Do you notice how we entrepreneurs tend to be harder on ourselves than anyone around us? We’re the boss we’d never want to work for—we force ourselves to work long hours, we berate ourselves when we lose a client, and we never come up for air.
Excuse me: Wasn’t this whole “owning my own business” thing supposed to be fun? When did we move from doing something we truly loved to becoming our own taskmasters?
The endless slog to the top
Understandably, you’ll want to work hard when you’ve got a particularly challenging project going on, or if you’re close to winning a major client. But ask yourself: Do you back off after that period, or do you keep pushing yourself? The truth about entrepreneurship is that our efforts are often Sisyphean. We never quite achieve our goals, so we keep driving and driving, thinking one day we’ll actually reach the place where we can rest.
Honey, you will never get there. You’re too Type A. You reach one pinnacle and you’re ready to hike to the next. But I’m telling you right now that you need to be sweet to yourself. Otherwise, you’ll suffer burnout and stress, and that’s no good for anyone.
With that in mind, here are a few ways you can be better to your body, mind, and soul:
1. Divide your pie
Consider your life like a big ol’ lemon meringue pie (or apple if you prefer). If you slice it up, you can compartmentalize the different components of your life: work, relationships, leisure time, family. Often we let work consume us. We identify as entrepreneurs first and foremost, which means those other components get forsaken. If you divide your pie, you acknowledge that each area of your life is worth its own attention. Try not to let your work piece be bigger than a quarter of the entire pie.
Now enjoy a bite from each piece! When you’re done with work for the day, put your work slice back in the fridge; focus on your home slice (ha!). Don’t check work email. Don’t take work calls. Work will survive without you for 15 hours. Put all your attention on whatever slice is in front of you. Forget the others for the time being.
2. Move it
Join a gym. Walk with a friend. It doesn’t matter what you do. Just be active. I know how easy it is to put off exercise (“I need to finish that proposal instead of taking care of my body!”), but trust me: your business will benefit as well as your body.
There are gazillions of articles out there that tell you how exercise reduces stress and keeps you in tip-top shape, so I don’t need to rehash those points. But for the entrepreneur, exercise has other interesting side effects. Sometimes by simply being out of the office, you’re better able to problem solve and prioritize. You might be surprised at the genius ideas you can come up with on your morning jog.
3. Find one tiny thing
What makes you happy? For me, it’s curling up with a stack of books and reading one chapter before moving on to the next. Or taking a long, hot bath. There are so many simple pleasures in life. Pick just one. Then incorporate it into your world.
After a long day at work, walk your dog with your spouse. Go to your favorite sushi restaurant. Meditate. Whatever that thing that helps you forget about work, that brings you back to yourself, do it. It doesn’t have to be expensive or even take much time. Doing that tiny thing is a big declaration to yourself that you and your happiness matter.
4. Apologize to yourself
Like I said, sometimes we’re harder on ourselves than anyone. The next time you find yourself scolding yourself for a goof-up, pretend you are your own boss. You can be a better manager than that, can’t you? Instead, look at the situation from the outside. Maybe you made a mistake. That’s okay. You’re human. What can you learn from it?
Cut yourself some slack. If an employee made this mistake, how would you react? Probably not by calling her names. So do yourself the same kindness.
5. Step away
What would really happen if you left work early today? Would the sky fall? Would your clients get pissed and leave you? I’m guessing not. The same would be true if you took—gasp—a few days or even weeks off.
We like to think we’re more important than we actually are. I get it. But if you have staff, they can manage while you’re away rejuvenating. If you don’t, you can still make a plan so that work gets done before you take time off. Taking time off, even if it’s just a few hours, is essential for your mental well-being. So do it.
Let’s get back to being happy entrepreneurs, ones who remember why they decided to go down this path to begin with. That means being gentler to ourselves, putting ourselves first more often, and trusting that our businesses will be okay.