The last 6 months have been tough with lots of routine changes, added stress related to the Covid19 pandemic, huge business disruptions, and the negative economic impacts surrounding current events. Many businesses are struggling to stay open.  While some businesses have permanently closed others have worked hard to establish new distribution channels such as new or enhanced eCommerce, outside pickup and delivery services, and other creative strategies to get product to consumers.

And, even now the future is still very uncertain.

As business leaders, what do we do?

We must start by taking care of ourselves so that we can take care of others including our family, friends, employees, and colleagues.

Self-care has been a term used for years in the health and wellness and yoga industry.  And, in the current pandemic climate, has garnered even more of an emphasis with the realization of the importance of taking care of yourself.  Yet, for business leaders and entrepreneurs, while it has always been important it might be the most miss understood business term.

Entrepreneurs, particularly, are often not good about taking care of themselves.  They have a certain pride on having the stamina and motivation to work and be thinking about their companies 24/7.  Focused on getting a business up and running and then sustainable is allot of hard, ongoing work.

I know, for me, when I am focused on getting a project or task done or answering a client’s call, self-care and any aspect of self-care is not even on my radar. However, keep in mind that there are numerous examples of business leaders who have built long-term, successful careers having learned the importance of the self-care lesson (often the hard way). They know that even during the busiest of times, you have to carve out space to take care of yourself.

Here are some self-care strategies you can do to help regain focus during a pandemic, ride out the storm of disruption, and come up with a plan to build your business in the new “normal” business environment.

There are the obvious self-care practices such as making sleep a priority, taking breaks during the day, getting out in nature, engaging in vigorous physical activity multiple times per week, developing a yoga and daily meditation practice, and creating time for you in your daily routine.   There are many more.

While all good ideas, I would like to focus on a few more specific ways to incorporate self-care for leaders in business.

  •  Learn or practice the art of saying “no” when appropriate and helpful to your business.
  •  Revelation–You don’t need to do everything.

 We live in a world that values the idea of filling up every minute of the day with activity.  Productive or not, just activity or movement. And, leaders have a tendency to over schedule themselves and then wonder why they are stressed, overwhelmed, irritable and unable to make good decisions.

What do you do?  Realize you don’t need to do everything.  You can’t.  So, practice carefully evaluating whether this is an important task to your business and say no when it is not. This advice is important especially if you’re a people pleaser trying to juggle a hectic schedule. It may seem impossible to push back, but you can say no — and when you do it will be very liberating. By saying no, you give yourself time to engage and focus on other more important activities. It may seem painful to say no at first, you may second guess yourself but with time you’ll be declining getting involved in unimportant tasks, counterproductive meetings and tasks or activities that take too much of your time without making a true difference in how your business functions or generates revenue.

  • Figure out what your most important business needs are and steps to meet those needs.

Take a self-inventory of your major business needs along with an evaluation of expertise or skills needed to complete that task.  Do you need to hire an outside resource to better use your time?

Identifying your business priorities will go a long way to helping focus on those projects or tasks that are important.  Establish business priorities with a plan that includes a timeline with goals for the year, for the month, for the week and daily goals.

It is quite easy to spend hours on learning a new application, when it would take a skilled professional a short amount of time to accomplish the task.  Keep in mind your time is valuable.   Add to that a new application or software you find doesn’t work for you or your company.

During the last 6 months since Covid19 shutdowns, eCommerce has grown exponentially.  Consumers are staying home, working from home, businesses are closed or now when a business is open the number of customers that can be served is limited.  Many companies have come to the realization that their online presence is absolutely the foundation of their business.  There is either the need to set up an eCommerce site or greatly enhance or even totally revamp their eCommerce site.   You could try to develop an eCommerce website, with one of the many website templates but if that is not your expertise or you don’t have an employee who has that skills set you could spend valuable time doing a task that would be better handled by a professional who can do the job quickly, efficiently and securely.

  • Be mindful of your time.

At first, it seemed like time slowed down while under quarantine.   It didn’t but seemed like things and business just came to a halt.   That environment might have had you saying— where did all the time go?

With all the busy activities, before you know it, the day was over, and crucial business activity wasn’t done.   A major issue when keeping any business functioning

How to start?  Look carefully at where you are spending your time.  For a week, take a time inventory.  It doesn’t need to be detailed.  A snapshot of where you are spending your time will tell you allot.  Be sure that you also have a plan in place that outlines what tasks are crucial to do now.  Evaluate who in your company or outside resource is best suited to working on these tasks.

A prioritized list will go a long way to focus the time and energy on those most important tasks.

  • Find ways to unwind every day.

In this new “normal” world of business, many leaders focus on ways to squeeze more into each day. But business leaders are discovering that the best way to be more productive is to find times during the day to unplug from work. Decompress, reconnect and check in to their own thoughts and feelings.

Unplugging from online devices for a period of time during the day will help you feel rejuvenated and better able to handle the daily pressures.   Also, having a schedule for doing the daily online activities such when are you going to answer email, respond or send texts, and then there is the lure of social media or checking your website to see what activity happened since you last checked maybe only 5 minutes ago.   If you are involved in a key, high stakes project, you may not be able to unplug for a period of time.  But, if not try, digital unplugging periodically throughout the day and particularly in the evening is a good self-care practice.

Doing something fun gives your mind a break, so you’ll be more creative and energized when it’s time to focus on work.

  • Be in the moment.

 That’s where the mindfulness practice can make a huge difference. Mindfulness is learning to pay attention to your moment-to-moment experiences and focus on connecting with others on a deeper level — all of which are important to your well-being and happiness.  Not to mention the health of your business or organization.

There are many online resources to help you establish a meditation practice and many practice techniques.  Selecting what works for you is key.

Keep in mind that the reason to do this practice is because you care about yourself, and because you are aware that doing this practice will also be a self-care gift to you as well as those around you.

  • Create a workspace that works

Initially employees working remotely, for the extended shut down time, were not setup to work at home in such a focused way.  So, kitchen tables, boxes piled up high were photos posted by people who were working at home.  Now that many companies are considering keeping employees working from home for a much longer period of time, it is time to setup private work spaces with the tools needed.  So, create a space you like.  A space that is ergonomically engineered and has all the working tools you need to be productive and focused.

  •  Treat yourself

My favorite.  Whatever you consider a treat, now is a good time to take some time to treat yourself.  Let’s do less of the sugary, bad food choices, or alcohol but treats that make you feel happy and withstand the test of time.  Consider saving for a trip.  Air travel will become more open and safer even though it may take a while.  Or a planned hike or walk that takes you out in nature.   A special treat is very specific to each individual.

Choose wisely and enjoy.