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The best advice for entrepreneurs: Put yourself first


Running a business is consuming. It leaves no space for personal time for leisure or recreation, and the consequences of not making time out for yourself can lead to burnout and health problems.

Entrepreneurs need to remember that the race to accomplish and be successful is an endless circle, but sometimes, we need to stop and come up for air.

As Simon Sinek, a leading motivational speaker and marketing consultant, said, “Putting yourself first is not selfish. Quite the opposite. You must put your happiness and health first before you can be of help to anyone else.” That is a fact. Our personal lives are segmented into different parts beyond our businesses.

Family and friends fall into that category, among the many other things that we love and cherish that we have to deal with. The founder of Huffington Post, Arianna Huffington, in her book, Thrive, writes about working long hours at the beginning of Huffington Post, and depriving herself of sleep, which led to her collapsing in her home, waking up in a pool of blood with a broken cheekbone and a cut under her eye. This incident led her to re-evaluate her life and work habits.

Entrepreneurs must never be weighed down by guilt or regard personal time as being lazy; rather, they should regard it as moments of reinvigoration. You can call it unplugging, distressing, but every entrepreneur needs time to personally retreat. I would understand that since I have gone through those moments of endless work, and working on the sidelines to ensure every other segment of my life works as efficiently as my work does.

The gains of taking this route can help us to be more useful to others by putting ourselves first. We can gain a measure of clarity, focus, renewed energy, improved mood, and better decision-making. Here are some ideas to begin the process of putting yourself first:

Take a vacation: taking a vacation is pleasurable. Whether domestically or internationally, uprooting yourself from the environment that you see every day, and planting yourself in another, can help you relax and take off the stress. It forces you to assimilate the culture and habits of other people who are different than you, which can help spring up new ideas for when you return back to work, or simply give you new ideas for places you want to go.

Take up a new hobby: It is said that Albert Einstein used to play the violin each time he hit a brick wall, at the time he was trying to solve the Theory of Relativity. The story goes that he would play the violin, and the sound of music would help clear his mind, and open up new ideas on how to approach the problem.

Whether true or not, entrepreneurs should try out a new hobby, which can help improve cognitive function. According to Kevin Eschleman, an assistant professor of psychology at San Francisco State University, who carried out a study on the relationship between work and hobbies, surmised that those people who are involved in creative activities do better at their work. There are many things to be involved in like board games, painting, writing, and sculpting, among many others.

Get a little exercise: Exercise is a great stimulation to get re-invigorated to start the day. For the benefit for staying healthy, it’s the answer. In addition, it can also boost your mood without the need for endless cups of coffee to hold you up.

Make time for family and friends: The importance of family and friends can never be overemphasized. The presence of close relatives can be helpful to keep us in perspective, and serve as reminder about the other compartments in our lives that need to be taken care of. It is important to find time to give time. It helps distract us from pressures that we confront day by day on the business front.

Take sleep seriously: There is a myth in business that entrepreneurs who work endless hours are the ones who are successful. Tech industry titans, who are renowned for working between 60 and 100 hours a week, have helped perpetuate this myth.

This is not a call for laziness, but not everyone can keep working for 100 hours. It doesn’t mean entrepreneurs don’t work late, or reduce the amount of work that they have to do, but having a healthy sleep circle is important, in reality between 6 and 8 hours.

Eat well: A quick bite is the bane of every entrepreneur. Eating what is at hand or available is a known habit. With little time to rise from your desk to do anything else, with food, anything goes. I would suggest that at least one meal in a day is a healthy one that contains all the components of nutrition. That way, we ingest more than sugar and carbs and fat that land on our tables.

It’s all small steps. Striving to ensure our businesses are successful is important, but putting ourselves first is just as important—for the benefits of our minds, bodies and our health.

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