By Graham Acreman
Many people dream of running a marathon. A marathon is 42.2 km or 26.2 mile distance running race. There are approximate 3,500 marathons held worldwide every year and more than half or the runners each year are running their first marathon.
There’s a reason that marathoners don’t start off at top, “All out” speed. If they did, they’d quickly run out of energy and never make it to the end. Marathon runners need to pace themselves so that they can accomplish their goal. Their goal is not to run as fast as they can but rather to make it to the end successfully.
By the same token, entrepreneurs also have to pace themselves. Sometimes it’s easier said than done but, it’s essential to understand the need so that you can succeed in the long game of business.
Earlier in the year I wrote an article, 10 Powerful Business Tips for Owners and Entrepreneurs and pacing yourself was the #6 on the list. Today, we’re going to dig a little deeper on this item.
There are many risks that arise when pacing is not maintained:
- Neglecting those closest to you which can cause relationships to suffer;
- Increased potential for burn-out; - Increased risk of cardiovascular disease, including strokes and heart attacks;
- Increased risk of developing unhealthy eating and exercise habits;
- Over-all feelings of dis-satisfaction.
Overall, the picture painted is not good.
If you don’t pace yourself and balance your life to some degree you risk all of the above plus you risk not achieving your goals that you were prepared to work so hard to achieve.
I worked in a fast-paced corporate setting for many years. Though I enjoyed my work for the most part, over-time I found it less rewarding on a personal level. A change was needed.
Five years ago, I decided to start my own business. I wanted control of my life, control of my schedule and wanted to do things that brought me satisfaction.
On the first day of running my new business, I made breakfast for my then nine year old twins Max and Zoe. Then I walked them to school. And I loved it!
Now this might not seem remarkable, but the reality is that up to that point, I travelled for work frequently and was away from home a lot. When I was home, I was generally up and out of the house each morning before anyone else woke up. Let me tell you, I was thrilled to be able to make my kids breakfast and walk them to school. I also realized at that moment that I had been missing out on something that was very important to me.
It was then that I resolved a few things:
- I was going to make my kids breakfast and walk them to school more often;
- I was only going to do things I really enjoyed;
- I was only going to work with people that I liked;
- I was going to focus on my personal happiness.
Many business owners and entrepreneurs have so much that they want to accomplish and having goals is essential to growth and success. The reality is, you can only accomplish so much at one time. If you spread yourself too thin working on too many things simultaneously, you’ll likely find yourself working all the time and feeling like you’re not making progress.
If you pace yourself and plan your time strategically, you’ll find that you will be much more productive. Remember, in you’re not in business just to be busy, you’re there to achieve results.
Setting priorities is an essential component of pacing yourself. Setting priorities also helps you maintain a good work-life balance. It’s worth noting that work-life balance is fluid – it’s going to evolve week after week, month after month, year after year. Often it comes down to your goals which also evolve as your life evolves.
I’ve raced a number of Ironman triathlons over the last 15 years. An Ironman race consists of a 3.8km swim, 180km bike ride and a 42.2k run. When I’m planning to compete in an Ironman, I know that I need to dedicate an average of 15 hours per week for training for almost a year. It’s a big time commitment. Those 15 hours don’t magically appear – I need to re-allocate the time from some other part of my life. In reality that could mean I reduce my work schedule, or time with friends, or time spent on other personal projects.
The thing is, I know that I need to do this and I make a conscientious choice to do so. But, I also know that when Ironman is done, I will re-allocate my time again based on my goals and priorities. The pendulum is always moving.
If you’re looking for some tips to better pace yourself, consider the following:
- Make a short list of the key people and things in your life that are important.
- When you’re planning your week, schedule times for those people and things from the previous item.
- Don’t be a perfectionist – as your business grows, so does your responsibility and you don’t have time to strive for perfection in everything you do. Often, “Good enough” will save you a great deal of time.
- Review your meeting schedule. Ask yourself, are they all necessary? If so, do you need to attend or can someone else take the meeting? Can you reduce your standard meeting times? (20 minutes vs ? hour, 30 minutes vs a full hour, etc).
- Delegate or eliminate your least productive tasks.
- Avoid distractions.
- Take “Technology breaks”. It’s important to unplug and make time to be offline.
- Make time for regular exercise. You’ll feel and perform better.
- Eat light, nutritious meals. Again, you’ll feel and perform better. In short, pacing yourself is key to long-term success from both a business, personal, and health perspective.
Though a good work-life balance can be challenging to maintain, the benefits to your overall happiness and quality of life are worth it.
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