An entrepreneur’s ambition is both a blessing and a curse. It keeps us up late into the night, asking what needs to be done. It gets us up early in the morning, beckoning us to check off that to do list.
Having invested so much time, money, and energy into your business, it can be hard to tear yourself away. But failing to carve out regular breaks and relaxation time puts you on the fast track to burnout. It hinders your productivity and leads to more stress, making it even harder to get things done on time. So if you’re feeling at your wit’s end and you need a little R and R, we’re here for you.
Here’s how to press pause on your entrepreneurial duties and carve out some much needed me time.
You might be wondering what productivity has to do with relaxation. But in fact, you can’t have one without the other. As an entrepreneur, your list of things to do is endless. With so much to do and so little time, even thinking about taking a vacation likely fills you with guilt, shame and anxiety.
That’s where productivity comes in. When you put your tasks into small, manageable goals, you’ll feel much more accomplished when you check off your to-dos. Then, you won’t feel nearly as bad about indulging in some well-deserved relaxation.
What’s the first stop on your journey to higher productivity? Dividing up your endless to do list into many short lists that you can approach on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.
As Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Charles Duhigg explains in his book Smarter, Faster, Better, the most productive to-do lists pair stretch goals with SMART goals. Stretch goals are the kind that you’re already making as an entrepreneur–ambitious, long-term business aspirations. SMART stands for a goal that’s specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and has a well-defined timeline.
SMART goals help you break up stretch goals into small, manageable daily tasks. Instead of becoming overwhelmed by all of your entrepreneurial goals and aspirations, Duhigg’s method offers a tangible way to get there, bit by bit.
Segmenting Your Workload
Another popular productivity method is called Getting Things Done. Pioneered by David Allen, this technique is ideal for entrepreneurs because it focuses on organizing and prioritizing one’s thoughts to reduce anxiety. The first step is to dump all of your thoughts, worries and responsibilities on paper. Then, you’ll clarify each task and break big projects into smaller steps before organizing them and reflecting on their importance.
You can also try the Pomodoro Technique, which is ideal for people who feel short on time and get distracted easily. With this method, you’ll break up tasks into 25 minutes of hyper-focused sprints before taking a short break.
Using a productivity method can help you feel more accomplished in your daily life, making it easier to take mental vacations when you need them. Testing out all of the personal productivity methods to find the one that works for you can have lasting health and wellness benefits.
Learning to Relax (For Real)
Now that you know how to break up your workload and get things done, let’s take a moment to discuss how you can reward yourself. We all know what relaxing is supposed to mean, but how many of us actually feel refreshed and rejuvenated after a short break or even a long vacation?
Case in point: if you lay down to watch a movie with your family but keep your nose in your phone, you’re not relaxing. If you head up to a mountain cabin and bring your work tablet with you, you’re still not doing it right. The best way to truly relax is to unplug from the technology that tethers you to work.
If the idea of shutting off your phone sets you into a sweaty-palmed frenzy, fear not. There are a few proven techniques to help you take a break from technology and feel good about it.
Inform Clients and Coworkers
If you’re planning a weekend getaway to unplug, let people know. Set up an out of office message and delegate someone to manage your emails if need be. Above all, make sure people know that you won’t be responding to messages. This eliminates the need to check your phone for emails or messages, because you know there won’t be any.
Put Your Phone to Bed
Okay, so this might sound crazy (and this phone bed charging station might actually be a bit much). But putting your phone to bed for the night makes you more mentally prepared for some high quality shut eye. In fact, putting your phone to bed as soon as you get home from work can carve out some guilt-free wind-down time for things like cooking, yoga, and spending time with loved ones.
It’s much easier to detox from technology when you give yourself an alternative activity. Instead of tuning into Netflix after a day on the computer, for example, treat yourself to a new book or podcast that you’ll look forward to. Instead of watching that webinar on startup growth after dinner, plan an evening walk or bike ride to the park. These things will allow you to truly unplug, destress and let go of your daily stressors.
Encouraging Daily Relaxation
Sometimes, you really can’t escape the office or unplug from your computer. And on days when there’s just too many people or projects counting on you, it’s still important to take time for yourself. To make sure you commit to at least fifteen minutes of relaxation time on even the most stressful days, consider downloading one of these handy apps on your work phone or tablet.
We’ve all heard that meditation is good for you, but how many people actually make it a part of their daily lives? Headspace is a handy app that offers bite-size, themed meditation sessions designed specifically for the busiest of schedules. If you’re leading other employees, Headspace also has an app that’s designed to teach professional teams about meditation, mindfulness and all the benefits these practices have to offer.
Aura is another mindfulness app that encourages daily practice through three-minute guided audio sessions. Aura also has a mood tracker that helps the app personalize each daily session. Best of all, the gratitude journal allows you to track your progress with the app over time.
There are few work spaces that don’t lend themselves to a little downward dog and pranayama breathing. For a fast, purpose-oriented yoga break, 5 Minute Yoga is the app for you. 5 Minute Yoga has detailed descriptions along with tutorial imagery, making it the perfect guide for beginner yogis. Daily Yoga is a go-to app for those seeking more intermediate or advanced yoga sessions. This app also boasts a robust community of yoga enthusiasts to inspire you and keep you motivated.
Team Up for Relaxation
If you’re like most entrepreneurs, your social circle is comprised of ambitious, hardworking people just like you. So why not get together for some team relaxing? In addition to promoting healthy relationships with others, joint relaxation can help you:
Hold One Another Accountable
When we’re feeling busy and stressed, we often put ourselves last. But canceling that lunch outing to continue working through your break isn’t doing you any favors. Instead, make concrete plans with a friend to get away from the office on a regular basis. You’re much more likely to get out and unplug when someone is counting on you to do so.
Normalize Self Care
We live in a world where people are rewarded for working longer hours and maintaining a nonstop schedule. But when you and your peers start prioritizing self care, it helps break down unrealistic expectations and sets a positive example for others in your social circle. In turn, this normalizes the idea of a positive work-life balance and reduces the guilt we associate with personal time.
Take the Right Kind of Breaks
Sure, you can spend your entire lunch break glued to your phone and pouring over email. This isn’t a real break, though. Kick this multitasking habit by setting boundaries for how you and your peers will act during breaks. You might want to make a rule that you keep your phones off for an hour, or that you avoid talking about work. This helps make your relaxation time more enjoyable, and you’ll find that it’s actually something you look forward to.