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In 2018, Elon Musk famously said that people need to work “80 to 100 hours per week” if they want to change the world. His comments are a reflection of the view that it is not enough to work smart — you have to work hard, too.
Unfortunately for Mr. Musk, while working those kinds of hours helped him create successful businesses, they may take a terrible toll on his health and future ventures. Working 80-plus-hour weeks is not sustainable for most and leads to poor concentration and high levels of unsustainable stress.
From a health perspective, therefore, Musk is not a model for entrepreneurs to follow, and even he admits that. Entrepreneurs need to guard against personal health issues so that they can guide their businesses through tough times. Working long hours is not out of the question, but those who go down that route need to offset it with behaviors that foster well-being.
Getting Enough Sleep Improves Productivity and Reduces Errors
Sleep experts recommend that we all get between seven and nine hours of sleep per night. If people get less than that, trouble can start.
A 2016 study from the RAND Corporation, for instance, found that lack of sleep causes the average person to lose around 11 days of productivity per year, translating to $ 2,280 in lost output. For high-value workers, such as entrepreneurs, this figure is likely much larger, given the knock-on effects of their decision-making.
Furthermore, lack of sleep may lead entrepreneurs to make more errors (such as posting questionable tweets on Twitter). Studies show that sleep-deprived people are 20 to 30 percent more likely to make critical mistakes.
Eating a Healthy Diet Improves Mood and Enhances Output
Our culture tends to underplay the profound effect that what you eat has on health and productivity. But this isn’t something lost on health authorities. The World Health Organization, for instance, published work indicating that eating a balanced diet raises productivity levels by around 20 percent — the equivalent of an extra day every week in the office.
The type of food you eat can also impact your mood. Researchers reporting in the British Journal Of Health Psychology found evidence that eating more than seven portions of fruit and vegetables per day significantly improved participants’s moods and readied them better for the challenges of life.
Exercise Boosts Productivity and Improves Interpersonal Relationships
Top entrepreneurs around the world swear by their exercise routines, and this should come as no surprise. Data indicate that physical activity offers numerous benefits, including better mental well-being, improved overall health and lower stress.
One study, for instance, found that worker productivity was an astonishing 72 percent higher on days when participants exercised compared to those on which they didn’t. Another study found that implementing a “sit less, move more” policy reduced days lost due to lack of performance and improved interpersonal relationships.
I recently spoke with Brian Jackson, whose company BurstIQ is helping usher in the next era of health. I asked him how he uses exercise to combat the stress of being a co-founder and entrepreneur. His advice? “Get on a daily routine and stick to it. Join a gym and encourage your family to get into a routine as well. Not only does exercise make you healthier, it makes you happier and mentally balanced. My wife and I joined a gym 10 years ago and made ourselves keep to a daily routine. Now, 10 years later, we are so much healthier and happier.”
Being Mindful Reduces Stress and Improves Decision-Making
Entrepreneurs often try to automate their personal lives so that they can dedicate their energies to their work. Taking this approach too far, however, can lead to undesirable unintended consequences, including a loss of focus, high stress levels and poor decision making.
Daily mindfulness, something practiced by everyone from Steve Jobs to Richard Branson, can help. A study from the University of California found that just two weeks of mindfulness training could boost focus dramatically. Another study from the University of Pennsylvania found that meditative practices reduced susceptibility to the “sunk cost fallacy” and helped foster clearer decision-making. And finally, research out of Johns Hopkins indicates that those who practice mindfulness experience a moderate but noticeable reduction in overall stress level.
Put on Some Music to Reduce Stress and Stay Focused
Listening to music in the office can have an extraordinarily relaxing effect on our brains by reducing stress and tension levels throughout the body. I had a chance to catch up with MusicDigi founder William Alfred, who confirmed that “listening to your favorite music can help anchor you in the moment, letting you actually enjoy what you’re doing, even if it’s tedious or stressful. This helps you stay focused, motivated and overall happier throughout your day.”
Social Support Can Increase Happiness in Tough Times
Finally, entrepreneurs can improve their health and their businesses by seeking out social support where necessary. Many of the world’s top business leaders have a mentor, and research suggests that people who have good relationships with people both inside and outside the firm experience lower levels of workplace stress and higher perceived happiness.
Focusing on personal health, therefore, is not an option for entrepreneurs. It is an essential tool that allows them to improve their operations and make better decisions, allowing them to become the pillar of their organization and the person always there in the background who makes it thrive.