YOU: Taking Care Of Your Biggest Asset

Aside from the daily operations that business-owners and entrepreneurs need to handle, there are a lot of things that can interfere with the overall health and stability of your enterprise.  What this post will focus on are the business-related things that can affect you —you— personally: these are things like stress, balance, health, burn-out, and time-management.  We’ll also discuss support strategies that can help you handle these issues you and your business will gain from the positive effects.

Take care of your health.
In the start-up stage of a new business, you can easily be  pulled into a whirlwind of planning, adjusting and execution. It’s exciting. It’s challenging, and it definitely stretches your boundaries.  Once you get used to it, it can become a habit , even when the business has stabilized and is doing well.

This habit  can also let you lose sight of taking care of your own physical health as you spend the majority of your time and energy focusing on the business, and that’s a mistake you cannot afford to let slide.

If you don’t take care to rest, encourage, and replenish your reserves, the stress and exhaustion can affect your reaction time, your judgment, and the clarity you need to make good decisions. If you keep tiring yourself out, you will eventually run yourself down, and that’s not good for anyone.

Being and keeping in robust physical health enables you to stay sharp and focused, able to bear the strain longer and recover from stressful events faster, and gives you the  stamina to keep running the business. You need a clear head and a healthy attitude to lead, to work, and to carry out your vision. A healthy body helps you in keeping both. Without health, your business will be a poor consolation, and an even poorer substitute.

You are, ultimately, your best investment. The business is  an extension of you, but it’s not you, understand? Take care of  your health.

Don’t let business demands turn you into a pod-person.
It’s very easy to slide into workaholism without really noticing. A small emergency here, a  little dispute there…from putting out small fires you can slip into the mindset of 24/7 vigilance, and let the business take over all of your time. What happens next?

Small things fall off by the wayside. Important personal relationships get ignored, become rather one-sided, or worst, wither. The things you used to indulge in your free time — hobbies, spending time with family and friends, and fun activities, generally enjoying your life and yourself — get down-graded.

There are definitely many benefits to having and running a successful business, and there are many challenges as well. What you can forget in being so involved is that long-term success demands a balance between the benefits and the challenges. If you lose yourself in your work, what will you come back to to replenish yourself? Who will be there for you? What will you do when you’re not on the clock?

A business can be a demanding operation, and it can take up as much of your life as you let it. The only one with the power to create and enforce boundaries to prevent it from taking over completely is you. You started it, you can rein yourself in.

Try to keep your work and your  home separate.
Sometimes, when one area of your life isn’t doing as well as it should, having other, distinctly separate areas to focus on and take strength is can help you deal with stress and maintain your sanity. You can walk away for a while from what troubles you, and refresh  yourself  doing other things. That’s what strong boundaries do. They help keep the lines clear and gives you a structure to work with when it comes to the varied areas in your life like work, family, community, hobbies, etc.

The issue with having weak boundaries between work and home is that it is too easy to blur the lines and lose the protection that a stronger boundary can give you. Compartmentalization can help if you do it correctly, and boundaries help.

  • If you bring work home, how will you know when to stop working, and when to be with your family?
  • Whose needs gets prioritized first? During crunch-time, you can make allowances, but what determines how long you’ll let things go on, and who gets the final say in stopping work?
  • When a business problem pops up during time with your family, or your vacation,  or your personal time how will you deal with it?
  • What if the opposite happens, what measures do you have to deal with that?

When you work from home,  you still have to  set clear expectations of your work hours and the conduct expected of others. You have to make it clear to friends and family that during your work hours you are working, and  they have to respect your need  to protect your time and privacy.

Have strategies in place to help you keep going.
We all have our off-days. You wake up under the weather, or on the wrong side of the bed., or you just wake up in  an off mood and it won’t leave.  Off days are something we all have to get through, and it helps when we have a few “just-in-case” plans readily available so we can get through with the least amount of stress or struggle.

  • Like reading? Keep motivational material handy. They can help inspire you and put you in a refreshed state of mind to approach the day.
  • You can also have humorous material on-hand (Remember Gary Larson’s Far Side comics? Or MAD magazine?) to make you laugh and get the blood pumping. True laughter can change the chemical levels in the brain and change your mood  very quickly.  Even a few favorite kitten videos can be enough to make the difference.
  • Walk away from what’s bugging you and do something else. Grinding your mental gears to solve a problem only creates a false sense of emergency. Stop it, drop it, and do something unrelated, even if it’s just for 10 to 20 minutes. Then you can come back, with less tension, and probably a new perspective, on the issue.
  • If you have an off day, maybe you just need to have a day off. Sometimes you can’t do anything, so breathe deep and do something different: have lunch with a friend, go for a walk, go get some ice-cream. Don’t let it take over your spirits and leave you down in the dumps any more than you have to.
  • Don’t be too hard on your self, and don’t worry yourself into thinking this off-day is permanent. It’s one day out of your life, and as long as the good days outnumber those days, you’re doing fine.

Learn to deal with stress.
Stress has been proven to literally kill people. Our bodies have evolved to respond to stimulus with stress responses, but those are only meant for the short term. Chronic stress over the long term can kill us slowly by making us more and more ill, and weakening our body’s defenses to the point of creating chemical imbalance and spawning stress-related conditions that can deteriorate to life-threatening diseases.

Again, stress kills. Slowly. The more it builds up, and-or the longer it goes on, the more damage it can do. Depression, anxiety, mood-swings…stress has mental and emotional tolls as well as the physical. Ask for help. Go for a check up. Do some research.

Practice various methods and learn which ones work best and consistently for you, and write them down if necessary. Don’t feel weak or guilty for using them when you need it, we’re all only human,  and we need to be kinder to our selves because no one else will if we don’t take the initiative.

In line with this, take vacations. When you spend too much time immersed in one environment, your mind accepts that environment as the only ‘reality.’ It’s the non-stop, consistent exposure to having one role and moving around only in familiar places doing the same things. Your brains rusts if you do the same things all the the time. New experiences can help wash the dust off, and give you fresh perspective.

Take a vacation and relearn that the world is bigger than your office, and  bigger than just your business.  There’s a lot more  happening  out there other than what you’re doing, and that there are other ways to live and experience life ‘out there.’ Refresh your mind, open up to new things, and move away from the familiar so you can grow bigger which each new experience.

Know when to change, and when to let go.
You went into business for a reason. You made it through the initial stages of getting it stabilized, and the bumpy patches along the way to where you are now. It’s hard at times, but you’re good.  So what else do you need to think about?

It’s important for you to know when and where you need to stop doing a particular thing, or change things around, or go in a different direction. Good habits are supportive, but you need to keep an eye out for the times, and appraise yourself and the things you do on a regular basis.

Why do this if they’re working? Well,  to see where you can do things better, and that can mean doing things differently, or dropping things and replacing them outright. Time changes all. You need to be aware of that, and keep in sync.

We can get very invested in our business.  From conceiving the very idea of it to making it a thriving reality,  you pour blood, sweat and tears into your own brain-child — but at  the end of the day it’s still a business, not a living entity — and maybe one day you’ll face a turning point on whether to walk away from it. It’s important to know when it’s time to move on.

In the end, you own the experience of building and running it. You’ve proven your own creativity, discipline and perseverance,  and you can make the decision to part ways with your own creation. If running your business  is beating you down financially,  raining you emotionally, or  wearing you down physically, you need to calculate what it’s worth to keep going, or  decide to let things end and move on. You’ll  go on to be someone better, and you’ll never lose what you learned.

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