helaIne olen b SPREAD THE WEALTH
(@helaineolen) is a
veteran personal fnance
journalist, the author of
Pound Foolish: Exposing
the Dark Side of the
Industry, and the
co-author of The Index
Card: Why Personal
Finance Doesn’t Have
to Be Complicated.
The Smart Way to Self-Care
Running your own business means
working, a lot—but also knowing when
and how to give yourself a break.
ina Eiland, founder of
publicity frm X+PR,
always pushed herself
hard. She would start her
day by 7: 30 a.m. and go
till 9 at night. If she
couldn’t sleep, she’d send
emails to staf or clients
at 2 a.m. “I worked all the
time,” she says.
Until she couldn’t. In 2016, Eiland sprained her ankle while
running, her one release from stress. She was exhausted, which
she says contributed to the severity of her injury, and she still
can’t run. But the sprain, she says, forced her to confront the
lack of balance in her life: “It made me realize I had a problem.”
It’s a common one for entrepreneurs. Almost half of all
business owners clock more than 50 hours per week, and
82 percent work more than 40 hours, according to a poll by
the Alternative Board, a small-business adviser. Worse, fewer
than half put in those hours happily or enthusiastically.
Instead, their motivations range from believing their role is
indispensable to fear of failure.
This isn’t a good long-term business strategy. (Just ask
Tesla’s Elon Musk, whose increasingly erratic behavior and
minimal-sleep habit set of headlines—and federal charges—
this summer.) Business owners who regularly work excessive
hours told the Alternative Board they experience impatience,
insomnia, forgetfulness, mood swings, and bursts of temper.
“Burnout can happen to anyone, no matter how much they
love their work,” says Nancy Cramer, a leadership consultant
and founder of Correct Course Consulting.
So how can you practice self-care the smart way while still
efectively running your business?
Just because email, Slack, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and
countless other online communication tools exist doesn’t mean
you need to use all of them. It’s overwhelming and you’ll struggle to keep up. Instead, pick one, and request that your clients
use that method to get in touch. “Set the expectation and hold
them to it,” says Melissa Morris, a Gainesville, Florida–based
business operations consultant for entrepreneurs.
It’s also a good idea to set parameters on time online. Carrie
Weaver, a professional coach and CEO of Silver Branch
Consulting, once advised a client who would put her children
to bed and then answer email at night for two hours. When
Weaver instructed her to stop, it turned out no one noticed the
change—and her client was more relaxed and efective at work.
PLAN BIG BREAKS
Earl Choate, the founder and CEO of Concrete Camoufage,
an Isabella, Missouri–based e-commerce company that sells
concrete-staining products, takes Saturdays and Sundays of
and insists his employees do so as well. His explanation? Back
when he was a contractor, he noticed that when he and his
crew put in more than fve days in a row, the quality and quantity of the work declined. “Everyone would fall back into the
tired and dull fog,” he says.
Longer breaks are important too, for your personal health
as well as your business; people who don’t take vacation time
are more likely to sufer heart attacks, according to the Fram-
ingham Heart Study. Mark Aselstine, the co-founder and CEO
of wine club Uncorked Ventures in El Cerrito, California,
began taking two weeks of every summer after noticing his
productivity waning as the weather got warmer: “With
half my sales occurring at Christmas, summer was about
when I needed some time of.”
Yes, you’ll probably get some pushback about taking a real
vacation. Ashley Simon, co-founder of New York City–based
Curious Elixirs, a purveyor of nonalcoholic cocktails, says she
received more than a few passive-aggressive comments about
a recent one-week break. And no amount of success seems
to stop the vacation critics: Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian
recently took to Facebook to report a complaint from a ven-
ture capitalist when he took a holiday earlier this year. “If you
think that spending time with your wife and kid on vacation is
an example of a poor work ethic, you’re part of the problem,”
Ohanian posted in rebuttal.
If this happens to you, don’t apologize. “I typically
acknowledge that yes, I’m super busy, but I still make time to
do things that are important to me,” Simon says, “and that I
don’t think it’s smart or enjoyable to work seven days a week
for years on end.”
HELA NE OLEN