Self-care remains one of the most critical aspects of success for business leaders, yet it is still often overlooked. Leaders have the responsibility to care for themselves not just so they can perform at their best, but also so that they set a good example for their employees. Many business leaders feel that they don’t have enough time to get all their work done, which often leads them to sacrifice self-care as a way of freeing up more time. However, doing so can lead to downward spiral of exhaustion and stress that prevents you from performing at your peak and makes it impossible to work effectively.
Working under stress and while exhausted ultimately is more difficult and time-consuming than doing the same tasks while rested and refreshed. For this reason, skipping self-care generally does not save much time, if any. In the end, not taking time for yourself actually costs you more time. Still, incorporating self-care into the day can be challenging for people in demanding leadership positions, and it can be hard to know where to start. Some tips for including self-care in a busy schedule are:
Take time to reward accomplishments.
Most business leaders see the value of recognition. When you take time to recognize individual or company achievements or to honor employees who have gone above the call of duty, you demonstrate your appreciation and encourage others to work harder. At the same time, make sure that you do not ignore your own accomplishments. Sometimes, leaders feel like they need to jump from one task to the next, but taking a bit of time to reward yourself is critical. Not only does this provide a break from work, but it also gives you time to reflect, so that you can see how far you have come. Seeing this progress can keep your momentum going. Otherwise, you risk running yourself into the ground.
Develop supportive relationships with colleagues, family, and friends.
Often, people think about self-care in terms of taking time away from work. However, there are other approaches to self-care, too. Find people in your professional and personal networks who inspire you, support you, and encourage you. If you take this approach to networking, you’ll surround yourself with a strong support group that makes you feel more secure and provides a place to turn when something goes wrong. Understanding that these people exist helps relieve a lot of the stress of running a business and also provides a place to vent when that is necessary. The other side of this coin is establishing boundaries on relationships with people who leave you feeling negative, drained, and exhausted.
Designate some nights of the week for recharging.
The simple reality of being a business leader is that eight hours of sleep will not happen every night. That being said, it is important to make sure that it happens regularly to avoid becoming exhausted and physically sick. You may want to think about designating a random night of the week, such as Thursday, as the night that you go to bed early and get at least a solid eight hours, if not more, to make up your sleep debt. Some leaders see a dramatic difference in their enthusiasm, concentration, and productivity when they make sure they are getting adequate sleep. Beyond taking this step, look for short periods of time throughout the day when you can rest. You don’t have to take a nap; you might find 10 minutes to spend in meditation instead, for example.
Learn how to handle your internal critic.
Amy Edmondson, a professor at Harvard Business School, has conducted research on how to optimize performance in collaborative and group work environments. Her findings show that accountability is important, but so is a feeling of psychological safety. Business leaders can apply these same findings to themselves. Often, business leaders are perfectionists with strong internal critics that motivate them to work hard and aim high. At the same time, that internal critic can erode your self-esteem and make you feel discouraged and as though you aren’t “good enough.” Learning how to turn off that internal critic can save time lost to self-doubt, while also freeing you to tap into your natural creativity and think outside the box.
Consider how your workspace is affecting you.
Many business leaders recognize the importance of workplace design. The floorplan, layout, and interior design of an office can all contribute to or detract from a company’s productivity. Leaders need to recognize that this same concept applies to their own personal office or workspace, too. If you are feeling overwhelmed or claustrophobic, perhaps it’s time for a redesign. Clearing clutter is one of the most efficient means of reducing stress, but sometimes, more drastic measures are necessary. Changing the color scheme, adding new pieces of art, and rearranging furniture are all forms of self-care that can help you feel more inspired at work.