As a small business owner, it's natural to want to put work first. But if you want sustainable success, you need to focus on your mental and physical health too. To help you do this, we've put together a range of tips, from mindfulness and sleep to managing your workload and - brace yourself – even taking a holiday.
In its simplest form, mindfulness means being fully aware of where you are, what you're doing, and how it makes you feel. Mindfulness techniques don't have to take up a lot of your time, and they can help you find a better balance between work and the rest of your life.
Take a few minutes to meditate
Meditation isn't always about sitting in silence trying to clear your mind, and you don't need a spiritual belief to do it. The idea is to use gentle breathing and slow movements to gain a relaxed but alert state of mind.
Calming meditation typically involves focusing on a specific object such as your breath, a visualisation, or sensations within your body. These things give you a target to return your attention to whenever your mind starts to wander. Apps like Headspace and Calm can guide you through the process in bite-sized lessons.
Note how you feel in a journal
Journaling can help you organise your thoughts. No essays required - start by thinking about your day and jotting down a few moments that stood out, good or bad. Writing them on paper can get those thoughts out of your mind and help you prepare for the next challenge that comes your way.
Try also making a note of things or people you feel grateful for to reinforce positive feelings.
Journaling can also help boost productivity, according to Ryder Carroll, the author of The Bullet Journal Method, which helps readers to "track the past, order the present, and design the future".
For business owners, this can double as a mindfulness and organisational tool - ideal for keeping work and life in harmony.
Tap into your creativity
Research suggests repetitive creative tasks can benefit the brain. Kelly Lambert, a professor of behavioral neuroscience at the University of Richmond, coined the term 'behaviorceuticals' (we're not sure how you say it either) to describe what happens when we engage our brains in hands-on activities.
Fostering this connection through pottery, knitting, metalworking, gardening, woodworking, or painting can improve your mental health and give you a sense of achievement.
Enjoy a moment of silence
We're often surrounded by noise, but a bit of silence now and then can be hugely beneficial. Giving our ears a rest for two minutes can relieve tension in the body and brain.
Sleep more, stress less
Make sleep a priority
When you're busy, it's easy to sacrifice sleep. But sleep is a crucial part of staying healthy, and a lack of it can make us more susceptible to stress and lead to irritability, poor concentration, weight gain and depression.
Listen to your body. If you're feeling tired and struggle to get up in the morning, change the way you think about sleep:
- Make it a priority. Set a bedtime and keep to it.
- Switch your phone off at 9pm every night to avoid distractions. If that sounds unrealistic, set a different time and gradually work backwards towards 9pm.
- Limit caffeine intake after midday. It can take up to 12 hours to clear just half of the caffeine you've consumed.
- Set your phone to night mode so it automatically adjusts the brightness before bedtime or find apps to play white noise to calm your mind.
You could also:
- Gradually decrease the brightness in the room. Increasing darkness encourages your brain to produce melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleepiness.
- Avoid late night TV and playing on your phone. Blue light from screens interrupts melatonin production.
- Avoid alcohol. It keeps your liver active during the night, which leads to poorer quality sleep.
Tackle your workload
It's always tempting to skip breaks to get work done, but it can be more productive in the long run to let yourself enjoy a little downtime.
How long you step away from work for will determine how beneficial it is to your productivity. If your time is limited, try short breaks of 2-5 minutes every few hours to disconnect from intricate tasks.
Go for a walk in the fresh air, or try 5 minutes of mindful meditation to help you feel refreshed and focused.
Start by thinking about what needs your focus first. Sometimes it helps to think in terms of themes more than individual tasks. For example, your business growth may depend on getting more traffic to your site.
To rank your other responsibilities, try the author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey's urgent/important approach. Urgent and important tasks should be top of your list, while non-urgent, unimportant tasks should be at the bottom or, better still, crossed off altogether.
Start with the hardest tasks first
Tackle the hard task as early as possible, usually first thing in the morning. That way, you have the most time to get it done, and can then focus on the rest of your list.
Doing hard tasks first is easier said than done, but the first goal isn't to complete the task, it's merely to start it. Try the 5-minute rule - a cognitive behavioral therapy technique - to make a deal with yourself to do at least five minutes of a task before quitting. Chances are you'll end up doing the whole thing.
Spread the load
Getting others to pick up some of your work and take on more responsibility can have a profound effect on your productivity, not to mention your team's development.
Make notes on the low-value tasks that distract you from higher priority areas of your business, notice the themes, and ask the right people for help.
For other tasks, and if you have the budget, consider outside help - for example a part-time accounting professional, freelance designer, or marketing consultant. According to 2018 research by LinkedIn, 83% of American small businesses who frequently hire freelancers say they 'greatly help get the job done'.1
The way we breathe affects how we feel. For example, when we check our emails, our breathing can become shallower or even stop. It's known as email apnea.
This increases our heart rate and prepares us for a flight or fight response. Making a conscious effort to breathe regularly and deeply when checking your emails can combat this.
Know when to take time away
There's plenty of evidence2 to show that in the long term, taking a break is worth it for the boost to your health. Taking just four days off from work helps lower stress levels for the next 45 days.
Take a break
The feeling of needing to be there for every business decision, combined with being so accessible in our digital world, may make you feel like you're "always on" and unable to escape.
If you're unable to book a long holiday, take regular short breaks to refresh your mind and help you feel more driven when you return to work.
Trust your team
Delegation is essential, but can be difficult if you're not used to it.
A starting point is identifying other leaders in your business and then allocating some of your responsibilities to them. It's important to check in regularly and give constructive feedback. Start this process early so your team has plenty of time to prepare and manage the business in your absence.
As well as the benefits to you - relaxing, having fun, feeling healthier - taking time off can be a good test of how your business manages without you and give your employees a chance to step up.
Use tech to automate your life
Chances are you're already embracing tech for your business, whether its through email or WhatsApp communication or by establishing a strong web presence. But there are other ways you can use technology to free up your time - and your mental bandwidth.
Check all your business finances in one place
You can use HSBCnet to view your balances (including past balances), check your transaction history, arrange future payments, track transactions and more. It's all on one platform, so you won't need to log in and out of multiple apps just to get your money sorted.
Log on easier with biometrics
Use your fingerprint (or even your smile) and have one less password to worry about. Our mobile app offers strong security with biometric authentication.
Give access to those who need it
More than just your basic digital banking, HSBCnet offers you system administrator controls so you can manage staff access.
Bank at your own hours
Do business at night? London time? New York? It doesn't matter. You always have access to your account. HSBCnet works any time of the day or night from anywhere in the world, so you don't have to adjust your business's schedule to suit the bank.
At HSBC Fusion, we also place importance on work-life balance for our customers so that you can manage your small business accounts, get added personal account benefits and access to extra services to help your business thrive. Therefore you can spend more time running your business and less time managing your banking.
You can also speak to your Relationship Manager or call our contact centre at +603 8321 8888 for any enquiries related to HSBC Fusion.
The content above is intended for informational purposes only and should not be treated as business advice. HSBC does not endorse any recommendations from 3rd parties mentioned in this article.