Two Self-Care Musts for Entrepreneurs

September is National Self-Care Awareness Month! Often, entrepreneurs are very busy, and they don’t take the time to care for themselves. In 2020, unfortunately, this is especially true, due to COVID-19, and business owners trying to stay afloat and find creative ways to survive this stressful time. Perhaps they don’t see the value in self-care, believe it’s an indulgence they just don’t have time for, or feel like time away from work isn’t wise. We’re here to tell you that not only is self-care a must – it’s a luxury you can’t afford not to indulge in! Here are two practices that every entrepreneur should incorporate into their schedule.

Don’t Just Plow Through Your Workday

Have you ever sat working at your desk, head down so long it was dark when you next looked outside, then at the end of the day, all that “working” didn’t seem to knock many items off your task list? You aren’t alone. It might seem counterintuitive when you have so much to do, but it’s very important to take breaks during the day, and studies have verified it. Cognition, an international publication that shares papers on the study of our minds, published information on University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign research. The results were quite interesting – when focusing on a particular task, taking a short 5-10 minute break, or incorporating a diversion from work for the same amount of time, once an hour, resulted in not only far less cognitive decline, but better performance, focus, and attention throughout the experiment. Leader of the study, one of the college’s psychology professors, Alejandro Lleras, revealed, "We propose that deactivating and reactivating your goals allows you to stay focused. From a practical standpoint, our research suggests that, when faced with long tasks, it is best to impose brief breaks on yourself. Brief mental breaks will actually help you stay focused on your task!"

Breaks can re-energize our minds. Maybe you’ll find completely stepping away from anything considered productive to work or your career does the trick for you, like a quick call or text session with a friend to catch up. If you feel twinges of guilt from not being productive – even for a very brief time – then try watching an educational video on YouTube. Have you always wanted to learn a new shortcut in Excel? Want to improve the quality of your podcasts? Did you get an awesome deal on 4 pounds of spinach at Costco and need to figure out what to do with it? YouTube is a plethora of creators speaking on just about every subject you can imagine, and whether you want to spend 3 minutes or 30 minutes, you can probably find a video that is the length of time you care to invest at the moment.

We think there’s a lot of merit and value to this self-care tip, so in future newsletters, we’ll dive deeper into how science backs interspersing short breaks with long periods of work.

Schedule “Me Time”…And Don’t Pencil it in Either!

What do you like to do? What lessens your jaw-clenching and balled-up fists? Whatever it is, make time for it – ideally, daily. You don’t have to do the same stress-relieving, enjoyable activity every single day (unless you want to), but you should be making time regularly to do something you like.

Many entrepreneurs find solace in meditating, tai chi, lying still and focusing on just breathing for a period of time, or journaling. Morning Pages, done right after you wake up, is a form of journaling that Julie Cameron, a best-selling author of over 40 books, created. Dubbed the “Queen of Change” by the New York Times, her method includes writing 3 pages of stream of consciousness, longhand, no edits, no changes. Whatever is in your mind goes on the page – no matter what it is – and the idea is to clear your mind to start your day with a clean slate, which is supposed to make room for clearer thinking, less distractions, and more productivity. If this sounds interesting to you, be sure to catch our October newsletter for more information, as well as feedback from those who have used this type of journaling.

Video games can be a good escape during “me time”. There are two caveats with this fun, immersive short escape from work – the time goes by quickly and it can be competitive. Be sure to set a timer so you don’t go over your designated chunk of time, and remember that you’re not playing the game to win, beat any high score, complete a certain number of levels, or anything similar. This activity is simply a short and fun respite from your workday – that’s it. Whether you play brain teasers on your phone, solitaire on your computer, or a car racing game on a console, as long as you can walk away when the timer goes off, this can be a great tool to revitalize your creativity.

Food is the focus of a few wonderful “me time” activities, and they nourish both your thinking power and your body. When was the last time you sat down and ate a meal without your phone in one hand, or actually sat at a table designated for food consumption and not work? While it seems like we’re saving time by eating breakfast in the car or in front of the computer, or stabbing a fork aimlessly through a salad for lunch while we go through emails that came in since we checked earlier in the morning, the truth is that eating these meals doesn’t take as long as we think it does.

Being present and aware of the food meant to sustain us is a self-care activity that many don’t employ. Enjoy the colors and crunch of your vegetables, the subtle flavor notes in your coffee or tea, and even appreciate the chicken for its egg. Being thankful and grateful for the healthy, available, nutritious food we have to eat can bring about a mindset of gratitude for other things, and that results in a good mood that’s contagious.

The first line of Meal Gatha, given to us by Buddhism, reminds us of how our food comes to us, and that it took 72 laborers to make it happen. Japanese monasteries utilize a very detailed system of dividing labor among the monks there, and this opening line of the Meal Gatha lets us know that food doesn’t miraculously just appear – we should be aware of and acknowledge the process, be thankful for it, and give reverence and respect to those who made it possible.

Cooking food can also be a relaxing “me time” activity, especially if one remembers that the presentation perfection often seen on Instagram is not a requirement for tasty food. Baking is a less forgiving sport, due to the chemical reactions happening between ingredients, so precision is more important here.

If you don’t fancy yourself too handy or comfortable in the kitchen, meal delivery services like Hello Fresh and Plated give you a head start by providing portioned out ingredients and detailed recipes. Making a cake and frosting from scratch (or any baked good, really) can be intimidating, and there’s no shame in picking up a mix and pre-made frosting at the store. Both options providing assistance in creating a delicious meal and dessert come in options that just a few years ago were not on supermarket shelves, including no gluten / dairy, vegetarian, vegan, and more. If you can’t find appropriate choices for your dietary needs there, you can find them online. Another benefit – prepping meals ahead of time makes it easier to sit and enjoy your food, as mentioned above.

Use the remainder of this month to prioritize self-care, and get into the habit of making it a part of your daily routine. We’ve only listed two ways above, but they are an umbrella under which many ideas reside.

Fine Point Consulting is a boutique consulting firm offering expert-level professional accounting & human resources services customized to meet your budget. We help entrepreneurs who are trying to scale fast get more done and stay lean.

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