Subscribe to LaunchableMag, the magazine by LaunchableMedia
You’re set up in a coffee shop, slouched over, slaving away with three empty coffee cups stacked beside the remains of a croissant sandwich, stubbornly refusing to move for fear of giving up one of the few coveted power outlets in the establishment. Sound familiar?
Entrepreneurs lead what are arguably some of the busiest schedules around—notorious for a non-existent work-life balance and non-traditional hours. When the work seems to be never-ending, it’s easy to set exercise, rest, and healthy eating lower on the to-do list than the urgent needs of your business.
Pushing off health goals for one busy week can easily turn into two weeks, two weeks turns to six months, and six months turns into next year’s New Year’s resolution.
Entrepreneurs are inherently workaholics. The more you work and more you sacrifice, the more successful you’ll become, right? Well, maybe. This is likely the reason for many startup successes. What is proven, though, is that not taking care of your body and mind will ultimately lead to health problems, career burnout, and strained or non-existent relationships.
Entrepreneurs can still maintain the hustle while incorporating a few simple healthy living tricks into each work day. After all, it only takes two weeks to form a habit.
Stand, Stretch, Repeat
Standing desks are all the rage, especially in the startup world. Some offices may not even sit or stand at all, but lean instead. While getting on our feet is always a healthier choice, it’s important to keep in mind that sitting isn’t detrimental simply because calories aren’t getting burned—stretching is an important aspect of fitness that is often overlooked.
Promoting blood flow through stretching increases nutrients’ access to your muscles. It also relieves stress by releasing muscle tension, like a little mini-dose of yoga, and leaves you feeling rejuvenated.
Physical educator Steve Maxwell explains that even those who exercise vigorously every day are sitting for a majority of their waking hours. The more we sit in our own individual style of slumping—and we all have our own—the more our body gets used to that position. Eventually, your body will think that this awkward and off-balance angle is actually your regular, upright posture. Achy and stiff is the new normal.
Maxwell’s suggestion is a vestibular reset: rolling, rocking, baby crawling, and marching to reset your balance (and even get a bit of cardio).
Of course, not everyone has the space or time spinning like a Sufi monk, but it’s an important concept to keep in mind. Stretch whenever possible, even if it’s at a patch of grass on your way to pick up lunch or in the airport while you wait to board. Suggest walking meetings, get on your feet during phone calls, and take a two-minute walk at least every hour during long work sessions.
On-the-Go Doesn’t Have to Mean Processed
Staying active isn’t the end-all of health. In fact, daily exercise will be basically useless for weight loss purposes if it’s paired with a poor diet. Changing your snack choices or prepping healthy options in bulk will have positive effects on your energy, mood, and immune system (leaving more time for your newfound productivity to get work done instead of fighting off a cold).
The easiest way to achieve this is simply planning ahead. Prepare and individually pack some protein-packed snacks on Sunday night. Each morning, take your pick on your way out the door:
Trail mix, ideally nuts and dried fruit only—leave out chocolate or artificial additives
Hard boiled eggs
Rice cake & almond butter sandwiches
Nonfat greek yogurt and a handful of fruit
Hummus, celery, and carrots
Depending on how starved you are for time, the prepare-now-and-eat-later concept can be applied to every meal. Pre-pack a few salads for the week, set aside 15 minutes on Sunday to cook some quinoa, or take 30 minutes to bake a big batch of kale chips. When the week begins, all you’ll need to do is grab and go.
If you can’t spare the time to prep in advance, then keep one rule in mind when choosing snacks: The shorter the ingredient list, the better. Dissecting the fine print of ingredients on a protein bar to weigh the nutritional pros and cons is possible, but in the end, whole foods are always the better option. Whole grains and protein will keep you full longer and avoid the sugar or caffeine crash that has you reaching for that third, fourth, and fifth cup of coffee by 3 PM.
If You Can’t Sleep More, Sleep Better
For many entrepreneurs, scheduling the full 7-9 recommended hours of sleep per night is simply impossible. Entrepreneurs inevitably sacrifice many of the luxuries that strict 9-to-5 workers take for granted. Often, taking a night off just isn’t an option.
That being said, there are still ways to improve your sleep patterns and have you feeling more rested, even if you’re unable to devote more precious time. It’s been proven that many sleeping problems arise from stress.
Even if you don’t realize it, stress could be preventing you from falling fully into deep sleep throughout the night, leaving you needing even more than that lofty 7-9 hour goal.
Start by taking 15-30 minutes before bed to exercise good sleep hygiene.
Use your bed only for sleep and sex. Your bedroom should be a sanctuary that, when you enter, you mind automatically knows it’s time to sleep or relax in preparation to sleep. One of the best ways to ensure this is removing the TV.
Don’t eat a large meal before bedtime. This advice is often given when speaking about weight loss, but it also disrupts your body’s ability to relax because it’s working hard at digesting. Don’t forget: chocolate contains caffeine.
Soak up the vitamin D. Getting a sufficient amount of natural sunlight during the day promotes a healthy sleep-wake cycle. Along with waking at around the same time every day, your body will start to know that it’s time to sleep when the lights go out and it hits a certain hour.
In the end, the best thing you can do is take a little time to relax—away from email, texts, TVs, and laptops—before sleep. Your body will thank you.
Lastly, avoid half-work. When you sit down to work on a big project for the day, don’t open up Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or email (yes, even work email). Put your phone away and make sure the TV is off. In a world where we’re constantly inundated with pings, buzzes, rings, and pop-ups begging to split our attention from what’s at hand, we seem to have forgotten what productivity really means.
How will you ever delve into that business plan or really think deeply about your company’s outlook and opportunities when you’re constantly pausing to check a buzz, shoot another quick email response, or watch your Twitter feed? Start to think of multitasking as a weakness, not a skill.
Of course, entrepreneurs don’t always have the luxury of devoting time to self-improvement. But slowly incorporating these quick tricks, such as pre-packing healthiness or stretching while you email, will leave you feeling energized and ready for more creating and innovating. Work-life balance doesn’t have to mean ending your job at 5 PM, but it does mean taking care of the little things that keep you healthy.