The entrepreneurial life is a unique blend of excitement and reward married with constant risks and challenges.
For me, five essential ingredients for success are: a relentless work ethic, 4.30am starts, an unwavering belief that the impossible is possible, and knowing that no matter what is thrown at you, you will get through it.
That’s all good and well, up to a point, but I know from first-hand experience that one of the keys to being able to make sensible business decisions and work as effectively and efficiently as possible, on an ongoing basis, is in finding some balance amid an insanely busy schedule and punishing work hours.
Top ten wellbeing tips I’d tell my younger self to start doing, right now:
- Prioritise your time. This can be hard as for me it’s the easiest thing to let slip, but there are no shortcuts. It’s about more than looking good. Being physically active maintains hormone health which is vital for emotional and mental health. I set aside 30 minutes for Pilates practice each day which sets me up for walking with a spring in my step and a confident posture throughout the day.
- You get out what you put in. Your body is effectively a machine and the better care you take of it the longer it will last and the better it will perform, mentally and physically. This kind of ties in with my point above, but remember you are what you eat, put goodness in and get good things out. I chop veg on a Sunday night, broccoli and carrots, and divide them into pots to snack on during the week.
- Think about where you get your energy from. Not just food and exercise, but your mental energy and motivation. I mean hobbies that leave you with something to show that you’ve done, created or learnt from spending the time productively. I’ve recently signed up for a mosaic class which will apparently have a knock-on effect of making me more focused and creative at work.
- Never give up. Be like a shark, always moving. Working towards something that you’re passionate about will keep you motivated and able to get back up again when you fall, because let’s face it, you will fail, everyone does at some point, the important thing is how you deal with it and getting back up again.
- Tech detox. As someone obsessed with technology this may sound like an oxymoron but taking a step away from being ‘always on’, ideally for more than 24 hours every month or so, helps me to refresh, refocus and see things objectively. Being available all the time can be relentless, so literally switching off everything from email to music, allows me to perform better and more efficiently when I am ‘plugged in’ again.
- Catch those Z’s. It’s no secret that sleep deprivation is draining and debilitating, and most people know how much sleep they need to feel rested and restored. The fact is, ticking off one thing on your to-do list inevitably leads to ten more things that need doing. There will always be challenges that need solving and things on your desk that need attention, so just sleep when you need to, everything will still be there when you wake up. Sometimes I use a meditation app or a good long bath to help me unwind. Each body is different, and I’ve worked out I’m best on six hours sleep per night.
- Try intermittent fasting. The pace of my day means sometimes I skip lunch or dinner, but my personal trainer reassures me that people can carry up to 40 days’ worth of body fat on them and says if you drink at least two litres of water per day it’s fine. Limiting calorie intake for a few hours reportedly clears brain fog. If you’re thinking about trying this do your research first.
- Get a personal trainer (PT). I’m a stickler for putting PT time in my diary because it guarantees that I see him regularly. He gives me nutrition advice well as lifestyle tips to help me achieve my personal objectives. I see it as an investment in myself and at the end of the day I am my own brand so this needs to be a priority.
- The early bird… has a head start of their day. I wake up at 4.30am on weekdays and 5am on the weekend as that’s the way my body clock is set. It means I can have some time to myself to read, get ahead of emails and have time to think without getting distracted as things get busy later in the day.
- Treat yourself, ditch the guilt. Make a point of doing something you really like that allows you to let go every so often, whatever that is. Have a glass of wine. Go sailing. Go dancing. Eat curry. Not all at the same time, but once a month or so, without getting hung up on it.
So, there you go. I’m Alexis Hannah Smith and that was my heart on a sleeve moment. Putting it out there in case it helps any other entrepreneurs. As well as being the Founder and CEO of automated business intelligence company IMGeospatial, the World Geospatial Start Up of the Year 2019, I am also an Executive Board Member of the World Geospatial Industry Council, a Founding Director of the UK Flood Partnership and the Co-Chair of Digital Water for the UK Water Partnership.