This is a checklist for myself as much as it's for you. Although much of it applies to everyone, especially those who work at a desk, if you are an entrepreneur and work intensely, you likely need signs, signals, alarms and life forces to interrupt your work flow in order to take care of yourself. I hope that the following helps to make your days as healthy and as effective as possible.
Are you hydrated? It's always time for a large clean glass of water. Bonus: add fresh organic lemon or liquid chlorophyll and drink up.
Have you eaten recently? Or, if you're like me, have you eaten a piece of dark, fair-trade chocolate recently? But really, eat good food, often, and make sure you have breakfast.
Have you stood up recently? Most of us are guilty of sitting for way too long. Try it right now: just place your feet on the floor and straighten your legs. Go outside, take a walk, do some light stretching by your desk. Invest in a healthy workspace (that means ergonomic furniture)!
Practice yoga -- every entrepreneur should do it. Practicing yoga on your own is wonderful, but sometimes scheduling yourself into a class might be more effective in forcing you to get up from your desk (personal experience). You will come out of each practice feeling refreshed, more grounded and ready to get back to work.
It's healthy and necessary to push ourselves, but pushing yourself too much can impact your health and your long-term success.
Have you donated or given some of your time? Your time is your most valuable commodity. Nothing will remind you of how valuable your time truly is more than giving it to those who could really use it. Give. And then give some more. It feels good, makes the world go round, and what you put out there, comes back to you. But really, imagine if we all shared just a little bit of our talent or experience with another every day.
Have you asked for support? Whether you feel most supported when speaking to your peers or to a professional, anything that makes you feel stuck is worth talking about. Virtually or in person, build your community. Exchange ideas. Connect others. Refer each other. Asking for help is a sign of strength, and nurtures development.
Are you dressing the part? Working doesn't mean that you shouldn't be comfortable. Make sure you are wearing clothes that give off your desired impression, but also stay true to you. (I wrote this post wearing an organic cotton t-shirt and stretchy pants, bare foot and cross-legged at my desk).
Are you getting enough sleep? If you can't remember the last time you slept a truly full night (it happens to us all), set the intention now to make it happen tonight. Close the blinds, shut out all lights (every device included), and hit the sack. We are all busy, pulled in so many directions, and all have so much to do, but we have to take care of ourselves in order to keep it all up. It's healthy and necessary to push ourselves, but pushing yourself too much can impact your health and your long-term success.
Are you getting nothing done? It's inevitable to feel this way sometimes. I find clients can often be so hard on themselves when they feel like they aren't accomplishing or getting enough done, or anything done in a specific area. We just need to pause and start small -- check any small task off of your to-do list (it can be as little as following up on an email). Be regular, not rigorous. Build yourself a steady momentum. Consistency almost always wins over frequency. Expect improvement, not miracles. Change happens when you keep practicing.
Your best strategic plan will always be called "Doing Things." Know that you are making a difference. One way or another, you are tipping the scales. The proverb that I live and work by is, "If you think you're too small to make a difference, try sleeping in a room with a mosquito." Measure your success constantly, and base your success on YOUR progress. Period.
Being successful isn't about chasing something.
Do you feel stuck? You aren't. Or, if you really are, you can unstick yourself with ease. Learn to breathe. Do not underestimate the power of breath and being connected to it. Pause, and make conscious, deliberate moves. Be mindful. There's nothing more powerful than your brain. If something isn't working, move on. Identifying what isn't working is as important as figuring out what is, and what can be. Evolve constantly.
Have you waited a week? Sometimes when we're too close to something, it messes with our perspective. Wait a week. See if you feel the same way when you've put some time between you and anything bothering you. As entrepreneurs we're often revving on high. Acting quickly is quintessential to being an entrepreneur, but if you need to slow down in order to be mindful, do that, rather than being too reactive based on an emotional knee-jerk reaction. Be kind to yourself. Go slowly. You don't need to be a pro out of the gate, be good to yourself and set a good pace. As Einstein said, "It's not that I am so smart, I just stick with problems longer."
Do you feel behind? Being successful isn't about chasing something. It is about being present right where you are to make the most of it all right now. We all get better, but we need to do the work first, and that work will likely piss you off, at least a bit. It's worth it.
Are you working outside of your comfort zone? You should be! The best source of knowledge is experience. Get going -- you are only waiting on yourself! Playing it safe is actually risky. Fitting in is failure, standing out and up is success.
Are you comparing yourself to others? Resist the urge to judge others or put them on a pedestal (although feel free to be inspired by them and their work). You never know of their struggles or gifts, and where they really are in their own business and life. You have NO idea what is happening behind their beautiful website, or how many copies of their book they really sold, or if they can pay their rent easier than you can. Focus on you, because that is what you know, and what you can control.
Have you hugged someone today? You should. Hugging is so much better than a handshake or a fist bump. How many things in life are as good to give as they are to receive?
We are likely doing much better than we think. It's not about making it through the day, it's about making the most of every day -- not just for our work life, but for our greater life, which includes our work. We are all different, so add your own questions (and answers) to help make the day work for you, as much as you work for the day.
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John Havens, founder of the non-profit organization, The H(app)athon Project suggests using technology to track our health, stress and happiness levels could be the the key. He sites Cardio, which enables you to measure your heart rate using an iPhone camera> He even suggests tapping into Affectiva, an app used by ad agencies to read people’s emotions through their facial expressions. In the same vein, Action For Happiness promotes the Check Your Mood site on its website.
If the drudgery of office life is getting you down, you could do worse than get back to nature. According to research carried out by City & Guilds revealed gardeners and florists as the UK's happiest workers. Although the results suggest this has less to do with flowers and foliage and more to do with freedom and free reign. As many as 80% said it was because they were able to manage their own workload and have autonomy over their daily tasks.
Google may have been voted America's 'Best Place To Work' four years running but for a while there was a serious happiness deficit among its female employees. When its People Operations team (that's HR to you and me) investigated further they found that women who had recently given birth were leaving at twice Google's average departure rate. In response Google boosted its industry-standard maternity leave plan from 12 weeks paid time off (just seven outside California) to five months of full pay and full benefits. After the new plan was implemented the attrition rate for new mothers halved, dropping down to the average rate for the rest of the firm.
You know that feeling when you're so engrossed in what you're doing you're completely oblivous to what's going on around you? Well, according to psychologists, this state is the epitome of true work happiness. According the the Hungarian psychology professor, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, and doctoral student at Harvard, Matt Killingsworth, the quality of our mental focus in the moment is the key to happiness while mind-wandering is its nemesis. Csikszentmihalyi found that we are happiest when we enter the 'flow state' - an ecstatic experience of total concentration that requires our complete attention due to its difficulty.
A programme called TinyPulse allows bosses to gather employee feedback via weekly anonymous surveys and provides a channel through which workers can raise issues and communicate with their bosses.
New research published by the Employee Ownership Association and sponsored by the John Lewis Partnership shows that staff working in employee owned companies (organisations in which all staff have company shares) are happier, healthier and more secure than workers without a stake in their company.
Craig A Jackson, Professor of Occupational Health Psychology at Birmingham City University investigates the idea of whether clinical hypnosis could be used in the workplace to improve health and stress of employees. He proffers some fairly weighty arguments in favour of the notion but would you really feel comfortable allowing your boss to do a Deren Brown on you?
The Navy nuclear-powered Navy submarine, the USS Santa Fe had a reputation of having the worst performance, the lowest morale and the lowest retention of all the Navy’s nuclear submarines. There were often delays for launches, and repairs could be repeated multiple times. When a new captain was brought in, one of the first changes he made was to insist that crew members didn't simply follow orders without thinking for themselves. If they thought something was wrong, they were to speak up and not simply following instructions blindly. As a result of his changes, the crew was able to pass an inspection by senior officers no problem.
Used by some companies to assist with recruitment, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator assessment is a psychometric questionnaire designed to measure psychological preferences in how people perceive the world and make decisions. "Whatever the circumstances of your life, the understanding of type can make your perceptions clearer, your judgements sounder, and your life closer to your heart's desire," said founder, Isabel Briggs Myers.
Jess Lee, the 30-year-old CEO of style e-commerce site, Polyvore, believes simplicity is at the heart of work happiness. In January she implemented a company-wide "simplification month". "To get the company down to its simplest possible state, I asked everyone to make a list of all the work they do, identify what was most impactful, and then cut, optimize or simplify everything else," she says. "In that one month, the product engineering team deleted some of the product features that were less used, we changed some of the ad programs, we simplified some of the communication processes inside the company, we refactored a lot of code and we streamlined our user support processes. "I think we got the company down to a simpler state and people had a clearer mind because their to-do lists were cleaner and simpler."
Follow Lisa Borden on Twitter: www.twitter.com/lisaborden