I used to believe that the harder you worked, the more successful you were. I worked myself into the ground repeatedly for years, out of sheer determination to achieve my goals. It’s not until recently that I discovered the big secret – it’s not about working hard, it’s about working smart.
The first part of working smart is making sure you are on top form so that the work that you do can be done at 100%. If you are tired, stressed, malnourished and worn down, you are not going to be giving it your all, no matter how much you want to.
I started my business when I was 16 years old, I opened my first shop at age 20. While other students were out partying, I was at home doing payroll. I loved it and I managed to sustain this for a long time. But managing and thriving are two very different things. One day I just snapped and ultimately I lost everything – unnecessarily. It wasn’t because I couldn’t handle the pressure, it wasn’t because the business wasn’t strong enough – it was because I never put enough importance on looking after the most important tool in the business – my brain.
My New Year’s Resolution for 2018 was to improve my work life balance. I took rather drastic measures to achieve this and moved half way across the world to Vancouver, Canada – it sure did the trick! But you don’t need to move continent to improve your work / life balance. Here’s some of the major changes I have discovered are crucial to balancing life and work and looking after your brain.
1) Sleep Is Not The Enemy
Yes, it seems obvious, but I can’t tell you how often I ignored everyone’s words of caution that I needed to sleep more. I get it – when you’re on a deadline and there’s nobody else to do it then sometimes you just have to power through – but if you’re pulling regular all nighters, or even half-nighters, something needs to change. Not only is sleep important for work/life balance, but a lack of sleep could be affecting your business. If you’re sleep deprived you won’t think as clearly, work as efficiently and you may end up making rash decisions that aren’t in the best interest of your business. So remind yourself of that next time you feel you ‘have to’ stay up working until 3am.
2) Get Outside
Being a bit of a lazy bitch myself, this is something I was most reluctant to do. There is a part of me that feels like I constantly need to be working to achieve something, so the idea of just wandering around aimlessly with no destination or purpose gives me mini heart palpitations. Nevertheless, I can’t deny that when I get back from a little stint outside, I do feel refreshed and have a clearer mind, and it feels like I have done something with my day other than staring at the computer for hours on end. Schedule time to go for a little walk, get some fresh air or just go to a park and sit on a bench for a while. If you really feel like the time is wasted, listen to a podcast while you’re there – as long as you get out into a different surrounding.
3) Sharpen the Saw
In Steven Covey’s ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People‘, he talks about the concept of ‘Sharpening the Saw’. The analogy is about a woodcutter who keeps sawing and sawing for days on end, but is becoming less and less productive as he never stops to sharpen the saw and the blade gets progressively duller. If you just keep charging through without taking time to sharpen your saw (your mind), you will just be working just as hard but with less results. So take time to do things that sharpen your mind, whether that’s meditating, reading articles, exercising, learning a new skill. You may feel you don’t have the time for these things, but investing that time will make you more productive in the long run.
4) Make Time To Relax
Just the same as taking time to improve your mind, you need to take time to let it rest. I find that when I schedule time to relax, I definitely end up getting more done, and that’s because when I don’t make time to relax, I work until I’m completely spent and then end up spending three days catatonic on the couch in my onesie because I’ve overdone it and my brain is slightly broken. It’s like the work version of binge eating and purging – making sure you have downtime will prevent the endless cycle.
5) Give Your Body The Fuel It Needs
I love food, but it sadly ends up so low down on my list of priorities. Steve Jobs said:
“Eat your food as your medicines, otherwise you have to eat medicines as your food.” and I’ve recently discovered how true this is. I was finding myself chronically exhausted within hours of waking up, going to bed in the afternoon because I couldn’t keep my eyes open. When I started being more mindful of what fuel was going into my body I noticed a huge difference. Just making sure your diet includes everything your body needs to function will massively improve your brain function, alertness and productivity levels, so devote some time to making sure you’re getting a well balanced diet.
6) Let Yourself Look Good
By this I don’t mean that you have to be dressed to the nines every day for work. But I went through several phases where I was ‘too busy’ to make an effort with myself. I’d be showing up places with unwashed hair, no make up on and wearing leggings that were covered in cat hair. I didn’t care about myself at all, my body was just a vessel to get me around. But the thing is, once you stop treating yourself with respect and putting importance on yourself, you start to believe that you’re not worth that effort or respect. The days when I went out without so much running a brush through my hair I just felt awful and my confidence suffered – and I’ll bet the quality of my work suffered as a knock on effect. Take the time to treat your body with a bit of love. Value it, pamper it and make it feel fabulous. When you go out feeling good it’s infectious and people will be drawn to you and your business.
So if you’re like me and are always just too busy with ‘more important’ things to take care of number one, then hopefully this will show you how vital it is, both to you and your business that you invest some time in looking after YOU.
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