I'm 43 and I've skipped annual physicals for years because "I feel fine." I'm not unhealthy, but I haven't always made my physical well-being a top priority since leaving the Army for the private sector. For years, I justified the drive-thru burgers and lack of exercise by saying, "I'm too busy to eat right." Or "there simply aren't enough hours in the day to work out, too."
Then I had a heart attack. Now I have a couple of stents in my right coronary artery, and a newfound sense of responsibility. I have to take care of myself. This is not a game; this is life or death.
1. Put Yourself First
The financial notion of "pay yourself first" dictates that you sock away retirement savings before spending on other things. The same principle applies to your health and well-being as a leader.
Take a look at your calendar. Now schedule appointments with yourself to work out -- and don't break them. All it takes is 30 minutes of exercise plus a quick shower. Make it a routine. Hold the time as inviolable except in the case of an emergency. Then build the rest of your schedule around those dedicated times.
Do the same for meals. Don't fall prey to grabbing a burger or burrito as you rush between meetings. Carve out 30 minutes for breakfast and 30 minutes for lunch. Pack something healthy to eat at your desk if you've got a busy day.
Bottom line -- if you don't carve out the time, change won't magically happen. Self-care has got to become routine because the greatest benefits are derived only from consistency.
2. Review Your Metrics
You would never dream of running your business without clear success metrics that you review and monitor via regular reports. Without benchmarks and goals, your organization would invariably crash, right?
So why would you manage your most valuable asset -- your health -- without similar rigor?
Monitor your weight. Get your cholesterol checked -- regularly. Know your other key metrics based on personal risk factors and track them regularly. Use mobile apps and/or wearable technology to track your workouts and exercise performance (e.g., distance, time, heart rate). In other words, treat your body like you treat your business.
If you're truly metrics-focused, try building a simple spreadsheet with some graphs to track your progress over time. If you're motivated by incremental gains, that simple spreadsheet will drive your behavior more than you realize.
3. Set Goals
Again, you would never run your business without clear goals. Taking care of your body requires the same discipline and measurement.
Set goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. Yes, SMART goals. Weight, exercise, cholesterol, and other key metrics are readily available, obvious, and easy to measure. Use those as the basis for your goals.
Keep your goals realistic. If you set out to lose 20 pounds in a month, you'll fail, become frustrated, and give up. Give yourself time and set achievable interim goals that will provide the satisfaction and sense of accomplishment required to keep working toward your next goal.
4. Put as much energy into running your body as you do your business
The parallels are clear. You put a great deal of time, thought, and energy into running your organization and leading your team. Why wouldn't you dedicate similar effort to taking care of yourself? The upside is tremendous and the downside of neglecting your health is, well, death.
If you're not taking care of yourself, you’re letting down your team, your organization, and your family. Get started today.