By Cooper Harris, Founder of Klickly. Google’s “Young Innovator” and L’Oréal’s “Digital Woman of the Year” nominee. Featured in Forbes, Inc. and Mashable.
As anyone will tell you, a healthy lifestyle can be hard to achieve. This is especially true for entrepreneurs, who you’ll often find working 14-20 hours a day on little sleep. In my early days as a CEO and founder, I was certainly guilty of deprioritizing my own health. With pressing deadlines and quarterly goals, there just wasn’t time for a lengthy workout or healthy meal prep.
So how do you incorporate a successful health and wellness regimen into a busy entrepreneurial schedule? Over the years, I have found that by implementing the following three lifestyle changes, I feel stronger and perform better, both inside and outside of the office.
1. Prioritize movement.
Making movement a priority may already feel impossible for some. Many overscheduled entrepreneurs look at their calendars and feel like they couldn’t possibly work out unless they have an hour to sweat it out at the gym. So instead, they do nothing. The reality is, if you don’t schedule and prioritize exercise, it will not happen. There will always be another email to check or a direct message to respond to.
If this sounds familiar, consider replacing your more indulgent exercise expectations with a commitment to move your body every day. I, for one, have found this much more doable. With meetings and presentations aplenty, I rarely have a large chunk of time to devote to working out. Thankfully, there are several shorter types of exercises that have similar benefits to those of a long workout. I find value in high-intensity interval training (HiiT), which can often be as short as 10-20 minutes of aggressive exercise. Many folks swear by a quick yoga session or a short run. Whatever exercise you choose, make sure it allows you to accomplish your fitness goals in a doable and repeatable manner. When you make a commitment to move your body every day, it will have both an immediate effect on the work stressors of that day and a long-term effect on your overall health.
2. Establish a routine.
When I first started my company, I would bend my personal schedule to the ever-changing needs and whims of the business. This was particularly true in my eating, grabbing food whenever I could spare a moment, often at the end of a hectic workday. This meant that I was usually ordering takeout at 9 p.m. or later. Late-night, unscheduled eating repeatedly left me feeling bloated, uncomfortable and sapped of energy in the mornings. As a result, my sleep was also affected. I felt like I was continually running on fumes. Establishing a more consistent eating routine was an absolute game-changer for me, both personally and professionally. As entrepreneurs, we are often traveling for work, navigating time zone changes and marathon workdays.
If you, like me, have trouble maintaining a sense of balance amidst these variables, consider carving out a consistent eating and/or sleeping routine for yourself. Choose a schedule based on the clock that isn’t terribly affected by changing work or travel needs. For me, a consistent eating routine has been the key to a more energized and efficient me at work, no matter where I am. I practice intermittent fasting (IF), an eating modality that for me involves fasting for the majority of the day and eating during a shorter time frame. There are many ways to practice intermittent fasting, but all help to establish a consistent eating schedule, along with a corresponding digestion/repair period. You may gravitate toward a different eating rhythm entirely, or perhaps you are in need of a more predictable sleep schedule. Whatever the case, I highly recommend establishing a consistent routine strictly set to the clock to ensure your basic wellness needs are met. This can have a huge impact on your physical energy and your overall mental health throughout the week.
3. Fuel your body.
Lastly, I have found it is not only important when I eat; what I eat matters just as much. Most of us are aware that scarfing down fast food is ultimately not the best fuel for a day at the office, but there isn’t always time for lengthy meal prep. So what do you do? I have found that, like a consistent schedule, a predictable and nutritious eating regimen is absolutely crucial for my daily productivity. There are many types of diets to consider, but as with exercise, the most important factor is to find an eating plan that is sustainable for you. I, for one, feel my best on a vegetarian keto diet (low carbs, high fats) and have found it quite doable with my schedule. I keep a cabinet stocked with keto-friendly, unprocessed snacks, such as nuts, berries, cheese and a few life-saving organic, vegan protein bars to get me through my busier afternoons. I know that if my success were dependent on multi-step, labor-intensive meals, I would never stick to it. Having a few quick, nutrient-dense snack options available keeps my energy going throughout a busy meeting schedule.
Prioritizing a healthier eating plan may require some initial research, but once you have an idea of what foods to consume and you stock up on a few nutritious options, you are likely to find a diet switch easy to implement with numerous benefits to your efficiency and optimization.
You may assume that diet, exercise and a strong daily structure do not contribute directly to your business success, but I have found they play an unequivocally important role. Thanks to these three lifestyle practices, I am a significantly more effective and efficient leader now. I also know I am taking care of my own wellness needs, something that often gets overlooked in the fast-paced, tireless world of an entrepreneur. More attention must be placed on entrepreneurial health if we hope to be around long enough to see our impact. With a commitment to daily movement and some strategic structure around eating and sleeping choices, you can increase your daily productivity (and potentially extend your lifespan!).