|A bucolic landscape (Wikipedia)|
The following guest post is by Craig Malloy, CEO of Bloomfire, an Austin, Tex. company focused on simplifying knowledge management in the enterprise.
Took a day off from work last week and flew to Dallas to visit the Cooper Clinic for a full day preventive physical examination.
I’ve discovered that it takes a little more maintenance to keep the train rolling at full speed when you hit the half century mark, so I thought this would be a day well spent.
I had blood tests, a CT scan, a treadmill stress test, and eye, ears, physical and prostate exams. Really enjoyed that last one … not!
I then sat down with one of their great doctors to review the results.
In addition to the physical stuff, we had a long conversation about a pre-visit psychological profile survey which covered, among other items, how much stress I may be internalizing and how that could not only negatively affect my work performance but my overall health and life expectancy.
Many of us in complex, high responsibility, high pressure, careers live their job as much as work there. If we are conscious and breathing, we are thinking about work. And the crazy technology being invented to keep us connected can make it even worse.
It used to be that you would have to make an effort to connect; now we’re plugged in 24/7 and it’s a huge effort to unplug. And if you do, you can get a reputation as not committed or not a team player.
When was the last time you took a vacation and didn’t check your email? I think for me that was the last vacation before email was invented.
I came away from my day of exams and consultations with three big takeaways. These are thoughts or strategies that I already knew were important but will now attempt to make them a more disciplined part of my life.
First takeaway: good consistent sleep
I’m sure lots of us have some kind of sleep issue. Mine is the following: Fall asleep about two minutes after my head hits the pillow. Wake up between 1:30-2 am, start thinking about work and what I need to accomplish the next day, the next week, the next month etc.
I flop around in bed for a while, annoy my wife who has no sleep issues whatsoever (which I find annoying), then watch a little SportsCenter or Survivorman reruns. I usually fall asleep again at about 3:30 am, sleep through my morning workout and and feel lousy all day.
An ideal night of sleep for me would be to fall asleep at around 10 and wake up at 6 am - I’m someone who really needs those eight hours.
The doctor told me that good, consistent, sleep is maybe the most important thing you can do for your physical and mental well-being and that I should do whatever I can to ensure it happens - every night.
For me, that will be an occasional over-the-counter melatonin pill, which I had previously only taken for jet lag. Not everyone needs a full eight hours in the bag, but everyone needs consistent sleep.
Second takeaway: a stress relief activity
You’ve got to have a hobby, exercise routine, or other pastime or passion that takes your mind off of work for a while and requires that you focus on something else.
Community service, home improvement projects, coaching your kids soccer team, gardening, surfing (surfing would be mine if I didn’t live in the middle of Texas) - whatever it is you enjoy that’s not your job.
For many of us, it is some form of physical activity. Being active has the dual benefit of clearing your mind and staying aerobically healthy as well.
I love the endorphin rush of a Saturday morning three hour bike ride through the Texas Hill Country with a group of cycling buddies, or a morning Masters swim. It should be regular, consistent, and a priority that doesn’t always take a back seat to work.
Third takeaway: Set your worries aside
The last suggestion from the doctor is so simple, it almost sounds silly or trivial, but it turning out to be more difficult for me than it sounds.
And that is to just tell yourself, when you are worrying about where the next 100 marketing leads are going to come from or if your next round of funding is going to close before you run out of cash, that now is not the time to worry about it and you will work on it tomorrow morning when you get to the office or start your work day.
I was actually worrying about writing this article the other morning at 2 am. Not healthy.
Developing the ability and discipline to do this on regular basis, for many of us, reverses decades of defaulting to worrying about everything, all the time.
One of my colleagues keeps a pad of paper and pen on her bedside table, and a running to-do list in the cloud (she uses Workflowy) so she can get the action item or concern out of her head and know that it won’t be forgotten.
Work-related stress can take a long term toll on our bodies and minds whether we are entrepreneurs or not. It’s a lifelong process to find simple, implementable strategies to keep us more rested, present, healthy, and energized. These are the three I’m going with. What about you?