By Adam Wright, president, CEO and co-founder of Associated Graphics (AGI)
When you’re launching a startup or trying to grow an existing business, it’s tempting to put all of your energy into it. The so-called “hustle culture” in the United States encourages this type of thinking.
A 2017 survey by the Alternative Board found that 84% of small business owners say they work more than 40 hours per week. This, unfortunately, is a long-standing trend. According to a Gallup survey from 2005, small business owners averaged about 52 hours of work per week.
However, maintaining balance in your life is a critical element in running a successful business. Taking time away to relax and recharge will pay dividends in the long term and allow you to think more clearly. I’ve learned from personal experience just how detrimental a lack of balance can be to your health.
A lack of balance can land you in the ER.
I started my business more than 20 years ago after ending my racing career. While the company was still new, my schedule became even more chaotic when my wife and I welcomed our first son. We were thrilled, but any parent knows just how much time and energy it takes to care for a newborn.
Between the demands at home and at work, I stopped exercising. Working out had always been part of my routine but I told myself there just wasn’t any time available anymore to fit it in.
It didn’t take long before I started experiencing crippling headaches, and I ultimately ended up in the emergency room (ER). The doctor ran me through a series of grueling tests, including a spinal tap, before concluding that my health problems were caused by stress.
He didn’t prescribe me medication. Instead, he strongly encouraged me to go back to the gym. I went that very day. About halfway through the workout, I realized the chronic headache that had been plaguing me for months was suddenly gone.
I advocate for regular exercise to manage stress.
Ever since that trip to the ER, I’ve made it a priority to exercise at least four times each week. My mental state deteriorates if I skip the gym for even a few days. I feel the anxiety and stress creep back in.
I strongly believe that overcoming adversity makes you stronger. Physical activity gives you an opportunity to tackle metaphorical adversities — whether the goal is to run faster, jump higher or lift a heavier weight.
I believe it’s important to challenge yourself both physically and mentally every day. For me, that includes a cold shower every morning. I also regularly endure ice baths. I believe these kinds of activities demonstrate how amazing your body is and can show you that you’re capable of anything.
No matter how hectic your schedule is, everyone can spare 10 minutes. Take those 10 minutes and do something that’ll benefit you physically and/or mentally.
Get down on the floor and do a plank. Take a walk around the block. Close your eyes, take deep breaths and meditate. Find whatever works best for you to manage stress and stick to it.
Prioritize rest, both for yourself and your employees.
If anything good has come out of this pandemic, it’s that more people have realized they don’t have to work themselves into the ground. The “I can sleep when I’m dead” mentality is nonsense.
Getting enough sleep will make you a better boss, based on research cited by the Harvard Business Review. It’s been proven that a quality night’s sleep improves focus, helps with problem-solving and sharpens communication skills. You’re less likely to respond emotionally if you’re well-rested.
Yes, you may get a lot done by working 50-plus-hour weeks, but you’ll eventually burn out and risk making major mistakes. If your company culture is like that, too, then you could face mass resignations and your bottom line could suffer. Making the necessary changes to achieve balance can prevent those problems from happening.
This article originally published in Forbes on February 7, 2022.