To be successful as an entrepreneur today, you need to take in a constant influx of information. But you also need to know when to shut it down and listen only to your own internal voice. The model of the highly disciplined, overscheduled overachiever just isn’t functional if technology means 24/7 access to you and your energy.
Of course, sometimes you have to put in long, grueling hours to succeed. But if you don’t take a break, the constant stress will burn you out, which serves no one. To invest in yourself as a leader, you must emphasize balance over a fast-paced, pressure-cooker lifestyle. Some of these tips may seem a little counterintuitive, but they will improve your chances of long-term success.
1. Treat your body right
First things first: get it. Enough. Sleep. The idea that successful entrepreneurs never rest is a myth that the business world needs to stop, for everyone’s sake.
As reported in KillerStartups, researcher and author Thomas Corley found that 89% of self-made millionaires come to minimum seven hours of sleep a night. Without proper rest, your brain cannot make the kinds of important decisions that successful leaders face every day.
And if you want to improve your sleep quality and virtually other measures of your health and happiness, you need to get some exercise. Successful leaders share the habit of doing at least 30 minutes of cardio a day. Like sleep, exercise improves your cognitive function so you can make the best decisions for your business.
Nutrition also has a powerful influence on your leadership skills – and a domino effect on everything else in your life. Your diet can make or break your life mental acuity. It is crucial to feed yourself well if you want to steer your business to success.
2. Set goals that inspire joy
Once you’ve met those Maslow needs, it’s time to think bigger. What are your long-term financial and personal goals and what does success mean to you?
According to Corley, you need to make sure all your goals are real yours. Yes, you should be focused on building your business and saving for the future. But don’t fall into the trap of trying to measure up to others or, worse, try to please your parents.
In his research, Corley found that pursuing one’s own dreams and goals resulted in the greatest long-term happiness and wealth. In other words, being happy – both at and outside work – can actually make you more money.
So find what gives you joy and motivates you to perform at your best. It could be the adrenaline of reaching a bigger market share or having the flexibility to spend more time with your loved ones. It doesn’t matter what your goals are. You will still get ahead in business if you pursue goals that lift your spirits.
3. Make time for other passions
On that note, if what makes you happiest doesn’t always pay off, that’s okay. Make time for hobbies, passion projects, travel, and anything else that feels intuitively, holistically right.
You might tell yourself that you don’t have time between exercising, eating well, and working long hours at work. But don’t convince yourself that every minute of your time has to be “productive.” You will only get a burnout, where you and your company will suffer.
On the other hand, if you throw yourself into your hobbies, you will become a better entrepreneur. A hobby can be the inspiration for a new innovative offering or business practice. It can also help you build connections with other successful, highly motivated people.
As an entrepreneur, you know that your lifestyle needs a certain spark that not everyone has. The kind of people who prioritize interesting, creative lives tend to be the most successful. Be one of them, and in the process you will meet people who can help you learn, grow and network.
4. Protect your time
There is really only one way to ensure you can manage one or more of the above. You have to be extremely protective of your time. This doesn’t necessarily mean you should implement rigid time management methods, but if they work for you, feel free to keep using them.
What it certainly means is that you are very clear about your priorities and say a firm “no” to anything or anyone who disturbs you. Don’t plan your day around the number of hours you work, but around the actions that make you most functional and effective.
Many successful leaders have neurodivergences like ADHD that render traditional time blocking ineffective. Instead of working 9 to 5, some take advantage of late-night or early-morning periods of hyperfocus to get creative work done. They then use traditional work hours for lower priority tasks or for self-care.
Protecting your time can take a million different forms. Maybe it marks yourself as “busy” on your calendar, turns off your phone, and wears noise-canceling headphones. Or maybe it’s delegating tasks to junior employees, then locking your office door and meditating for 20 minutes. It’s not the method that matters; it’s finding the way that works best for you.
Finding the right balance
The life of an entrepreneur has not become easier. That is why it is more important than ever to find internal sources of stability and resilience. A successful business needs a firm, steady hand to run it. So take care of yourself first and give yourself the fuel you need to grow your business.