This article was originally published on LinkedIn, you can read it here if you prefer.
Most small business owners find out too late that scheduling time to look after themselves is just as important as scheduling time to look after the business. As the owner of a small business, your time is precious and its highly likely that every second of your day is scheduled for something. We often feel “too busy” to do things for ourselves.
But for most small businesses, you ARE the business. If you work to the point of exhaustion or suffer a mental breakdown, then it is the end of everything you have worked so hard for. Looking after yourself is vital for the health of your business.
Here are 8 ways you can protect yourself from breaking down when you can least afford it:
- Prioritise physical health. Your mental health has a direct correlation to your eating habits and exercise. You don’t have to be in the best shape you have ever been in your entire life, but make sure you are healthy and active. This is particularly important if your work requires you to sit and work on a computer for long stretches of time!
- Get enough sleep. Sleep is how your brain recharges and revitalises itself. Its also vital to problem solving. The phrase “sleep on it” didn’t arise out of nowhere. Your brain has a fascinating way of working through your problems while you sleep. If something is troubling you, get some sleep. You’ll be amazed at the possible solutions you wake up with.
- If you haven’t done it already, schedule your life. An organised life is a less stressful life. Plan your days and make sure that you remember to schedule personal items too so that they don’t get forgotten!
- Stop idealising “being busy”. Being busy is not the same thing as being productive, and constant busyness without reward leads straight to burn out. Streamline your processes, delegate less important tasks, consider outsourcing certain functions – do whatever it takes to lighten the burden that sits on your shoulders. You need to try and restructure in such a way that you are focusing on the things that take you forward.
- Schedule down time. Time away from your work is good for your mind – and good for your work. Giving your brain a break improves productivity, creativity and focus. Take breaks often during the day, but also be sure to schedule whole days off for yourself. You need them, and your business will benefit too.
- Do regular “brain dumps”. When we have too much going on, we allow our brains to get cluttered. Things we need to do, things we need to remember, things we want to try, worries, ideas and random thoughts end up causing confusion. Incorporate time into your daily routine to pick up a pen and just write everything down. Every single thought that comes to mind – just write it down and let it go. This empties your brain of mental clutter. When you are done, go through your writing and make note of the important items that need to be added to your To Do lists and schedules, and toss the rest away.
- Decompress every day. Pick a hobby that you find relaxing and try to incorporate it into your daily routine. Preferably at the end of the day so that you can be free of your work stress in the evening.
- Connect with others. I am an introvert, I do not purposely seek out company very often. But even I recognise the mental benefits of spending time with people I care about. We are social creatures and cannot exist in exile. Make sure that you spend time with the people you love – and make it quality time – do not let your work intrude.
If you are in a position where you have already pushed to hard and are beginning to take strain, please don’t feel too proud to reach out for help. Burning out is easier than you think. What is not easy is coming back from a mental breakdown. Rather avoid one completely. Reach out to the people who love you and, where necessary, consider professional help.
You are important, don’t neglect you.