Neglecting Self Care: The Biggest Mistake I Made (And How You Can Avoid It)
Whether it’s lack of capital, economy or just a bad idea, each business has its own reasons for failing. And even though I’d agree that those reasons are common, there is another insidious cause that can cause a business to fail.
It’s neglecting self-care.
Here’s why I believe in this and how you can avoid it in your own journey.
You are your business
“You are not patient enough. Your lack of patience is killing you and your need of things is killing you.”
– Gary Vaynerchuk
Whether you realize it or not, your business is an extension of you. You are your own business.
From culture to product development, your personality and decision-making have a direct impact on every aspect of your business. And that’s why my big “ah-ha” moment came when I heard that phrase.
It’s a simple phrase. But, when you really think about it, it makes a lot of sense.
Well, when I first started, I was working crazy hours and always on the go. I threw all other priorities to the side and only cared about one thing – getting my business up and running.
I figured this had to be done and it’d be worth it in the long run which, to some degree, I would agree. But, in hindsight, I’ve realized how damaging this mentality was.
I was overworking myself and operating at 20%, which subsequently meant my entire business was, too.
I didn’t notice it at the time but the quality of my work was quickly declining. Slowly, I started to lose clients because of it.
So, I tried to replace those clients by marketing with blog posts.
It wasn’t a terrible idea, but here’s the problem – those blog posts didn’t make sense.
And on top of that, when I did get a potential client on the phone, I could never close the deal. To this day, I’m still not sure why but, if I had to guess, I’d say it’s because I was strung out and they could tell.
But, as crazy as it sounds, I continued to operate like this for 8 months and somehow survived.
Part of me thinks it was because my original base of clients — the ones I got when I was still sane — stuck with me out of pity.
The other part of me thinks they stuck with me because they couldn’t find a better rate. I’d offered them a good discount to get up and running. In retrospect, that wasn’t the best idea.
But, fragile things can only hang on for so long and one day, it all came crashing down.
I finally snapped and after losing my cool over the dumbest thing (still embarrassed to talk about it), I finally realized that something had to change.
Immediately, I reached out to all my remaining clients and told them I’d be shutting down the business. I notified them of a referral source that was a good friend of mine and one that agreed to honor their current pricing for the next 3 months.
Now, to be completely honest, I was expecting and hoping for some condolences and expected the typical “No, Sean. It’s sad to see you go.” However, as I’m sure you can guess, that didn’t happen.
Instead, all of them replied with some form of “I think that’s a good idea. You could use some time off.”.
Yeah, that was embarrassing.
I continued on anyway. I tried to make the transition as seamless as possible and after I got the last client moved over, I began my “comeback period”.
To start, I immediately sold everything I could, moved back in with my parents and started digging into self-development books.
I wasn’t quite sure what I was looking for. I just knew I had to work my way out of this funk.
So, that’s what I started to do and even though this “comeback period” was only supposed to take a few weeks, it ended up taking 6 months.
And as weird as it sounds, it was the best 6 months of my life.
Not only was I able to come back fresh, but I was able to come back with a wealth of knowledge that I wish I had the first time.
I’ll explain that knowledge throughout the rest of this article. But, long story short, business is a marathon, not a sprint.
With that said, hard work is inevitable
“There is no substitute for hard work” – Thomas Edison
Okay, so now I’m going to throw you a curveball.
I know I just spent the first 5 minutes telling you how I overworked myself and ruined my first business. At the same time, however, I’m still realistic. I realized that all good things take hard work.
That’s why I’m not here to tell you that you can’t or shouldn’t work hard. I’m here to tell you that there are ways to blend the two together.
And when you do, that’s when good things start to happen.
There’s plenty of different ways to do this, but out of all the reading and things I’ve tried, I’ve learned that the best way is systems.
Now, I’m not talking about computer systems or anything like that. I’m talking about systems that allow you to absolutely bring it day in and day out.
And to give you a good idea of how you can apply this to your life, I wanted to give you a sneak peek of the exact systems I’ve used to significantly better my life.
Plan your day out the night before
“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”- Benjamin Franklin
When I first heard this advice, I honestly thought it was crazy.
I didn’t think it’d make a world of difference if I planned my day out the night before and even if it did, I didn’t think it’d work for my business.
I was a client-facing business and new fires happened every day. There’s no way I could have my schedule set in stone the night before.
But then, I read a story about Charles Schwab.
It explained how he was frustrated at the lack of productivity of his staff and after dealing with this for a short time, he finally decided to ask for help.
He made an announcement and promised to reward the person who could increase productivity for Bethlehem Steel.
After a short search, he came across a man known as Ivy Lee. According to Schwab, Mr. Lee gave him a singular life-changing piece of advice.
Every evening before finishing work:
- Write down 3–5 things you plan to get done the next day
- Rank them from highest to lowest priority
- In the morning, start working on the task of highest priority
- Only move on to task #2 when you’ve completed #1
And that was it. That was the singular piece of advice that changed Charles Schwab’s life.
It was so valuable to him that he sent Ivy Lee a check for $25,000 (the equivalent of $297,256.23 in 2015) three weeks later.
So, after reading this story I decided to give it a shot and let’s just say, I’ve used it ever since.
I don’t know if I’d consider it an advice worth $297,256.23 but that’s the best part. I received it from the Productivity Planner, an investment that only cost me $25.
This planner does a lot more and really helps me keep track of all the important tasks at hand. It’s something I highly advise for any entrepreneur.
Have you ever met somebody that likes to brag about how he never sleeps?
The type that’s usually sending Snapchats at 4 a.m. or has “you can sleep when you’re dead” tattooed on his back?
Yeah, that used to be me. Well, with the exception of a tattoo on my back.
I was always the type that bragged about how I only slept 5 hours a night. I figured that I was outworking my competition and if I just slept fewer hours, I’d get more work done.
It made sense in theory, but here’s the thing: When I was working, I wasn’t productive.
Don’t get me wrong. I thought I was at the time. But, when I compare the amount of work that I accomplished then to the amount I get now (after getting a full 8 hours), the results aren’t even close.
In other words, I finally realized that my lack of sleep and “constant hustle” was just a glorified way of torturing myself and getting nothing done.
Sounds crazy now that I think about it, but the point is sleep is the foundation of productivity.
Without it, you’ll be dragging the next day. Even though you think you’re productive, you’re not going to be as productive as somebody who’s had a good night’s sleep.
So, what’s the ideal amount of sleep then? Whatever makes you feel rested.
For me, it’s 8 hours. For others, it’s 6 and half hours.
Everybody’s wired differently and if you have the flexibility to test it, I think the easiest way to figure it out is by sleeping in without an alarm clock.
See Also: Do You Have Sleep Debt?
Always have a morning routine
“Win the morning, win the day” – Tim Ferriss
Have you ever woken up frantically and just started running around?
I’m not talking about the Saturday morning after a fun Friday either. I’m talking about a typical Tuesday.
One where you spring out of bed, run straight for the shower, scramble around to find your keys, leap out the window, run to your car and start your day.
Okay, hopefully, you’re not leaping out the window. But if you’re anything like me, then you can certainly relate.
I used to start every morning like this after hitting my snooze for 30 minutes and, surprisingly, my days were always frantic.
I was always running around trying to multitask and always felt like there wasn’t enough time in the day. Something I guess most people refer to as a “rat race”.
And then I heard about the concept of a morning routine- an organized morning routine. One that didn’t involve a frantic wake-up or me jumping out the window to start my day.
The logic of this was that if you could find a routine that turned into a productive day, then replicate that routine and make every day a productive day.
It made sense and I couldn’t find any reason not to give it a try. So, I finally mustered up the courage to ditch my current routine and find another one that’d help me start each day off right.
Now, this took a lot of testing and tweaking. But, after months of trial and error, I finally found my sweet spot. The one that’s allowed me to start every day how I want and all jokes aside, that’s actually allowed me to replicate my increased productivity every single day.
Again, everybody’s different and everybody should make tweaks to fit their own needs. But to get you started, here’s the exact routine that I use every day.
My morning routine:
- Wake up without an alarm clock.
- Make my bed. (We’re completionists. This gets the momentum going.)
- Take the dog for a walk. (Try for an hour, but sometimes more. Usually, it depends on the podcast I’m listening to.)
- Take a shower, last 30 seconds are cold. It wakes me up and has some health benefits.
- Drink 2-3 cups of coffee that’s usually spiked with Laird Hamilton’s Superfood creamer.
- Read for 20 minutes while drinking coffee. This can be anything, but it’s usually the Tao of Seneca.
- Meditate using Headspace. It helps remove all anxiety and gets me ready to tackle the day.
- Open my productivity planner and start getting things done.
And that’s it. That’s the routine that’s skyrocketed my productivity and indirectly made me thousands of dollars.
To be honest, I probably should send Tim Ferriss a $297,256.23 check as he’s the one that got me on this routine. However, I don’t quite have that much change lying around (yet), so please don’t tell him.
Use the Pomodoro technique + productivity music
Alright, so before we get into this one, I want you to imagine a coder sitting in some dark room, music blaring and just absolutely going to town on his keyboard.
He’s likely got a coffee or large soda in front of him, taking a quick sip every 30 seconds before he goes back to typing a million words a minute.
Okay, now take away the “coder” aspect of this and you get me when I’m in one of my “Pomodoros”.
So what exactly is a “Pomodoro”?
Well long story short, Pomodoro means tomato in Italian and the guy who created this technique (Francesco Cirillo) used a tomato shaped timer when he first created it. So, he named it the Pomodoro technique.
Interesting, I know…but it works.
It works because it forces you to remain 100% focused on a task for 25 straight minutes. That means no Facebook, no email, no phone, no coffee refills and no bathroom – unless absolutely needed.
It’s a concept that sounds overly simple and it really is. But, it’s also one that’s helped me get more things done in 2 hours than I used to in an entire day.
I guess I don’t have the exact scientific reasons for this, but from personal experience, it just helps me keep my eye on the prize and not stopping until it’s complete.
It’s much more effective than my traditional technique of working on something for 3 minutes, checking Instagram, seeing if I have a new email, making sure I didn’t miss James Altucher’s latest blog, and then going back to the task for another 3 minutes.
Now, this worked great and didn’t really need any improvements but then, one day, I was reading Tools of Titans (huge Tim Ferriss fan if you couldn’t tell) and I started trying out the productivity music that he listed.
I tried a few of them but the one that really got me going and one I’ve stuck with to this day is “I Choose Noise By Hybrid”.
Set boundaries – Parkinson’s Law
“Busy is not productive” – Tim Ferriss
In college, it seemed like I had 2 types of teachers.
One that would give me 3 months to type a paper and one that gave me 3 days to type a paper.
I’d always praise the former and cuss the latter (behind their back, of course) but looking back now, deep down, I think I actually liked the latter more.
Not as a person of course. I’m pretty sure they gave tight deadlines to torture us, but I noticed that when I had 3 days to type a paper, I’d instantly go to town and quickly create a work of art.
Okay, maybe it wasn’t a work of art. But, hey, C’s get degrees.
Then on the flip side, when I had a teacher that’d give me 3 months to type a paper, I’d spend the first 89 days thinking about the paper and making myself a mental wreck. Then, I’d spend the last day cramming all the worthless information I could think of onto a piece of paper and pull away with a D.
Not ideal, but oh well. The occasional D still gets a degree.
This is something I chalked up to a life of procrastination. Then one day, I was reading The Four Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss (surprising, I know) and I came across the concept of Parkinson’s Law.
Tim gave a similar example of how he applied this concept to college papers and after I heard that, it really started to make sense.
If you’ve never heard of Parkinson’s Law before, it’s an old adage that “work expands as to fill the time available for its completion”. In other words, no matter what, you’ll always be rushing to hit the deadline.
Now, this might sound depressing and if you don’t do anything about it, it can be.
But. here’s the good news.
You can actually use this to your advantage. Instead of allowing yourself long deadlines that cause you to be a mental wreck, take a different approach and tighten up your deadlines.
Always work until 11 p.m.? Force yourself to stop working at 6 p.m.
Always work 7 days a week? Go crazy and start taking Friday, Saturday, and Sunday off.
The way you do it isn’t the important part. The important part is that you work less and force yourself to get more done. Kinda like the teacher that gave me 3 days to write a paper.
“I find I have much better drive and focus when in a state of ketosis. I have a lot more mental clarity and productivity.” – Bryan Barksdale
Have you ever had one of those mornings where everything is going great and you’re extremely productive, but then you go to lunch and want to sleep the afternoon away?
Yeah, me too. And like many others, I just thought this was normal, something I’d have to live with.
But then, I was talking to a friend and he was telling me about this new lifestyle he was trying out.
Now I’ve never heard somebody say they were trying out a lifestyle so he had my attention already. Then, he cranked it up one notch and told me it was actually a diet.
Ohhh boy, another one of these speeches. No, I will not buy your Nutrisystem.
But, we were out to lunch and I didn’t have anywhere to hide, so I continued to listen to his spiel and that’s when he started to tell me that it wasn’t really a weight loss diet. Instead, it was a diet that helped him maintain energy.
I asked him to continue and that’s when he got real excited and started babbling a bunch of fancy words.
From what I gathered, he was able to keep a steady source of energy because his body was running off ketones (energy that’s created when fat is burned) as opposed to glucose (energy that’s created when carbs are burned).
And even though he sounded slightly crazy, at the same time, he kinda made sense.
I was always a sandwich guy, which meant I was getting my fair share of carbs in over lunch. So, even though I’d never heard this logic before, I couldn’t really discount it.
Not until I tried it, at least.
So, over the next 2 weeks, I decided to look into this a little more and see exactly what I had to do. Then, a few days later, I decided to give it a shot.
I told myself that I’d give it 4 weeks and if I didn’t notice a difference after that, I was going back to my Jimmy Johns.
And to be completely honest, I was really hoping it wasn’t going to work. I really didn’t want to have to decide between my Ultimate Porker and increased energy.
Then, I finally hit ketosis (fat-burning mode) and holy hell, it was worth it.
My productivity soared. I no longer had afternoon crashes. My memory improved and I was always focused.
Now that I think about it, I kinda feel like Bradley Cooper in Limitless.
(Even though I still miss my Jimmy Johns.)
That’s a wrap
Without you, your business won’t survive.
I know how easy it is to fall into the trap of constant hustle and thinking more work means better business.
But, remember, busy does not mean productive.
You’re better off taking care of yourself and focusing on the long game, not the quick win and neglecting self-care.