Last week, I had a discussion with a business peer who literally had run out of puff. It led me to think about what wellbeing means to businesspeople.
How do we keep going? How do we renew our energy? How do we know when we have finally hit the wall and literally have to stop? At what point does being too productive become unproductive? When does the fear of missing out lead us to burn-out?
Sign up for SmartCompany newsletter.
Free to your inbox every weekday
My peer runs a very successful company, is a blossoming entrepreneur, and a serious award winner. In the lead-up to Christmas, she went to a staggering 16 business events in a row, every single night, and sometimes to more than one event per night. She literally ran from one engagement to the next by changing out of her stilettos into runners.
By the time Christmas arrived, she packed up her bags and headed overseas for a international holiday. The problem was that her body decided it was not going. It was willing to miss out on this event!
When I caught up with her, the first thing she said was “I simply pushed too hard”.
“I had a fear of missing out and thought I had to go to everything in case a networking or commercial opportunity presented itself. Alcohol or drugs have never been my vice. But I was addicted to the canapés!”
The metaphor is hugely revealing, and is common in many entrepreneurs I know.
Since that conversation, I have asked my entrepreneur friends when enough is enough and how they know they need to rest and recoup.
The real issue is that we keep pressing our boundaries. We push our capabilities and let self-expectation drive us, missing out on the productivity that comes from following a very strategic plan. Most of us don’t know when we are at the point of no return until we get there.
So I also wanted to find out what other entrepreneurs do to recharge, renew and be productive. Some use meditation techniques, sport, yoga, and spiritual therapies. Family time, pet time, and other totally non business related activities. Others have peer to peer networks.
We all have one thing in common. Unless you have a technique, you are sure to hit the wall sooner or later. Being consistently tired is just no fun.
Making smaller, normally routine decisions is so much harder in the “burnt out space” due to a lack of focus and rationality. Small things become big issues and big issues become impossible.
Realising the significance of this makes me stop and really think about how I manage my pace, what is important (as opposed to urgent), and most of all, how important wellbeing is to being a successful business person. There are times I feel I am running a sprint, and then have to remind myself that it’s actually a marathon.
So how do I avoid getting addicted to canapés?
I simply stop when I need to get what I call “mind fit”.
I turn off the phone, have quiet time in my chosen space and don’t allow any disruption. I eat well, with lots of whole foods and do things that simply make me happy. I do this at least once a week.
Then three times a year, I vanish overseas or locally to reflect on myself and my productivity. I work out what to do differently. Of course, I had to get to that exhaustion (about three years into my business) before I realized how important this really is to the entrepreneur.
Exhaustion and running on empty – getting addicted to canapés – can be the entrepreneur’s curse. Moving fast and a kinetic pace is in every entrepreneur’s DNA. We just have to make sure the tank doesn’t run on empty or our productivity will naturally decline.
So how many canapés are enough for you?