Startups and small businesses have one thing in common, they both demand a lot from the owners and stakeholders — a higher than average time commitment, a high level of performance and sustained levels of mental and physical stamina. These demands can and often do burn people out entrepreneurs and their employees. We need to stay mentally alert and physically healthy to avoid fatigue and burnout. In short, we need to constantly rejuvenate our body and mind to protect ourselves from the negative impacts a startup or small business culture can have on us. At Pelago, we work hard to make Intervals the popular online time, task and project management application it is today. Here are some practical tips on how to keep yourself healthy in a startup or small business environment, based on what we’ve learned along the way, and continue to learn each day.
Diet and nutrition
Almost every startup and tech company I have ever worked at kept a stash of soda and candy in a drawer somewhere inside the office walls. This is one of the worst things you can do for yourself and your team. Sure, it motivates everyone to keep working because, hey, it’s free soda, but relying on sugar to push through the long hours is going to burn you out in the long run. Your body simply can’t sustain its defenses against the ups and downs triggered by repeated sugar intake. Dump out the sugar bins and fill them with healthier alternatives. Any type of snacks and drinks without sugar in them is a great place to start. Refueling on healthier drinks and snacks will even you out and give you deeper wells of energy to draw from.
The simple act of getting up and moving around is the best thing we can do for our bodies. The amount of time we spend sitting has been recognized by researchers as one of the most detrimental factors affecting our long-term health. In other words, sitting for too long will kill you. The least you need to do is get up out of your chair and move around every hour or two — walk around the office and stretch your arms and legs. Want to take it to the next level? Spend some time at the gym or ride your bike to work. Again, research shows that daily exercise does wonders, and that riding our bikes to work can save us billions in health care costs. Given the amount of strain a startup or small business can put on our bodies — from bad posture to sedentary work habits — we need to counter it with as much physical exercise as we can manage.
Our minds can become quite tired when stuck in the same mental rut for too long. We’ve all experienced the epiphanies that suddenly occur after walking away from a difficult problem. Our minds need the same amount of rest and exercise our bodies do. Take breaks from the monitor and look out the window at something far away, letting your eyes adjust and stretch their focusing mechanism. Go sit outside somewhere and relax for twenty minutes. Studies have shown that one twenty minute break each day can lower blood pressure more effectively than medicine. Practice different breathing exercises to calm the mind down. Startups and small businesses are breeding grounds for stress and anxiety, which both are root causes of many physical ailments. Learning how to cope with the mental strain of a fast-paced work environment will not only keep you sharp, it will keep you healthy.
The holistic trinity
It is important to look at your business as a living and breathing entity comprised of more than just the sum of its parts. If the sole focus is on throughput, you are going to burn out. The time and effort you put in to each day is a renewable resource, which is why you need to continually renew yourself with more than just eight hours of sleep every night. The human body is often times compared with an engine. The metaphor follows that if you take good care of your body and mind it will run better and last longer. You are the most valuable asset of any startup or small business, which will put a lot of miles on your body. Don’t let yourself become burned out from nutritional, physical, or mental neglect. All three of these are important aspects of our well-being and need to be a focus of our day-to-day work flow. The more preventive measures we take to keep ourselves healthy, the more our startup or small business will benefit.
Photo credit: anacharlottee