When you love your work, you can easily become borderline obsessed with it. But there is a fine line between having a healthy relationship with your career and being all-consumed by it.
COVID-19 hasn’t made it easier to disconnect. Business owners have been thrust into the unknown in a sudden, difficult, confusing way. Yet with September being National Self-Care Awareness Month, entrepreneurs like you and me need to be mindful of this need to slow down. Being so absorbed with work that your stress consumes you won’t help you or your business.
Leaders define their cultures. If they don’t take their own health seriously, employees will notice. Sure, CEOs can push workers to take advantage of paid time off, but if they constantly send emails until the wee hours of the morning to off-duty personnel, staff members will be reluctant to disconnect because of the example being set for them.
That said, if you’ve fallen into the trap of believing that taking care of yourself is a luxury you can’t afford, think again. Your energy directly affects everyone around you, from your administrative assistant to your biggest clients to your largest investors. A leader who’s disconnected emotionally can’t persuade, guide, or inspire.
In “The Entrepreneur’s Book of Actions,” I spend time discussing the need to prioritize self-care because it’s so vital to wellness—not just of the individual, but of the corporation as a whole. To help you revisit the way you feel about heading up a team, take the following leaders’ words to heart. They’ve each found a signature way to thwart burnout and thrive in business.
1. Kim Lawton, Founder and CEO at Enthuse Marketing Group
When the pandemic hit, Kim Lawton watched as the entire economy shut down and shifted dramatically, wondering how she could continue to accurately make forecasts in such a mercurial environment. She quickly realized she didn’t have to go it alone. “It was refreshing to see such team commitment shine through when the world was in such as dark place,” she remembers. At the same time, she insisted her employees take frequent breaks and wrap up their workdays earlier to instill work-life balance.
Lawton doesn’t just preach balanced living. She practices it, too. During the coronavirus shelter-in-place order, she focused attention on eating more healthfully, spending time outdoors, reading, laughing daily, and being mindfully active. Though she admits feeling guilty sometimes for putting her needs ahead of the business, she has learned that stepping away is essential for coming back to work refreshed and ready to go.
Her biggest tip for surviving all the madness? Block off time to brainstorm all the things you want to do with your life. Then, write down everything that comes to mind. The exercise takes you out of the present and provides perspective. Says Lawton, “I love to look back at it over the years and see what kind of dreams and ideas I come up with when my head is clear to think.”
2. Jessica Moseley, Chief Executive Officer at TCS Interpreting
As someone who naturally focuses on others’ needs, Jessica Moseley has had to retrain her brain during COVID-19 to concentrate on her own well-being as much as that of those around her. Though it’s been challenging to manage her stress and mental health, she takes the process day by day and has been happy with the results.
To help her worry less about all the things she “should” be doing, she practices daily fitness and meditation. She does breath work four times a week and attends hypnosis sessions. Additionally, she urges her colleagues to do what they can with the resources they have, taking challenges as they come rather than trying to solve them all at once.
Moseley’s power comes from her determination to lead by example.
“Do something small,” she recommends. “Join a group of other entrepreneurs or friends to hold you accountable. Find online workouts or outdoor classes. The more focus you put on your self-care, the stronger you will be for your company and your team.”
3. Munjal Shah, Co-Founder and CEO at Health IQ
As Munjal Shah’s employees transitioned to working from home, Shah realized his team had a unique opportunity to spend more time on personal matters. Having to work differently gave everyone a chance to regain and reuse the hours they normally spent commuting on self-care.
“In the pre-COVID world, I would have lost hours of my week to driving and flying in my commute,” reflects Shah. “I’ve found more time and more consistency for my workouts this way.”
Shah has also made separating work and non-work time a bigger part of his life. He has dinner with family and plays board games at night. Additionally, he’s found that being outdoors can be a way to appreciate the rest of the world and even socialize. “I try to invite neighbors, keeping six feet apart and socially distanced, to go biking with me or outdoors for a driveway outdoor workout,” he says.
Of course, when he’s working, he’s made an effort to switch up his physical spaces. Shah never works in the same room, which he says helps him avoid feeling too cooped up. He suggests co-workers do likewise and even outfit their work-at-home spaces with active equipment like standing and walking desks to improve fitness levels.
4. Patrick Bardsley, CEO and Co-Founder at Spectrum Designs
Early March wasn’t easy for Patrick Bardsley. For about two weeks, he felt like he was walking around in a state of shock. With the help of a coach and his teammates, he snapped out of his initial distress. Now, he reports feeling hyperfocused and able to channel his energies by meditating daily using the Calm or Headspace apps, exercising several times a week, and eating healthfully at least 85% of the time.
Little by little, he’s scratching away at the idea that being an entrepreneur means embracing adages like, “Sleep is for the weak.” As Bardsley explains, “I try and remind myself daily that if I don’t take care of my health, I can’t be the best I can be for the business, our team, or my family.” One way he’s upped his game is by making mental and physical health part of the company’s core values, offering mindfulness sessions during work hours as well as a robust employee assistance program and counseling from the head of HR, who’s a licensed social worker. “There should be no stigma for taking care of either,” he believes.
Bardsley knows it can be tough to switch gears, particularly if you’re driven. Consequently, he advocates working self-care into your schedule, knowing that you might not hit your targets all the time.
5. Jason Bornhorst, CEO at First Dollar
Working in the healthcare industry, Jason Bornhorst experienced COVID a little differently from other leaders. He felt a sense of purpose, as his company became even more relevant during coronavirus. Nevertheless, Bornhorst was under stress and anxiety, just like every other startup leader.
Daily meditation helps Bornhorst manage his mind. He also enjoys using WHOOP, a piece of wearable tech that helps individuals stay on top of wellness performance goals. And with a home life that includes two young kids, he’s committed to being present for his family by tuning out work periodically. “Prioritizing self-care at a startup starts with the CEO,” he says. “I’m focusing on my family in the evening and not emailing.”
How does Bornhorst still manage to get everything done? He wakes up early and does his self-care tasks first. “If you don’t take care of yourself first, you’re racking up ‘self-care debt,’ and it will take its toll eventually.”
6. Josh Turner, Founder and CEO at Connect365.io
Josh Turner considers himself lucky because his company wasn’t as hard-hit by COVID as some other businesses were. Nonetheless, stress still found his team. Through adaptation and acceptance, they shifted rapidly to new ways of working. Despite their resilience, Turner still had to find a way to let off steam, which has come in the form of physical exercise, sometimes twice daily.
“If I focus too much on work, at the expense of other areas of my life, then eventually my work will suffer, too. So it’s important to disconnect, eat healthy, workout, etc.,” he explains.
Because he’s so fervent about blocking off personal time, he’s able to avoid letting work creep in and take over. Yes, he makes compromises, but not at the expense of his well-being.
Turner wants his people to be just as diligent, which is why he rarely asks employees to work nights or weekends. He notes, “I know they need this time to recharge and come back to work excited to jump in and be their most productive.”
7. Corey Davis, Founder and CEO at DaysToHappy
Hard. Intense. Emotionally and physically exhausting. That’s how Corey Davis would describe running a business during typical times. But with coronavirus? Everything’s amplified, which is why Davis has started waking up at 5 o’clock to begin the day with mind management, meditation, self-reflection, gratitude identification, and mantra recitation. Davis has even started taking in more plant-based foods and spending more time outside in moderate to intense activity.
Though he gets a reward for being so diligent, the bigger reward is being in a better position to be a shoulder for others. “I take time in the morning to identify someone I can serve and help during the day,” Davis explains. This exercise keeps his business in perspective and makes sure he’s focused on a bigger purpose. Starting the day with positivity and healthy morning routines enables him to buzz through the rest of his hours without worrying that he’ll have to shoehorn activities into his evening later.
His best tip for other entrepreneurs? Use what’s available to make life healthier for those around you.
“Since 70% of employees are more stressed out now more than ever before in their careers, take advantage of wellness/mindfulness programs and provide opportunities for your employees to participate in similar programs as well,” Davis says. “My goal is to have no negative thoughts for one year. I’m two months in, and it has been an incredible learning experience for me.”
Being at the top of your company isn’t just a chance for you to grow a brand. It’s an opening for you to radically influence people’s lives. Start by changing your own habits, and then see how you can transform those around you by encouraging them to follow suit.