As a profession, entrepreneurship breeds anything but balance. The highs can be stratospheric and the lows can be crushing. Trying to find your rhythm in a highly competitive market can take its toll and sometimes entrepreneurs burn out far too soon. But there are ways to maintain balance despite the roller coaster ride.
This is something Mike Del Ponte, co-founder and chief executive of Soma, knows a lot about. Soma is the maker of smart, biodegradable and beautiful water filters, and delivers them to customers every other month.
Soma is launching this week. Despite the stress and frenzy that come with bringing a product to market, Mike is one of the most balanced people I know. Here, in his words, he shares the top ways he achieves balance as an entrepreneur:
1. Replace your to-do's with routines.
We all use tools like Asana and Evernote to manage our to-do lists. But for busy entrepreneurs, getting everything done is rare.
Try replacing your to-do's with routines. The key to forming good habits is to make them part of your "rituals." I have a morning ritual, afternoon ritual and Sunday ritual. It's one way to bundle good habits into regular times that you set aside to prepare yourself for the life you want. Rituals help you form habits.
Maybe you're most creative in the early mornings. Don't spend that time checking email. Keep your morning open for major projects when your mind is fresh. Spend your afternoon doing administrative tasks.
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2. Take a break with meditation.
Entrepreneurs spend an inordinate amount of time inside of our own heads -- thinking, analyzing, agonizing and obsessing over every little detail of our business. Sometimes, we need a break from ourselves. Meditation is a chance to let the thinking mind rest.
Meditating is easier than most people think. Start by focusing and following your breath. The goal is not to eliminate thoughts entirely, but to continually return to your breath. Taking this time relax your mind can help sharpen your focus in other aspects of your work and allow you to work for longer periods of time.
In entrepreneurship, nothing ever goes as planned. By taking time to slow down and gather your thoughts, you'll realize what tasks are most important to accomplish each day.
3. Exercise and eat right.
As an entrepreneur, it's easy to rationalize exercise avoidance with the excuse "I don't have the time." The opposite is true. By neglecting to exercise, your productivity can be diminished and, in the long run, you can lose time.
Whatever your flavor of exercise -- maybe you're a yogi, a gym rat, or a running fanatic -- make it a part of your daily routine to keep your body and mind in check. Personally, I do the conditioning program CrossFit three times a week.
Exercise is a stress reliever, with increased serotonin and endorphin levels helping to calm your mind. You'll charge through work much more efficiently after a quick energy boost as well. Looking better, beating that mile time or topping your max bench press can be amazing boosts to one's confidence -- a valuable trait as you pitch investors, close partnerships and recruit team members.
Nutrition is another big factor. Your productivity is directly tied to the food you eat. Processed foods, fast food and sugary drinks can decrease your energy and throw your work-life balance out of whack. You should eliminate them entirely. Also, drink lots of water. It flushes out toxins and makes your body run like a well-oiled machine.
4. Stay in contact with friends and family.
People who own and run their own business like to think of themselves as a remote island. With late nights, early mornings and weekends spent answering "one last email," the entrepreneurial lifestyle can seem diametrically opposed to maintaining a normal social life.
But let's face it: humans need social interaction to function. Whenever I have a minute of idle time -- maybe I'm waiting for a ride, or whatever -- I call a friend. I spend Sundays with my mom and my sister.
By using the support of those who care about you most, you can put all the little entrepreneurial hiccups in perspective and more easily stay grounded.
5. Disconnect from technology when you can.
It might seem tempting to work all the time. Sometimes it feels like any minute not spent working is wasted.
But as much as we like to think otherwise, entrepreneurs are not machines. We need time off. That doesn't mean watching TV on the couch while checking email. It means totally unplugging. No laptop, no phone, no tablets and as little technology as possible.
I used to work three jobs, seven days a week. I thought I could never take a day off. What I found was that I became much more productive -- and healthy and happy -- when I committed to resting each Sunday.
When you designate time to unplug from devices and from work you have more time to relax, read, cook, go to church, workout, meditate, get outdoors, enjoy the people you love, take a nap and everything else you say you "don't have enough time to do."