From start to finish, a day in the life of a business leader is often calculated down to the minute. You have meetings to attend, calls to take, data to analyze, report to review, and decisions to make, all for the greater good of moving your business ever forward.
Notice what I didn’t mention as a part of that theoretical day: taking care of yourself. Of course, your work-related responsibilities will always be high on your priority list, but your personal health needs to be just as high.
According to the Mayo Clinic, people in executive positions experience health risks due to the nature of their jobs. Long hours on the job often lead to poor sleep, diet, and exercise as well as increases in stress, all of which can result in an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, depression, and more
As any flight attendant will tell you, you have to put on your own oxygen mask before you can start to help others. It’s no different when you’re leading a business: You can’t operate at your best if you don’t prioritize your health.
Here are four ways you can focus on your personal health while balancing the tasks of a busy executive:
- Give your body the fuel it needs.
When you’re working 80-plus hours each week, it can be really tempting to forgo a balanced lunch in favor of a quick bag of chips from the break room when you have back-to-back meetings on the schedule. On the other hand, perhaps you subscribe to an approach similar to that of Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey or Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, both of whom preferred to greatly regulate their food intake through fasts and strict diets.
No matter which direction you lean, it is important to make sure you get the right nutrients. Aim for a balanced diet that follows the federal government’s recommended health guidelines. If your office has a break room stocked with snacks, add some fruits and vegetables to the mix. And if you can, spend some time meal planning over the weekend to help you make healthier choices.
- Step away from your desk.
You need to get your steps in, and unless you’ve got a treadmill installed under it, you won’t do that at your desk. Take a look at your schedule and build in some time to work out. CEOs like Richard Branson of Virgin Group, Payal Kadakia of ClassPass, and Katherine Power of Clique Brands all tout the energizing benefits of starting the day with exercise, whether it’s running, tennis, or even surfing.
If you can fit an hourlong workout into your schedule every morning, go for it. But if all you can spare is a 15-minute break at lunch, use that time to take a walk around the block. If you’re working from home, try yoga or quick exercises like planks, squats, or push-ups. Regardless of where you’re working, take a few minutes every hour to stretch and walk around, even if you’re just walking to the sink to get a glass of water. A little bit of movement can go a long way.
- Get some shut-eye.
“Sleep is for the weak.” I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase before — I certainly have. And some business leaders seem to agree, because they sleep only a few hours a night. But experts say getting enough sleep can improve your mood, lower your risk of health problems, and improve your mental clarity, among other benefits. So instead of burning the candle at both ends, prioritize a good night of sleep to make your waking hours more effective.
Try for seven to eight hours of sleep per night. Creating a routine that involves going to bed and waking around the same time each day might help that habit stick. If you find that white noise, extra pillows, or leaving a fan on during the night are helpful, add those to your routine as well. And as hard as it might be, try to put your phone down before you get into bed.
- Share your health goals.
Now, all these suggestions might seem great on paper, but how can you implement them successfully? If you’re the only one holding you accountable, it’s easy to let your goals fall by the wayside before they become habits. That’s why it’s crucial to find a few accountability partners to share your journey.
Tell your family, friends, or even a few co-workers about your goals, and they can help encourage you to stay on track. Health IQ CEO Munjal Shah has done just that and has seen the strategy work firsthand. “My family and team all know my goals, which involve living a healthy life,” Shah says. “Finding people that carry similar personal and professional motivations makes every aspect of life more efficient and integrated.”
The next time you consider skipping your morning workout or getting fast food instead of heading home in time for dinner, remember that your own health matters as much as the health of your business. Dedicate time to take care of yourself first, and you’ll be more effective during the hours you are working.