One Thing a Business Owner MUST Prioritize to Succeed

by Carrie Smith 5 Minutes

self-careNo matter how smart you are, how many contacts you have, or how many clients your business works with everyday, if you don’t prioritize this one thing above everything else, your business is doomed for failure.

What is this one thing? Taking care of YOU first. If you aren’t able to function at your highest level of productive and creativeness, there’s no way you can put your best work out there.

And I assume that since you wanted to start your own business you no longer wanted to be stressed out, or have a lack of time for things you really enjoy.

The perks of being a business owner means that you can control your schedule and have the capability to prioritize time for self-care.

Why You Should Carve Out Time for Self-Care

I jumped into being starting my own business without fully understanding how vital it was for me to know my personal, emotional and physical limits. And guess where that led me? Straight into depression.

Because I pushed myself beyond what I was physically (and emotionally) capable of doing, and didn’t put my own needs first, I crippled my business and nearly ended up seriously damaging my own creative psyche.

This is not something I would wish on anyone, so before you can gain control of your life and business, you need to know your personal limits and what you need to function properly. You HAVE to zoom out and get perspective.

Here are some of the basic questions to ask yourself to ensure you make time for self-care.

1. What times of day are you most productive?

When you make the leap from a traditional job environment to being the boss, you’ll be responsible for setting your own work schedule. This can be very freeing, or very oppressive, depending on which route you take.

To avoid working yourself to death, it’s smart to pinpoint the times of day when you’re most productive. When do you get that boost of energy where your mind and body align, and you’re able to really pump out the work?

If you’re a morning person, the best time of day for you is before anyone else is awake. If you’re a night owl, then you work best when everyone else is asleep. Or if you’re like me, you find that your creative juices start flowing right after lunch time, and are considered an afternoon person.

There’s no right or wrong answer, you just have to know yourself and be willing to protect those vital hours of efficient and creative work time. If you only do work between those specific hours of the day, it will be all the accomplishment you need.

2. How many hours of sleep a night do you need to function at your best?

I don’t care what sleep experts say, we all need a specific amount of sleep to perform at our best. And sometimes it’s more or less depending on our own bodies, and what time or day of the month it is. Mondays always require less sleep for me than Fridays.

I don’t know why, I just noticed that when I get more less than 6 hours of sleep before Monday, I still get a lot done. On the flipside, if I don’t get around 8 hours of sleep before Friday, I’m basically useless.

Do an experiment of your own sleeping schedule and see how many hours of sleep you need to get each night. What’s your minimum hours? What’s your most optimum time when you get the amount of rest your body needs?

3. What do your surroundings need to be in order for you to “be in the zone”?

Do you like having a clean office that’s bright and airy? Does having music give you an extra boost to get work done? Or do you enjoy being surrounded by other people, like in a co-working space or coffee shop?

Take time to test out new work zones and office locations to determine how you like to function with your business. When you find you’re “getting into the zone” make a note and see why that is.

I noticed that I work better facing the door of my office than having my back to it. It’s more feng shui friendly and that works for my positive working vibes.

I also love having motivating music (without words) from artists like Lindsey Stirling and Ronald Jenkees. In fact, my number one productivity secret is focus@will which is scientifically proven to up your attention span by 400%.

On the flip side, my husband has to have complete silence when he’s doing work, and can not be disturbed or interrupted. Most of the time, he closes the door to the office to signal that he’s getting into the zone.

4. Do you know your boundaries?

What projects are you open to doing, and what are you not willing to do? This can include everything from not working with certain types of companies to not answering client emails after 5pm. If you don’t have specific boundaries, it will be too easy for you and your clients to violate them.

And if you let that violation happen repeatedly, you will quickly find yourself bitter and annoyed (and possibly depressed). You may not believe me, but when you cross your conscious and go against what you believe, your body and mind will become disjointed and that’s a short ride to a quick downfall.

Listen to what your body and mind are telling you and establish your boundaries with confidence. Then know your limits and enforce them. As a business owner or solopreneur, it’s VITAL you keep the lines of communication open, while establishing strict parameters!

Forget Time Management, Focus on Energy Management

The best athletes aren’t necessarily the ones who push themselves the hardest for the longest time. The best athletes are the ones who develop effective energy management strategies that incorporate efficient periods of rest.

Essentially, when top athletes want to be at their peak performance, they focus on what they do between exercises and drills. Which includes much-need down time, recharging, and developing resting routines.

This is information from a study done by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz, two executive business trainers. So if it works for the top athletes, you can be sure it will work for you as a business owner.

Find small opportunities throughout the day to relax and recharge yourself. You may not always have a full hour for a lunch break or time to take a nap, but just 10-15 minutes of a break can work wonders for you. Need some ideas? I use these “reset” techniques daily:

  • Drink water slowly
  • Take a walk around the block
  • Close your eyes and inhale deeply
  • Take a bathroom break
  • Do a few stretches
  • Doodle on a notebook
  • Close the computer and let your mind wonder

Allowing yourself a little time to pause in the midst of your work can do wonders for your productivity and your sanity. Carve out time to take care of you, or else pay the consequences.

Do this One Thing to Succeed

If you want to build a successful business in the future, you have to respect your own time while working, and ensure that everyone else does too.

Respecting your time and taking care of YOU is the first step towards success. Setting the boundaries for others to adhere to is the next step towards becoming a successful business owner (and yes those two can be mutually exclusive). This applies to your clients, your peers, your family, but especially yourself!

Image by dcarson924

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by Carrie Smith
Carrie Smith is a financial artist and founder of The Client Connection, a matchmaking service for clients and freelancers who want to avoid job boards and instead build quality businesses. In 2013 she quit her full-time accounting job and now works as a full-time business consultant and writer. Find her on Twitter (@carefulcents).