Nothing could be more exciting than following your dreams and launching your own business. Yet all too often, that initial excitement is dampened by the realities of running a company. It takes hard work, and with too many long days and late nights, entrepreneurs become tense, burnt out, and unhappy.
If any of this sounds familiar, let's make a pact to be happier, healthier, and better entrepreneurs this year. If you think that happiness is overrated in business, research from the University of California at Riverside found that happy people are more successful in many areas of life. It makes sense: when you're in a good mood, you're more confident, energetic, and ready to take on new goals and challenges.
With this in mind, here are five ways to stay happy, healthy, and sane amidst the inevitable stress and road bumps in the entrepreneur's year.
1. Don't get bogged down in the negative
When it's your own business and you are passionate about what to do, it's only natural that you take each critique personally. But keep in mind that for an entrepreneur, rejection is just part of the game. I can assure you that whenever you put something out for the world to see, there will be some kind of bad news or criticism...for example, your blog post may get a few negative comments; or your application for an incubator program or loan is rejected.
If you dwell on each rejection or critique, you'll get bogged down in bitterness. Rather, you need to remove emotion and your own pride from the situation. Think objectively about the criticism and see if there's anything to learn. Then, make the necessary changes and move on.
2. Get more sleep
Whether the magic number of nightly sleep is seven or eight, I know of few entrepreneurs who enjoy nearly that much sleep on a consistent basis. But we know that brains with too little sleep don't perform as well as those that do. That's why I'm going to make a concerted effort to improve my sleep habits this year.
Experts at the Mayo Clinic advise us to go to bed and get up at the same time every day to reinforce the body's sleep-wake cycle. If you have trouble falling asleep, don't force the issue. If you don't fall asleep within 15 minutes, get up and do something relaxing, like reading, light stretching, or eat a light snack.
All those smartphones and tablets in the bedroom emit a glow that can throw off the sleep cycle...not to mention the disruption when you decide to check your email at 2 am. That's why I'm making it a point to banish devices from my bedside at night.
3. Find time to exercise
When you're an entrepreneur, trips to the gym often take a back seat to last minute projects, client meetings, and tight deadlines. However, keeping a regular exercise routine is one of the most important things you can do for your health and wellbeing. The endorphins released from physical activity help relieve stress and keep your mood up when things get tough.
If you struggle to fit exercise into your entrepreneurial schedule, find a few friends or colleagues to join you for a regular bike ride, hike, or walk. Start a challenge board at the office to track activity, or pick up a device like Fitbit or Nike Fuel. If necessary, you can even exercise at your desk.
The most important thing you can do is to treat your workouts like any other work commitment. You're not going to break an appointment with a client, so don't break a commitment to yourself either.
4. Work smarter, not harder
In this modern era, we take too much pride in being busy. New entrepreneurs see busyness as a sign of success. However, the most successful entrepreneurs have built a business that allows them to eat dinner with their family, have fun on the weekends, and take a vacation every now and then. In short, good entrepreneurs know how to prioritize, surround themselves with smart people, and delegate.
Conduct a time audit to see how you spend your time during an average day or week. Are you focused on the tasks that matter and that will drive your business forward? What are the key areas that you should delegate to someone else?
If your business is a one-man or one-woman show, find an assistant to help you take care of the busy work or outsource more complex matters (like bookkeeping) to a specialist. If you already have employees, think about new ways to expand their responsibilities and expertise this year.
5. Be grateful
In the chaos of the entrepreneurial lifestyle, it is very easy to lose sight of what really matters. As a result, we get stressed and grumpy. I have found that when I take the time to consciously think about all the things I am thankful for, it gives me a new perspective and I am able to embrace all the craziness.
Some people keep a gratitude journal of all the people and events they are grateful for each day. Adopting some kind of gratitude practice (whether you write it down or not) will change your mindset from complaining and dwelling on the negative to focusing on solutions and best outcomes.
6. Seize the moment
Entrepreneurship is one of the most exciting and fulfilling journeys you can take, but you need to be present and stay in the moment to enjoy the ride. Step back every once in awhile to enjoy and appreciate what you are doing right now, rather than always looking to the next thing to make you happy.
What habits do you plan on adopting this year to be healthier and happier as an entrepreneur?