my career (and happy in my personal life), if I hadn’t always placed importance on my health and fitness,” he writes. He claims that working out has helped him guide his ventures to incredible success by allowing him to double his daily productivity.
3. Learn to say no.
We’re living in a culture where we feel we must fill every minute of every day. We overschedule ourselves and then wonder why we’re overwhelmed and unable to finish all our tasks. If that’s a problem you face, here’s a simple lesson to take to heart: you don’t need to do everything.
Learn to say no. This straightforward piece of advice is perhaps the most important thing to remember if you’re a people pleaser trying to juggle a hectic schedule. It may seem impossible to push back, but you can say no — and when you do it will be profoundly liberating.
By saying no, you give yourself time to engage in other things and reach your full potential. It may seem painful to say no at first, but with time you’ll be declining unwanted plans or nixing unimportant tasks or counterproductive meetings with ease.
If you need inspiration or don’t believe that successful entrepreneurs really say no, consider these words of wisdom from author and business executive Seth Godin: “The short run always seems urgent, and a moment where compromise feels appropriate. But in the long run, it’s the good no’s that we remember.”
4. Find ways to unwind every day.
In the hard-charging, ever-competitive world of business, many aspiring entrepreneurs focus on ways to squeeze more into each day. But the busiest people in the world have discovered that the best way to bolster productivity is to give yourself time to unwind each day.
As Tony Schwartz, best-selling author, and founder and CEO of The Energy Project, wrote in the New York Times, “Human beings aren’t designed to expend energy continuously. Rather, we’re meant to pulse between spending and recovering energy.”
By knowing when to unplug from work, you give yourself time to decompress, reconnect with loved ones and check in with your own thoughts and feelings. You’ll feel rejuvenated and better able to handle the daily pressures. Bill Gates does this by reading for an hour almost every night before bed. Other CEOs make a point of disconnecting from technology on the weekends or at night.
5. Nourish your body.
John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, has made his fortune selling healthy foods to consumers, but he also walks the talk and lives the lifestyle. Mackey, a vegan who travels with his own rice cooker, says that eating healthy can be hard for many because it’s a matter of changing old, unhealthy patterns and setting new patterns. But the ultimate payoff is feeling healthier inside and out.
This is why it’s important for aspiring entrepreneurs and business leaders to nourish their bodies through healthy eating. Eating balanced meals and snacks will help you maintain your energy, boost your mood, stay focused and be more productive.
6. Enjoy a hobby.
Everyone needs a break from work. Even the most successful entrepreneurs need to find ways to blow off steam and do something they enjoy (other than work). For former Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, that may mean taking a break from working 130 hours a week to bake cupcakes. She even keeps track of her baking efforts on a spreadsheet.
Stephen Gillett, Chronicle co-founder and CEO and former CIO of Starbucks, finds time in his daily routine for multiplayer gaming. Gillett, who is a top guild master in the online role-playing game World of Warcraft, has found that the lessons he learns in the gaming world translate into real-world leadership training.
Finally, Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, is well known for his skills at playing the ukulele. Doing something fun gives your mind a much-needed break, so you’ll be more creative and energized when it’s time to focus on work.
7. Make sleep a priority.
It should be no surprise that extreme fatigue can compromise your performance, but did you know that sleep deprivation can cause impairments that are similar to being drunk? Sleep is vital to our well-being. It’s when our body heals and repairs itself, and it’s key to supporting healthy brain function. Eight hours is the magic number for Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. He knows he needs a good night’s sleep in order to feel energized and excited, to stay mentally sharp and make thoughtful choices.
Alphabet’s executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, has said that sleep is key because it permeates every aspect of your life, including decision making, eating habits and mental ability. He believes that “successful people are aware of what their body needs and sleep whenever necessary.”
Even Bill Gates realizes that in order to be at his creative peak, he needs at least seven hours of sleep.
8. Be in the moment.
While successful entrepreneurs and CEOs find that their achievements bring prestige, wealth and influence, success can also come with a dark side. The intensity and scrutiny of their jobs can leave many feeling isolated and lonely.
That’s where mindfulness can make a huge difference. Mindfulness is learning to pay attention to your moment-to-moment experiences and focus on connecting with others on a deeper level — all of which are important to your well-being and happiness.
Arianna Huffington, co-founder of the Huffington Post and founder and CEO of Thrive Global, swears by mindfulness. She practices mindfulness meditation each morning when she wakes up. And she’s not alone. Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, has written about his use of guided meditation through apps in several articles and tweets.
Oprah Winfrey has also talked about her use of mindfulness meditation, writing in her online magazine: “Meditation is about getting still enough to know the difference between the voice and you. It’s a heightened state of being that lets whatever you’re doing be your best life, from moment to astonishing moment.”