As entrepreneurs, it is far too common to try and be the superhero in our business. The part of our DNA that makes us passionate and hardworking often blinds us into believing IF we are capable of doing something required to grow our business, then it is our responsibility to make sure it gets done.
Fact is, we all have a limited pool of cognitive resources. As stress levels increase, symptoms like these can begin to appear that are detrimental to our business:
- General forgetfulness/ability to store memories
- Decreased focus and concentration
- Reduced immunity – Feeling sick more frequently and/or for longer periods of time
- Increased levels of frustration and hostility
- Difficulty making decisions and reduced productivity
Still not sold on the dangers of stress? Consider these facts from the American Psychological Association:
Stress hurts business
As stress symptoms start to increase, our businesses tend to suffer. Rebecca Liston, a London, Ontario-based business coach and consultant, frequently sees this for what it is, in her business:
“When I coach anyone in business, no matter how big the business, I have this same conversation with them. The sustainability of any business requires a solid foundation, and the keystone of that foundation is the business owner themselves. What happens to the business if the owner is falling apart?”
Simply put, happy and healthy business owners create better businesses.
Take a step back
Entrepreneurs get paid for problem solving and creativity, and as counterproductive as it seems, the secret to turning your business (and life) around might be as simple as slowing down. Taking time off is often the best way to relieve stress and recharge your batteries, so you can return to your business with the ability to be more creative and productive.
It also allows you the time to put things into perspective.
“My brother died at 59, one year before he was scheduled to retire. That was my wake-up call,” reflects Cathy Brown-Swanton, owner of Studio Wellness Clinic in London, Ontario. “The more I step away, the better my business when I return.”
Of course, while Cathy’s story might be an extreme example, the point is that nobody ever regretted taking a reasonable step back.
It’s also about enjoying experiences, and spending time with those you care about. It is certainly about more than collecting and hoarding money.
While taking a few days or more off is ideal, however, it isn’t always practical in the short term. So how can you take the time you need to keep your stress levels in check and get the most out of life, while continuing to build your business?
Tips for slowing down
Rebecca Liston offers up these tips for reducing stress in the short-term — until you can schedule at least a few days off. “They may sound simple, but they make a huge difference!” Rebecca says. “What it really comes down to is creating a rhythm so that your body knows a break is coming…and then actually take the break! If we overdo it, our body cannot sustain that lifestyle, and things start to fall apart.”
Start and end your day according to a schedule.
Beginning and ending your work day at the same time each day helps our body “predict” when it’s time to work and time to rest. As Rebecca explains:
“You know how they tell parents to have a standard bed-time routine for kids, so that they know it’s time to settle down and relax and get to sleep? Same theory applies for adults. Your body needs to know that the opportunity for rest is coming so that it can wind down naturally.”
Stop working on weekends.
Yes, that means you. Take advantage of those two days — or at least part of them — to give yourself a break. “Your body is counting on you to take a break and allow it to rest,” Rebecca says. “If you don’t provide time for your body to rest, it will take the time — by becoming sick!”
Shut off your electronics an hour before bed.
Phones, tablets, TV … all that screen-time is stimulating for your brain. It needs time to wind down before you go to sleep. “If you want to take it one step further, leave all the technology out of the bedroom completely,” Rebecca suggests. “There is enough evidence to suggest that having all those wireless devices near to us isn’t healthy — so let your body have a break at night while it sleeps.”
Become super-tight with your schedule.
By blocking your days with a smart schedule of different tasks and intermittent downtime, you can establish a rhythm that’s better for your health. Here’s how Rebecca does it:
“I see clients only three days per week. On Mondays, I do my marketing and writing. And on Fridays I wrap things up and head off for a networking lunch or hit the spa (or both!) During each of the days that I have clients, I have a tight schedule allowing for breaks every two hours and a longer lunch. Again, having this kind of rhythm allows my body to know that a break is coming, that there will be time to catch my breath — and that means my body and my brain don’t get stuck in a rhythm of ‘over-doing’ and ‘push push push.’”
You don’t have to study transcendental meditation to make this work. Simply sit in silence and breathe deeply for a few minutes a few times every day. “Again,” Rebecca says, “this provides your brain and your body the time it needs to restore itself.”
Take care of you
At the end of the day, ensuring the future success of your business may come down to taking care of you. By simply getting your body into a proper work/recharge routine, and taking time off when you can, your improved health and mood might be the secret to unlocking the energy and creativity you’ll need to get your business to the next level.
Image by: Ryan McGuire