1. The self-care checklist

There are some self-care essentials you need to make sure you’re giving appropriate attention to, no matter where you’re at with your business. Check back in with this throughout your journey to make sure you’re looking after number one.

- Are you getting enough sleep to ensure you’re energised and well rested?

- Are you committing to regular exercise (at whatever level is comfortable for you)?

- Are you taking regular breaks and pauses from work?

- Are there clear boundaries – whether physical or time – between your work and life?

- Do you have sources of meaning outside of work? Are you maintaining them?

- Are you devoting sufficient time to leisure and relaxation?

- Have you built in mechanisms for dealing with stress? Are you utilising them?

2. Building good habits

Laura Giurge is a behavioural scientist and postdoctoral research fellow at London Business School. She shares key learnings from her recent research – along with tips on building healthier habits.

‘For many of us, the boundaries between our personal and our professional lives have been removed or shaped in new ways. People’s time has expanded towards working more, which is no good for the work-life balance. We need to be intentional with our time by maintaining boundaries, not letting work take over our days, and putting ourselves first so that we can protect our wellbeing, our social relationships, and our engagement and motivation within work.’

‘Founders in particular might feel that everything is a priority, and that if they stop working, their business won’t take off. It’s that “always working” mentality that can lead to burnout in the long run. It’s important to create buckets of time for non-work activities to keep ourselves healthy and productive.’

‘The research could not be clearer about the value of taking time off – people who do are more satisfied with their life, have better relationships and are more engaged. We’ve found that people who work during normative time off – like national holidays – have a lower intrinsic motivation to work, which is one of the biggest drivers of persistence in our work.’

‘People have started to realise the importance of having an external structure to help them disconnect. According to research, it can take two to three months to create a simple habit. We think we need to make big changes like moving to a new city or starting a new job, but we gain many benefits from making small changes, like going for a walk or calling a friend. It’s those that can often lead to more sustainable habits.’

‘There’s a bias around leisure time, that if you schedule it, it will feel less enjoyable. But committing to spending leisure time in more active ways – by exercising or meeting with friends – takes forethought and planning, and the more specific we are, the more likely we are to follow through with those plans.’

‘It comes down to having frequent honest conversations with ourselves about how we’re spending our time, what brings us energy, and letting go or removing some of the things that don’t bring us joy.’

3. The art of time.

How you focus your energy in your work will have a knock-on effect outside of it. Here time-management coach and author Elizabeth Saunders discusses how to best invest your time when that to-do list threatens to overwhelm you.

What’s the difference between time investment and time management?

‘Time investment is about the proper allocation of your time resources, while traditional time management is only about efficiency. When I started, everyone was really just focused on doing things faster – this is about taking a step back and asking whether you should even be doing that task.’

So how can someone improve their own time investment?

‘It’s about clarifying what your action-based priorities are – the tangible things you can do. So “research your market” is vague, but talking to five people in your target market about their thoughts and concerns is a tangible action. What are those priority items that need to get done, and what are the specific actions related to them?’

Are there ways to monitor bad habits developing?

‘If you’re unsure whether you’re spending your time correctly, you can start by doing time tracking: for a few days, a week or a couple of weeks, you track what you did and how much time you spent on it. Some people will have a piece of paper and have their daily plan on one side and then how they actually spend their time on the other side, to get a sense of how it compares.’

How can this structure help business owners switch off?

‘Writing things down can really help, so you know what needs to get done, where you’re at, what needs to be done next... That gives a mental calm that you have a time and place to work on this again. I recommend daily and weekly planning. It gives a sense of calm because you find people getting overwhelmed if they have to do everything right now, at once.’

4. Minimising burnout

Three experts share their practical tips to help minimise the impact of burnout.

1. ‘Keep an eye out for how the mind and body are responding. If you know the warning symptoms specific to you, you have more chance of nipping it in the bud. Once a week, take a couple of minutes to see how you’re doing against those measures. Set time in the diary.’ – Jacky Francis Walker, psychotherapist and coach specialising in burnout

2. ‘How you start your day is so important. When you wake up, before you reach out into your day, check in. A one-breath meditation that asks, “How am I feeling?” Ideally, you would pause every hour or so – to stroke the cat, water the plants or go for a walk.’ Nerina Ramlakhan, physiologist and sleep expert

3. ‘Practice gratitude. Every day, myself and my family say three things that we’re grateful for before we go to bed. Remind yourself what you’ve achieved, rather than what you haven’t.’ – Dr Punam Krishan, author and life coach  


This article is taken from Courier’s How to Start a Business, a comprehensive 10-step guide to launching a business. From finding your big idea and doing the research, through to developing your product or service, building your brand and getting the word out, How to Start a Business is packed full with expert insight, tips, case studies and key info from those in the know and those who have done it before. Head this way to buy a copy on Courier’s web shop.

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