It's finally time to take time for yourself. But then you think: "Shoot, it's almost midnight and I have to be up at 5 a.m. to [fill in the blank with some small, simple, soul-destroying task necessary to keep a small business operating]."
So, you go to straight to bed. You hurry to dreamland for five hours of stress-free rest. But instead, you dream about work. Those emails you haven't answered. The little tiff between two of your best employees that might end up with both of them leaving your employ.
This isn't healthful, to put it bluntly. The problem isn't that you're obsessive about your job--entrepreneurs are obsessive by definition. But you've got to find methods of escaping those demands, even if only for a few minutes now and then. You owe it to yourself, your company, and your loved ones to do so.
A few humble suggestions:
1. Read a book. No, an actual book.
This advice is hypocritical, because I've given away most of my old-fashioned books over the years as I've moved from place to place. The beauty of having a traditional library isn't worth the back pain.
These days, I do most of my reading from my Kindle or my phone--but my point holds true regardless. Reading takes you out of yourself in a manner that few other activities can.
What you read matters. Scanning some article from the Drudge Report or CNN is probably going to leave you depressed, scared, and wishing that the internet had never been invented. Instead, dig into a long-form essay or book that demands steadfast attention and commitment.
Ashlee Vance's biography of Elon Musk, for example. Think you know all there is to know about the guy whose ambitions include colonizing Mars and building an underground freeway system? Think again.
You just can't capture someone that complex in a headline. Hell, Vance hardly scratches the surface in 400-plus pages. But I was mesmerized for every single page, and my blood pressure was grateful for the break.
2. Love the people you love with your whole self.
I have six daughters, all of whom live at home. They're all energetic, too--picture a lightning storm at a monster truck rally and you'll get the idea.
When I walk through the front door, I get mobbed. I get mobbed by six little people, each of whose needs, goals, and crises are--to them--every bit as complex as Elon Musk's.
You'd think, in a sane world, that this wouldn't exactly count as a de-stressor, but it does. It isn't answering emails. It isn't solving spats between talented colleagues. It's connecting emotionally with human beings for whom I'd die in a heartbeat.
They take me out of myself. They make me laugh. Hell, even if they make me cry, it's different from the sort of tears an unsuccessful fundraise might inspire.
It's the difference between turning on a light bulb and watching a sunrise. Both provide light, but one lights a room, and the other one lights the world. Think about who lights up your world, and pay attention to them. You'll not just survive, but thrive.
3. Take care of yours truly, truly.
Again, I have to preface this suggestion with a hypocrisy warning: I work too many hours, travel too many miles, and drink too many glasses of wine to qualify for healthiest man of the year.
I do hit the gym on a daily basis, even if it's just for 20 minutes. I visit my doctor and heed his advice. I stopped eating sugary treats when I realized they were killing me.
In short, I make enough tiny sacrifices on behalf of my body and mind to sustain my existence without too much discomfort for either. Excessive physical or mental distress will eventually lead to failure--failure in business, failure at home, failure at everything that matters.
Babying yourself every once in a while doesn't make you a baby. Limited suffering on a treadmill will save you unlimited suffering down the road. I'm a devotee of massages--I found an affordable establishment and establish my presence there at least once a week.
None of these suggestions are revolutionary or original. They're bedrock stuff, basic stuff, but they've saved me a lot of grief.
So try it. Open a book at page one and keep going until there are no more pages to turn. Open your heart to someone your heart belongs to, and let them do the same. And pick up a dumbbell, for God's sake. No, not for God's sake--for yours.