Anyone who has built a business from the ground up knows that staying mindful, focused, and refreshed is an everyday challenge. Today’s connected world, with its barrage of messages, emails, and screens of every size demanding our constant attention, can amplify this challenge. There’s an urge to respond to every email and answer every phone call, no matter the time of day. This state of being “always on” can blur the line between what is urgent and what is important.
As an entrepreneur who has built two companies, I’ve realized that unplugging from technology and carving out personal time makes me a more successful, healthier, and happier CEO. It allows me to approach problems from a fresh, constructive standpoint and be more confident in my decisions. Also, by making time for myself, I’ve been able to increase my productivity at work. What works for you might be different from what works for me, but here is one simple change I've made that has helped increase my work happiness:
I stopped bringing my phone on runs.
For many entrepreneurs, it can be difficult to ignore business emails and calls after work. Over time, I’ve learned to put up a mental wall and have refrained from checking emails and taking calls when I am not working. Doing so allows the subconscious mind to roam free and engage in creative processes that our screens prevent. Moreover, research shows that separating home life from work life helps employees recover from work demands and mentally recharge for the next day.
Additionally, as a runner, I’ve learned to ditch my playlist and my phone altogether when I hit the trails. The constant email or IM notifications throw off my rhythm. The music itself was a distraction. Running without tunes allows me to focus on my breathing, hear my feet pound the pavement, and take in the sights that my hometown, Dallas, has to offer. In fact, a few weeks after implementing this hack, I noticed that my run became something to look forward to rather than a chore to power through.
I enjoy my personal time and work out more when I’m entirely offline. Besides, I trust my team, and if it’s a fire, they know how to find me. Like many entrepreneurs, I started off consumed by every detail and happening at the office. But as my team and company grew, I learned to let go and delegate responsibilities. Because of this, I can take creative breathers and have important self-reflection time.
It works for weekend getaways, too.
Company founders and startup employees tend to work long, arduous hours. As such, it can be difficult to get away for extended periods of time in the early stages. While I may not have time for a long vacation, I try to make time to get away for short trips, whether it is a weekend in Texas Hill Country or a visit to the local zoo. Go on a trip not to escape work but to revive and reanimate yourself for the coming weeks. It’s important to remember that taking the days off will put you ahead when you return, instead of behind.
The quality of your vacation is important as well. Plan ahead for time away that will bring you back rejuvenated—not drained. Studies have shown holidays that encourage you to learn new skills help reduce exhaustion while a frustrating vacation can drain your energy and productivity.
A recent hiking visit to Big Bend National Park had all the elements of an ideal short break. The spotty cellphone connectivity within this remote and vast park obviated the need to leave the cellphone behind to unplug. And the daylong hikes within the park provided ample time to unwind, self-reflect, and do some creative thinking.
Research shows people who work more than 11 hours a day are more than twice as likely to have a major depressive episode, even in those without any history of mental issues. Work demands and responsibilities will always be present, but there are easy steps you can take to keep yourself from burning out. Ensure that you’re investing time back into yourself so you can be as happy and productive as possible for the long haul. Your family, your team at work—and most importantly, YOU, will benefit. How do you stay mentally fit in today’s connected world?