Running a company is an endurance sport. It can be as thrilling as driving a Tesla at top speed, but it can be as grueling and unglamorous as pushing a 400-pound boulder a couple of inches per hour for days on end. These three tips are some ways I've found to effectively deal with the demands of the job, achieve consistency, and maintain a high level of functionality, all while weathering the highs and lows of the job.
1. Visualizing the future gives your mind a blueprint.
Visualization is a well-known way to improve performance. I was first introduced to visualization when I was a competitive swimmer on one of the top national swim teams growing up. It was part of every race to first visualize beating the competition, seeing every turn, the beginning and the end, before racing.
Now, as CEO of a company, I've found that this is a good tactic for general mental management as well. Visualization is a way to reset and execute efficiently by helping your mind focus on the desired result.
Not too long ago, I got hit with a highly stressful software development issue an hour before a very important person was coming into my office for a critical meeting. I went into a private room, wrote out the desired result of the meeting, bulleted the sequence of points I knew I needed to make, and then ran through the whole meeting in my head. Afterward, I felt centered with a clear plan of action.
2. Seeking novelty renews your creative energy.
During prolonged busy periods, burnout is a real threat. The way I've experienced burnout is when we've had particularly punishing periods of crazy hours that go on for a few months--at a certain point, I hit a wall. I find the best way to keep burnout at bay, and stay creative and flexible, is to regularly seek out fresh perspectives.
I do this by actively putting new information in my head that is different from my day-to-day business. The brain can get incredibly bored with a grueling routine of sameness and stress, so I seek out creative pursuits and information in disciplines other than technology. Art is incredibly effective. About nine months ago, I came out of a particularly difficult period and went on a self-imposed art tour that included the Ai Wei Wei show and the Judy Chicago shows at the Brooklyn Museum, among others.
Another way to do this is to meet people who are fundamentally different from you. One of the great joys of running a company is that you tend to meet a lot of people. Meeting and talking to people who are in completely different professions unrelated to your business can help you be more creative on a day-to-day basis.
I remember years ago when I was studying organic chemistry in college, I would suddenly get a poem in my head. I found this really interesting. Being immersed in a completely different subject matter can get a brain out of its rut.
3. Setting achievable physical goals brings you balance and confidence.
In order to be able to sometimes work 18 hours a day, I find it critical to be in good physical shape. These days, running outside is my favorite exercise, since I can do it whenever I am free and wherever is convenient.
Running is also a tool that I use to visualize goal achievement. If I have a hard goal, like a sales or development goal, I decide how far I am going to run and make running to that spot equivalent in my mind to making the sale. If I get tired before reaching it, I summon my energy and push through to meet the goal. I do this over and over again.
Set small goals and deliver. Through repetition, you will not only get a good workout, you will have created a mental analogy for success.
These three techniques are staples in my arsenal to stay focused, keep creative, and keep my own mental state in top gear.
Nicole Hamilton is CEO of Tactile Finance, which develops solutions that let professionals provide optimal consumer real estate outcomes to their clients, giving clarity to home buyers and homeowners, increasing customer satisfaction, and driving revenue through uncovering new business opportunities. Nicole's career has been in corporate and product leadership in various industries including medical devices, telecommunication software, consumer products, and data analytics software. Follow her on Twitter @nikhamilton and her company @tactilefinance.