At the best of times, business owners struggle to step away from running their company to focus on themselves, on the things that refuel them and clear their minds. But a pandemic—or any crisis, really—makes it that much harder. Right now, at the time of year when most of my clients would be taking a much needed break, many aren’t because of the pressures and limitations related to health, travel and the economy. (I’m guilty of this, too!) For these clients, choosing to focus on themselves means putting their business at risk. So instead, they’re doubling down—working extra hours, sacrificing personal time and ignoring self-care.
It’s not a good way to lead a business: Your business is a reflection of you—it’s only as healthy as you are. If you don’t attend to your physical or mental health, it’s inevitably going to show up in how you make decisions, lead your team and manage the day-to-day. You’ll likely end up functioning purely in Technician mode and will definitely burn out—and neither of these outcomes will garner the results you want. For the sake of your business, you need to take care of yourself.
Yes, taking a real vacation is the best way to do this—pausing so you can both re-energize and reflect on what’s working in your business and life, what isn’t, and what you should do about it. But it’s not the only way. Here are eight ways you can get some of the clarity a vacation offers without having to take a long break from running your business.
Develop a routine
Right now we’re being pulled in a million directions, both in and out of the workplace. Especially for those of us with kids at home, uncertainty continues to show up daily. The best way to combat this is by creating systems, which in life can simply mean having a structured routine. This can be a small act, like getting up before anyone else in your home—you can have some time to think and do things for yourself before being on, or drink your coffee quietly outside before getting to work. If even that seems out of grasp, try to at least begin your day with intention by starting it the same way each morning.
Even if exercise isn’t something you normally do, it’s one of the best ways to reset your mind and body when you’re overwhelmed. And often, those times when you think you can’t possibly fit in exercise is when you most need it. If you have an exercise routine, protect it. If not, try to fit something mild into your day, like walking, biking or even some simple stretching.
Unplug from media
Social media and the news keeps us informed and connected—particularly in this time of remote work and distancing—but they can also feed anxiety and make us reactionary. This is a bad recipe for business owners, who may read something in the news and jump into reactionary mode to counteract it instead of keeping a response posture, not succumbing to impulse and keeping all decisions aligned with your strategic view and long-term thinking. By limiting your news intake, you stay more grounded in your present situation and can connect to your business with a calmer state of mind.
Keep your mind—and your business—in the present
With all the instability of the last five months, I’ve noticed people getting stuck in their heads (myself included). We’re all trying to figure out what we should be doing both personally and professionally, so it's hard to land on a future strategy amidst constant change. Don’t put that expectation on yourself. One of the best things you can do right now is to be present, treat this moment in your business as the “new normal” and create a strategy to suit it.
For the sake of your business, you need to take care of yourself.
Start a project
This time will pass, and we’ll forever look back and wonder how we could have spent it differently. While some business owners are busier than ever, others are spending more time at home than they ever have or will again. So, treat this time as a gift—start a new project or learn something you’ve always wanted to learn. (Yes, it can be work-related.) Be selfish! The world’s begging you to.
Many of my clients are fundamentally creatives—entrepreneurs who are drawn to innovate, build, improve, design and produce. This type of work unlocks the right side of your brain, the same area responsible for developing solutions. But when you’re stressed, that side of your brain is harder to access. So whether or not you’re already creative in your work, now is the time to develop a new creative skill—either personal or professional. It will give your brain space to wander and potentially get unstuck.
Chip away at goals
Don’t let this time detract you from your goals, even if it seems hard to make progress at the moment. Whether in your business or personal life, try to keep your goals ever present and take what steps you can to keep moving them forward, even if they’re small. You may not be able to do everything on your list, but try to identify a handful—your top priorities—and modify them for the current circumstances in a way that can get you the same or similar result. For example, if you’d been planning to do a triathlon but can’t access a public pool, focus on what you can do—like perfecting your running and biking skills.
Take a mini-vacation
If you can manage it, take two days off just to disconnect. Don’t fill the time with outside responsibilities. Use it instead to focus on the things above that will spark your inspiration and—more importantly—give you space to think things through and ask "What if?" or "How?,” so you can bring that back with you to the office. And if you think you can’t manage a mini-vacation, ask yourself “Why not?” Do you worry you can’t trust your team to keep it together in your absence? Are you the only one who knows how to do what needs to be done? Then ask yourself if these are facts or just beliefs. Whatever comes up for you usually points to a system that you need to develop in your business. And there’s no better time to do that than the present.
With all the complex challenges we’re facing today, some of these ideas may seem simplistic. But giving yourself space to think and level-set is never as easy as it seems. As the leader of your business, self-care is critical work so that you’re consistently making your business the best reflection of your values and your actions, even when times are tough. This is where having a business coach comes in handy. If you feel like you could benefit from that support, reach out to us.