In 2014, I was constantly anxious. My business was doing well, but I couldn’t say the same about my mental health. Had you asked my business partners, friends, or peers three years ago, every single one of them would’ve described me as volatile–somebody who couldn’t deal with tense, high-stakes situations. I remember one instance when a vendor was about to deliver some bad news. Evidently aware of my reputation, his first words were, “Don’t freak out, just breathe. Relax.”
Fortunately, I’ve learned how to manage that anxiety and stay collected enough to make smart decisions–not just in difficult circumstances but in ordinary ones, too. And I credit a few weekly habits with helping me make that shift. In fact, it’s what I do on Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays in particular that sets the tone for a productive, minimally stressful workweek.
I cook 14 meals at the beginning of the week, so I don’t have to cook for the rest of it. The extra hour or two this saves me over the course of my workweek gives me an opportunity to relax, watch Netflix, or catch up with friends and family. But meal prepping also helps me automate one area I’ve been focusing on after committing to de-stressing, which is getting healthy.
When you’re an entrepreneur, it’s really easy to disregard your own health; you’re too concerned about things like making payroll, managing clients, hiring, and putting out fires. But in my experience, simply eating well has been one of the best investments I’ve made.
Prepping my meals on Sundays lets me devote more conscious thought to what I put in my body over the course of a hectic work week. This way, I’m able to avoid afternoon sluggishness and loss of focus. When 3 p.m. comes around and you’re as productive as you were at 10 a.m., you can actually run your business differently (i.e., better). I’ve also noticed that eating well helps my control decision fatigue, particularly when I’m mentally drained toward the evening.
Everyone learns differently. For me, I retain the most information by listening, so I’ve started devoting more weekend time to audiobooks. I’d found that I was too busy to do this throughout the week, but I realized continued learning is a crucial way to gain the perspective I need to stay grounded.
New ideas, thoughts, or beliefs empower me to be a better leader, partner, friend, and person in general. I can get out of my own head a bit and see things from others’ points of view. Since making audiobook-listening a regular weekend habit, I’ve also found that I’m able to handle things like partner disagreements and employee requests much more effectively.
Sometimes I’ll even listen to an audiobook when I’m commuting between meetings, but at a minimum I’ll usually make sure I can reserve two hours on a Saturday or Sunday to get into the zone.
I use my Monday evenings to propel my week forward and start off with a “win” under my belt. That means doing something not everyone might be comfortable with: pushing through a work session from 8 p.m. to midnight.
I realize this isn’t always feasible or even anywhere near advisable for everyone. Work-life balance is important if you want to avoid the stress-driven burnout I found myself careening toward a few years ago. But sometimes balance just comes from flexibility–knowing which times of day or periods of the week when you’re at your best and leaning into those. This way you can step away from work at other times. I applaud anyone who’s an early riser and can achieve great results at 5 a.m., but that just isn’t me.
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Instead, I’ll usually reserve Monday evenings for personal branding and writing, two activities I can tackle on my own. With that handled come Tuesday morning, I can focus all my attention on my business for the remainder of the week. As your team expands or you take on additional opportunities, personal goals like branding will sometimes have to happen during off-peak hours. But reserving some time after dinner to do a certain task may leave room to knock something off your plate during ordinary work hours.
I actually find myself looking forward to Mondays every week because I know they’ll start off productively. No matter what unforeseen things might crop up in the morning and early afternoon, I’ll have my evenings to set a steady course.
I no longer feel frustrated when I’m faced with situations that used to drive me crazy. A little more experience certainly helps, but my Monday and weekend rituals have been my biggest aids in handling the challenges that all founders and business owners face. After all, once the novelty of being an entrepreneur wears off, inspiration fades. Once that happens, each week can quickly become a grind. In my experience, the only real solution is to fall back on systems and habits that maintain your focus and clarity. They’re the things that will help your business succeed–plus keep you stay sane and happy in the process.
Originally published at www.fastcompany.com