An effective self-care strategy is essential to small business success

- December 19, 2017 4 MIN READ

In today’s always-on world, keeping up with the pressures of running a business can leave business owners feeling overwhelmed. Get off the treadmill and rethink your approach to success and self-care.

We’ve just celebrated the 10th anniversary of Apple’s release of the iPhone 4. Smart phone technology has revolutionised our business lives. In our pockets is a more powerful computer than was used to guide Apollo 11 to the moon. ‘Normal’ has been totally redefined. Communication is now 24/7. Increasingly business decisions are too. We very rarely switch off…even on holidays.

In a marketplace where technology has unleashed all kinds of business disruption, there has never been more pressure to be on your game. And, in our personal lives, our lifestyle expectations have risen dramatically over the past 20 years. No matter where we turn, many business professionals feel the pressure to perform. No wonder some are not coping. Incidence of mental health issues such as anxiety and depression affects 1 in 5 Australians each year (Black Dog Institute 2014). Psychological injuries account for the second highest group of IP claims paid, after muscular skeletal claims, in Australia (BT Insurance 2014).

High Achievers beware

High achievers are passionate individuals who want to make their mark on the world. They expect to be successful. They have learned to set their mind to something and make it happen. This is a great quality which works well for establishing their business and career success.

However, the same drive and self-reliance can turn into a liability once life becomes more complicated. Partnering up (usually with an equally driven spouse), having children, working hard, maintaining friendships, staying fit and healthy, becomes a huge juggling act. The danger is that high achievers think they can do anything, and everything, all at once. The spontaneity that works well when single and 28 is a much bigger challenge at 45 with 2.4 children and a partner who is seeking to advance their career too. It is harder to bounce back after three disturbed nights with a sick child.

Accepting that there are limits can be difficult for a high achiever.

The day does come when the energy levels do not match the drive. It is a strange feeling to hit the wall…usually emotionally first and then physically.

Human beings are not machines

It is a reminder that, no matter how talented or driven, human beings are not machines. And, when we think about it, even machines are serviced regularly. In theory, we agree that we need time out, rest periods, holidays, sleep and exercise. However, when the juggle of life becomes intense, often the things we sacrifice are those things that would come under the broad heading of self-care. High achievers assume that they will always be able to work a little harder and adjust a few things to get through.

The challenge is that we do not understand the effect on our bodies, emotions, or our close relationships, over time. One client hired me because he knew his work had overtaken his life. What he did not realise was that his neglected wife was already having an affair. This news knocked the stuffing out of him, and his business halved over the next 12 months due to his inability to focus.  Another business owner hired me when medical tests forced her to rethink her crazy schedule.

Effective self-care comes from healthy self-respect

Effective self-care requires firstly that you respect yourself enough to look after yourself. It is vital to take time to know yourself well. There is no one size fits all approach. It depends on a range of factors including: personality, season of life, underlying health, emotional capacity and energy levels. And you are not the same person at 45 as you were at 25. Your needs change. You need to respect yourself enough to learn and do what you know you need to relax, replenish, and have energy to achieve the business success and the kind of life you want to lead.

General principles for effective self-care

  • Be deliberate – It amazes me how many high achievers plan and work hard for their business success but when it comes to the rest of their life they just hope for the best. We need life plans not just business plans. E.g. my wife and I start planning the year ahead in Sept/Oct. The first items on the planner are our holidays and other important family events. We work in order to live. We do not live in order to work. In my experience of 21st century work, if you are not deliberate about planning your life, then your work will expand to dominate your life.
  • Set Margins – Leave space in your schedule each day for you. Don’t max out every moment of every day, and every last kilojoule of your energy. Take a slow walk at lunch time. Give yourself 10 minutes to reflect or celebrate after a tough meeting.
  • Replenish regularly – Find a healthy passion that absorbs you, other than work. A sport, a hobby, writing, reading, gardening. It will do you good, and make you sharper when you do focus on work.
  • Create your own ‘Rhythm of Life’ – Learn how to create your own rhythm of life. You can do this by tuning in to your own life rhythms. This involves learning to map and manage your energy levels so you always have energy for important occasions. g. The basic structure that works for me: a day off each week, a long weekend each month, a week off each quarter, and a 3-week annual holiday.

Business success is much more like running a marathon than a sprint. Effective self-care strategies are critical to ensure we do not burn out along the way. We need to work at learning to enjoy the ordinary days and weeks in our lives, not just live for those few days when we have extraordinary wins. With a foundation of self-respect you will be willing to discover effective self-care strategies that will work for you.

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