Leaders tend to be creatures of habit --a valuable trait when running a business since consistency produces results. But, like everything, it requires balance.
Some of the most successful leaders of our time are so because they've found a happy medium between work and self-fulfilling rituals. Developing habits that increase personal happiness have the dual effect of helping founders maintain their business edge and sharpen their leadership skills. Consider adopting these activities into your routine to stay top of your game.
Contrary to popular belief, practicing mindfulness need not be a big, orchestrated effort. In fact, even just five minutes center and clear your head.
Many of today's most successful leaders swear by the practice. In fact, the benefits of meditation include better concentration, reduced stress, more empathetic relationships with others, better sleep, and increased creativity. Being more in tune with the present moment is powerful when dealing with the whirlwind pace of running a business.
I have a 15-minute morning meditation routine, and shorter two- to five-minute practices when transitioning from CEO to dad to husband to coach, and so on. Learning to mindfully slow down your breathing and center yourself isn't as easy as it sounds, but with practice, it will become one of the more important things you do as a leader.
Similar to meditation, regular physical activity also helps maintain a clear mind and releases endorphins that help reduce stress. Of course, it's also key to keeping the body healthy.
When you're leading an organization it can feel like there's no time for this. But if you're starting to feel the pressures mounting, it could be a sign some sort of activity may be in order.
For many successful leaders, making time for physical activity is a non-negotiable. Others find time to fit it in by waking up an hour early, installing treadmill desks, biking to work, or making exercise part of their culture-building activities.
Personally, I love to trail run --taking advantage of the beautiful trails, like Camelback Mountain, in our own backyard. Getting out in nature is a great counter to days spent in the office.
Always be learning
The best executives are keenly aware of their own strengths and weaknesses and work toward making up the gap. Whether it's learning a technical skill, calling on peers for mentorship or simply getting lost in the written wisdom of others, set a goal of learning something new on a regular basis.
Your thirst for knowledge will set the tone for your company. Encourage your employees to pursue their own interests as they pertain to job skills or passions, then see what you can learn from them and keep the cycle going.
Finding time to continually read is important and never easy with a booked schedule. I print articles on topics that pertain to our business or clients' businesses, leadership, and raising kids, and use my plane time for this kind of reading.
Find fulfillment in serving a cause
Several things happen when you dedicate your time to someone or something else: you help fulfill a need, the feeling of being of service puts you in a euphoric state, and it pulls you out of your head or your work, making you feel a part of something bigger.
When you are being of service to others, you connect with people, and suddenly the problems that have been ruling your mind don't seem so massive. If you're ever feeling like you're being swallowed up by a momentous challenge, get out and volunteer --it will humble you and help put things in perspective.
I recently put on a father/son basketball tournament and built in a charitable component. We were able to raise funds for the nonprofit notMYkid, spend quality time with kids and friends, and engage in some fun, friendly competition.
Get lost in a hobby
Every leader needs an outlet. For some that could be the physical activity noted above or regular meditation practice, for others, consider pursuing an outside interest with regularity.
Whether it's sports, theater, music, writing, painting, playing drums, or riding a horse, approach hobbies with the same drive you would a business venture. You may not ever achieve mastery, but the pursuit of a new skill or passion will form new neural pathways that only help in business.
Spend time with friends and family
Building relationships with your team is, of course, important, but the relationships outside of the office are what life is all about. The more nights you stay late at the office or plans you cancel with old friends, the more opportunities for memorable experiences you're foregoing.
Taking time to live life with the people who matter most to you is important. Finding balance is hard, but being able to transition and be fully present outside of work is key to living in harmony.
Experience new adventures
More important than a break for the mind, the experiences traveling affords helps hone leadership and coping skills. Being a stranger in a strange land not only tests adaptability, it opens your eyes to new cultures or ways of doing things that can light up the part of your brain that generates ideas.
This summer, my kids and I are picking a number of hikes in northern Arizona to explore, and hope to find a few lakes with great cliffs for jumping. Whether your travel plans involve great adventures, napping on a beach or touring ancient ruins, these escapes are an important part of staying sharp. Enjoying life to the fullest is good for business, too.