Owning or leading a business comes with a lot of responsibilities and stress that even the most prepared can struggle to handle. Leaders set the vision, agenda and strategy, often while juggling accountabilities for major initiatives and decisions that affect performance for both finances and people. They have to serve many constituencies.
No one takes on the role of CEO with the idea of it being low-stress. Learning to maintain structure and balance could help alleviate pressure and lead to great effectiveness.
Trajectify held its annual Leadership Retreat on November 2, 2018 in Princeton, NJ, bringing together coaches and CEOs for a day of masterminds and eye-opening content. We ended the retreat asking these leaders of $1M+ companies to share one thing that makes them happier and more effective. Here are some of what they contributed that you might appreciate:
Wake up at 5:30 am everyday.
The 5:30 rule (or 5:00am for others). Honestly, it’s a key component in every billionaire’s success story. The biggest difference between them and their competition is that they have extra focused hours in the day to get started and get ahead, whether it be on work, exercise, or family. Even if you think you're not a “morning person,” your mind and body will greatly improve by waking up super early (and going to be early enough to get sufficient sleep, of course).
Clean your inbox.
Email is inescapable. It's a critical business tool, but also a major distraction. Regularly, at the beginning or end of each day, check your email and answer everything that requires an answer at that time. If it doesn't need to be handled now, snooze or dismiss it until a future date. Clearing your inbox gives you a fresh start the following morning.
Try the Salvador Dali Method.
Want to process a difficult decision, think through something challenging? Hold something with a little weight in your hand (marbles, keys), sit in a chair and think. Find something to focus on until your mind fades and you begin to doze off. When you briefly fall asleep, your hand releases the items, waking you up. In that brief moment after you wake up, you will be refreshed and inspired with a flash of energy and inspiration based on your thoughts prior to falling asleep.
Regular Team Check-ins.
Check in with your team on a regular schedule. Occasionally take them to an unfamiliar (neutral) surrounding, get out of the office and find out what is going on with your employees. Are there things that may be weighing on them or things you can be doing differently to help? Your goal is to listen to what they say, let them open up. Increase authenticity, trust and vulnerability - it pays back big in the long run.
Get out of the office.
Find an escape and do it. Make time in your monthly calendar for the things and people you love. Schedule these before anything else so you can be sure your schedule works around them. Whether it is seeing a show, a night out in the city, date night, or a day spent with family, get out of the office and see new scenery.
Build the habit of meditation. Science has proven the benefits of mediation - reduced stress & anxiety, improved self-awareness & focus - through chemical changes in the body. It takes less than 20 minutes a day and can be done almost anywhere (not while driving, please). If meditation isn’t for you (though you definitely can do it), consider yoga as a close second. You’ll be amazed by the clarity and control you’ll gain by following this practice.
Learn Something New.
Leaders often have a broad comfort zone, so it’s easy to stay there. By committing yourself to learn something new, you’ll not only acquire new knowledge, but will reduce fear and expand that comfort zone. Attend a conference on a subject in which you have little to no background. Take a course on a subject in which you’re unfamiliar. You’ll develop a more open mind, an appreciation for things new, and have some fun with “intellectual porn.” Think fast and slow.
Get away by yourself. Hike the mountains, enjoy and ocean breeze, or explore a new city. In spending time alone, with your thoughts and your agenda, perhaps out of your comfort zone, you are able to focus on contemplations of your choosing. If traveling for business, stay a date or two late or arrive early, and spending time exploring alone. The time and discoveries you can have without having to align or converse with others can leave you feeling fulfilled and excited.
Upgrade something in your life.
Find something you love and upgrade it. When something is good, can it be even better? Consider increasing an investment of your time and money into something that makes you happy. A better car? A new kitchen? an expensive suit/outfit?
See a therapist.
So many do it, today you can forget about any stigma around mental health. Having a therapist, an unemotionally-attached professional, to listen to your thoughts and problems, provides great insight and street-relief. Therapy also increases your vulnerability, improving your ability to lead (see Brene Brown). While there is no shame, feel free to keep it secret, too.
We’d love to hear more about how you improve your effectiveness as a leader. Share them in the comments below! We also suggest you subscribe to our list to get tips like these and other business and leadership content once a week.