Small business owners and entrepreneurs work hard. Sometimes you don’t feel like you have a choice. You’re the only person with a handle on all the pieces of the business, and you’re also the one who’s most committed to its success. But that’s exactly the reason why you may actually need to work less and look after your health and fitness. The truth is that the more exhausted you are, the less productive and successful you will be. And that could be disastrous for the future of your business.
A recent article by Elizabeth Grace Saunders called The Lost Art of Free Time talks about relearning the art of rest. It doesn’t make sense to work 50-80 hours a week. Instead, if you’re going to remain creative and productive and give your best to the job, you actually need to learn when it’s time to take time off. It’s about being tuned in to what your body needs and knowing that it’s okay to deliver it. That applies to almost every aspect of health and wellbeing.
Let’s talk about the biggie: exercise. That’s often the first thing you leave behind when you’re trying to get jobs done and be more productive. Somehow it seems you just don’t have enough time to go for a walk or get on that treadmill, because there are so many other revenue generating tasks you could be doing instead.
But you do, and here’s why.
Blake Commagere recently wrote an article on Techcrunch that really resonated with me. He said it was about reframing the effect and importance of exercise to your job. Here’s the quote that struck me:
“Anything that increases my productivity and/or efficiency is part of my job, and anything that reduces my productivity/efficiency is part of my job to not do.”
In other words, when you exercise, you are less stressed and healthier, which makes you more productive.
Exercise actually boosts your energy levels, and it’s a great way to beat the mid-morning or mid-afternoon slump. Split your target exercise time into two sessions and do one just before each lull. It will get your brain working again and stop you from experiencing the lack of productivity that comes with the slump.
If you’re pushed for time, you don’t even have to exercise for long or leave the office. There are plenty of exercises you can do at work to keep the brain and body active.
How else could you get fit for the job? Here are some ideas.
That’s a great way to avoid that empty, depleted feeling that saps your concentration. Make this a habit – maybe by having a bottle on your desk so you can sip throughout the day or taking a break every hour to head to the water cooler – and you will improve your hydration, health and focus.
What do you eat and when? If you’re grabbing a cup of coffee as you rush through the door in the morning, snacking on a bag of crisps after missing lunch and working through the evening mealtime then you’re not doing yourself any favors. Your body and brain need fuel, so avoid unhealthy snack attacks and missed meals. Not only will that reduce your productivity, but in the long run it could also seriously damage your health. You certainly don’t want that.
There are lots of studies on what the right approach is for a healthy, balanced diet. You might believe that you should have six small meals a day or three big ones. Or your goal could be to consume five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. You could be a virtuous vegetarian or a confirmed carnivore. Whatever your approach to diet, the important thing is to have a plan that works for your metabolism and stick to it.
Let’s face it if you are up till 3 AM and then start your day at 6 AM, after a while you’re going to start experiencing the signs of burnout. Fatigue, disinterest in everything and sluggish thoughts will impair productivity and hurt your business. Instead of a burnout that could put you out of commission for months, make sure you get enough rest at regular intervals. Some people manage well on five hours sleep a night; others need at least eight. Whatever works to keep you ticking over is what you need, then you can build the rest of your day around that.
Relaxation isn’t the same as rest, though it can achieve the same aim. This is about calming the mind in various ways. Breathing exercises can help with that, or you could start your day with meditation, which is proven to improve blood circulation to the brain, focus, memory and energy.
Incorporating your health and fitness goals into a daily routine will help keep you productive and motivated. For example, you could start your day with meditation and a good breakfast, followed by setting your important tasks (MITs). Once you head to work you can drink some water then eat those frogs and get the most difficult and time-consuming task out of the way first before you hit the morning slump.
A short exercise session will prep your brain for the second task (remember, we recommend no more than three important tasks per day) which you can complete before lunch. If you’re going out for lunch, why not choose somewhere in walking distance so you come back energized and ready for the third task?
Incorporate making calls and checking emails where it makes most sense, then head home to plan the next day, have a meal and get a good night’s sleep. Doesn’t that sound like a more balanced and productive life?