The new year is the perfect time to reflect on the year behind us and to improve over the 12 months ahead. Sometimes improving means forming new habits, not just for your business, but for yourself. Entrepreneurs are highly devoted to their businesses and willing to go above and beyond the normal work week, but sometimes they don't realize the importance of looking after their star player -- themselves.
"I don't believe in the 120-hour work week for entrepreneurs or anyone," says Dan Lauer, founding executive director of UMSL Accelerate. "For a startup, life is a marathon, not a sprint. I advise entrepreneurs to pace themselves." If taking a step back for your own physical and mental health sounds selfish, you might want to examine the matter from a different angle. As a business leader, improvements in your own well-being will be reflected in your business.
1. Pay attention to your bottom line.
When you're focused on running a business, it's easy to ignore your own bottom line. Know your risk tolerance before going into the new year, and separate your personal finances from your business as much as possible.
Tools such as Personal Capital can help you keep a clear view of assets and liabilities across multiple accounts, enabling you to track your own net worth and finances as closely as you track your business.
Maintaining personal capital can save you money when you're trying to qualify for business loans. Not only that, but keeping business and personal expenses separately defined can protect you in the unfortunate event that your business hits rocky financial ground, insulating you from potential liability issues if your business goes under.
2. Fill your body with the right fluids and nutrients.
Drink more water. It sounds simple, and it is, but it's important because water makes up the majority of the human body and is essential for life. Overall daily fluid intake from all sources is about 2.7 liters for women and 3.7 liters for men. Of these totals, beverages should comprise about 9 cups and 13 cups, respectively.
Entrepreneurs tend to have a busy schedule, so consider taking vitamins as a way to supplement your nutritional intake from a diet of burritos and fast food. If you're tired of choking down "horse pills," check out options such as the transdermal patches from Vitamin Patch Club, which allow for 90 percent vitamin absorption versus 30-40 percent in pill form.
3. Kill decision fatigue.
Have you ever thought about how much time you spend trying to decide between different options? Some of these decisions are critical and deserve your full energy and attention, while others (what shirt to wear, for instance) seem to demand more than their fair share of time.
You might not be able to produce more hours in the day, but you can use the same number of hours more productively. Taking steps to eliminate decision fatigue will yield more time for things that matter. Minor changes might involve planning out your day the night before, whereas Steve Jobs' decision to wear the same outfit every day is a bit more extreme.
4. Limit unnecessary screen time.
We've never been more glued to our screens. In the first quarter of 2016, adults in the U.S. spent an average of almost 11 hours each day on media consumption. Finding other ways to spend your time will help you lead a more balanced life, whether you go outdoors, volunteer in your community, or maybe tackle some household chores you've been putting off for months.
5. Cultivate a hobby that has nothing to do with your business.
Hobbies are more than just a way to relieve stress. Their numerous benefits can carry over to your business as well. A study conducted by San Francisco State University psychologists found that creative activity outside work can increase performance by 15 to 30 percent.
While you're at it, encourage your employees to explore creative outlets of their own. When employees have their own hobbies, they've proven to be more empathetic and to go out of their way to help their peers -- regardless of what those hobbies actually are.
6. Socialize both within and outside your industry.
No matter what industry you're in, networking is key. Attending conventions and workshops both in your field and outside it can introduce you to people you might never have met. It's a great way to market not only your business but also yourself. You never know where life will take you.
7. Read more books.
There are thousands of books available to help you improve your leadership, entrepreneurial, and sales skills. Reading on a daily basis allows to you continually learn and improve in whatever subject you choose. Skeptical? Bill Gates chews through about 50 books each year and maintains that he learns more from reading than any other activity. He isn't the only person who credits at least part of his success to reading -- other billionaires agree.
The new year is a great time to focus on areas where we can improve as business owners and individuals. The best part is, some of the above strategies will help out in both areas and provide the biggest return possible for our time expenditure. Resolutions are almost always short-lived, so try focusing on a few at a time. This will help you turn them into habits, which we all know are much harder to kick.