BY MARC BARROS,
Being a CEO is an incredibly lonely experience.
You're constantly under pressure and unsure about whom you can trust, which leads to wasted time and riding a roller coaster of uncertainty. Battling a never-ending list of expectations, you can make this struggle worse by neglecting your health and the people important to you.
It doesn't have to be this way.
It wasn't until I stepped down from Contour that I realized my workaholic drive was destroying my body, my mind, and my personal life. Working six days a week, I spent my twenties stuck behind a laptop. Now, in vowing not to repeat the same mistakes, I'm making sure these seven habits are a part of my day.
Having been a Division I college athlete, I can say that being a CEO is significantly more strenuous. It isn't confined to a two-hour practice or 90-minute game. There's an expectation that you always have to be positive, energetic, and decisive, which drains every ounce of your energy. Think of exercising as one of the most important meetings you have, everyday. Don't skip it, and don't make excuses.
Get Some Rest
As a rule, you should pride yourself on the hours you've slept, not the hours you've missed. There are dozens of research articles on mental performance and a lack of sleep, but here's the bottom line: As an entrepreneur, you are thinking about hard, stressful problems all day. You need more sleep than the average person, not less.
Take a Break
Taking a full weekend off is not a vacation. The pile of work never goes away, and not only does your team need you mentally rested, they need to learn how to execute without you. To break a hub-and-spoke culture, take a multi-week vacation to validate how strong or weak your leadership really is. If the company crumbles without you, take that as a warning sign--and a sign of a problem you may have created without even realizing it.
Get a Weekly Massage
Everyone carries stress in different ways, but a weekly massage can help relieve that tension. If your company doesn't have medical insurance, you might join places like Massage Envy, which have multiple locations and offer fairly affordable massages. Think of it as part of the expense of running a company. It's well worth it.
For a long time, I was a lousy listener. My version of listening was taking the whiteboard pen and sharing my perspective. The discussion made me feel good, but it didn't encourage the people around me to think for themselves. Being a great listener takes patience and a commitment to being open. It also teaches you that you don't have all the answers, so you'll find your level of stress will diminish as you realize the people you've hired do have great solutions to your company's hardest problems.
Relationships matter. Whether they are business connections, friendships, or family, they'll be the only thing left when you're done with the company, so don't expect these people to wait around while you prioritize work. You know the culprits: Interrupting dinner with just one more phone call. Skipping a friend's birthday for a surprise business trip. Missing time with your kids because you had to take your client out for dinner. These are actions that speak louder than words.
Talk To Someone
Every CEO needs a trusted confidant. If that's not your significant other, you can hire a coach, therapist, or a consultant who can help. Choose someone you trust, who is a fantastic listener, and experienced at helping people understand emotions. Running a company comes with a huge amount of personal conflicts you might not even recognize until you start sharing. The process gets easier with time, but make sure you confide in someone outside of your company. Otherwise, it could lead to a loss of confidence in your leadership. It's okay to admit you have no idea what you are doing--just find the right person to share it with.