Adam Witty is an Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) member in Charleston, South Carolina, and CEO and founder of Forbesbooks, exclusive publishing imprint of Forbes magazine and Advantage Media Group. Adam asked professionals in the worlds of finance, health care and entrepreneurialism about the routines and habits that keep them and their businesses healthy. Here's what he shared.
Life as a successful businessperson does not have an off button or a finish line. And as exciting as the journey is, it can be quite mentally, emotionally, spiritually, socially and physically taxing to run a business.
That might be one reason why about 20% of small businesses fail in their first year and 50% in their fifth year, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Business Employment Dynamics. As a matter of fact, while market and financial factors are responsible for the vast majority of startup collapses, studies show that burn out, lack of passion and internal disharmony are a factor in almost 1/3 of all failures.
It's the exhaustion, the stress. But as Hans Selye, one of the early pioneers of modern stress theory said, "It's not the stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it." The most successful businesspeople understand that and create a world of habits, rituals, routines and, yes even superstitions to help reduce their stress level, perform at their best and create a sense of balance.
Here are a selection of rituals and superstitions that might help you reframe your own stressors:
The vast majority of respondents attest to the benefits of waking up early. Research shows that early risers are more productive than night owls, more agreeable and conscientious, and even happier than people who sleep in.
Getting up just one hour earlier each morning adds up to an extra 15 days in a year! This is their time to do their thing with fresh energy and fewer distractions.
"I work out six days a week, frequently doing the 5:50 a.m. boot camp." - Kimberly Townsend, President and CEO, Loretto
"I wake before sunrise every day. All lights off, I make coffee, sit on the porch, enjoy a dark garden―my goal is no electronic light, only morning light. Sit, wake up, reflect." - Walt Brown, EOS implementer
"I get up daily at 5:30 a.m. to play with my two-year-old. I find that wakes my brain up more than the double espresso I have about an hour after I'm up." - Zach Mercurio, leadership consultant
"Unbreakable commitment to two cafe lattes and the New York Times. Always start with Section One." - Peter Horst, Fortune 500 CMO
The Mayo Clinic notes the power of routine to decrease anxiety, eliminate distractions and enable focus. That ultimately means creating a protocol to deal with that most stressful element of the workday―email! It is estimated that by the end of 2017, 132 billion emails will be sent and received each day. That's a lot of stress!
Our professionals have found their own, however disparate, answers to the email challenge:
"Immediacy is the key―answer emails ASAP. Those who wait until later in the day: I will have already taken your potential customer with my timely response!" - Jack Daly, professional sales trainer
"I don't check e-mail in the morning. I find it's the quickest way to derail even the best-planned day. I check it once at 4 p.m. each day as I am winding down." - Zach Mercurio
"I only check email early morning and evening. I begin each day conquering the one or two most important things I have to accomplish and don't open email until they are done." - Sue Hawkes, Founder and CEO of YESS!
Research on downtime has revealed how mental breaks increase productivity, replenish attention and encourage creativity. How much downtime you need or what you do with it is a personal matter.
"I took up boxing. It's a great way to stay in shape and relieve stress. Plus it's humbling to be surrounded by lean, scary boxing pros half my age." - Peter Horst
"I love naps. I think a nap is the only way for me to have true mental downtime. - Dr. Stephanie Gray, owner, Integrative Health and Hormone Clinic
"I write to a personal blog called Daddy, notes to my father who was always my mentor prior to his passing. It helps me get thoughts out of my head." -Walt Brown
Superstitions might be considered irrational and unscientific, but research actually shows the opposite. Activating a superstition boosts participants' confidence in mastering upcoming tasks, which in turn improves performance.
"I have one particular blue tie and custom-made shirt that I wear for most every important television appearance or speaking engagement." - Eric Hutchison, Managing Director, United Capital Financial Life Management
"When I see a penny on the ground, I always pick it up and place it in my right pants pocket. I make sure no other change comes in contact with it (to keep the luck) and keep it each day until I find the next penny." - Albert Zdenek, Founder and CEO of Traust Sollus Wealth Management
"I wear red underwear for good luck and fortune." - Naoki Mizutani, Founder, Cosmic Entrepreneur
What is my biggest takeaway from these insights? Success is a result of forces both controllable and uncontrollable. The trick is to move the uncontrollable forces into the controllable column―even if that means buying into superstitions or rituals that improve your performance.