Chris Ategeka is an engineer, inventor, and entrepreneur at heart. He was named one of Forbes' 30 Under 30 social entrepreneurs in the world in 2014. He is the CEO and founder of Ride for Lives, a 501c(3) non-profit organization built to design, develop and deliver the most affordable, innovative and location-appropriate vehicles to access health and economic opportunities for people in developing countries.
What does your typical workday look like? If you are like most of your colleagues, you can function on minimal sleep; your smartphone is the first thing in the palm of your hands at 6 a.m. You are also constantly rushing: speeding to make the traffic light, running to a board meeting, hurrying to impress a partner or client. You relentlessly check your messages as you grab something to eat, rarely having the time to take a break. You forget to simply stop and breathe.
As the CEO of my own business, I believe in work-life integration -- not work-life balance. We have no trouble finding time to chase work that keeps us busy 24/7, yet we forget to take care of ourselves -- and we need to start taking it seriously.
R.E.I.M.S (pronounced rhymes) are the five things I do to live a more productive, balanced and happy, healthy life while running a company. Here's how you can integrate them into your own life and business.
Paradoxically, it is often doing less than can help us achieve more. In an economy where the payoffs benefit those who work longer hours, we often forget that our energy is limited and overspending it leads to marginal returns. Taking a break to rest both physically and mentally helps renew this energy and exert it more efficiently. Give your body the downtime it needs to replenish itself. Make it a habit to take regular breaks every 90 minutes of work to improve focus, use your vacation days to de-stress yourself, and most importantly, leave work at the office. Resting goes a long way in making your days more productive and your work more efficient.
Working out not only helps shed those few extra pounds but also the stress and anxiety that characterize today's fast-paced work environment. Physical activity releases endorphins, the brain's feel-good neurotransmitters. Even a quick jog or a short game of tennis can help you forget about your daily worries, feel more relaxed and thus work more effectively. I schedule time for exercise in the calendar just like I would for a meeting (it may feel inconvenient at first, but it eventually becomes routine). Start by making small changes in your daily routine: take the stairs instead of the elevator, spend your lunch break taking a brisk walk around the neighborhood and incorporate simple stretching or aerobic exercises in your day.
Invest in Relationships
Investments should made in your personal life, not just in stocks and assets. Devoting time and care to interpersonal relations builds a support system that one can depend upon. This can become an important stress-buster, a way to gain new perspective, and a source of self-worth and assistance. Hence, schedule weekly family gatherings, take some time out to meet with friends, and use breaks to socialize with your colleagues. I send all my mail to my parents' house, which ensures that I visit my parents every week. Granted, my parents and I live in the same city, which may not be ideal for you, but try to find creative ways to spend more time with people in your life. Invest in your family and friends, because they are the ones who will take care of you on a hospital bed -- not your stocks. Take them seriously, and your life will be happier and more fulfilled.
Meditate, and Be Mindful
Taking a timeout to practice meditation and mindfulness can help produce a deep state of relaxation and tranquility. The moment-to-moment awareness that is crucial to this technique reduces stress and boosts emotional well-being. Focusing on the present instead of worrying about other problems can help ease tensed muscles, increase self-awareness and even gain greater clarity. Thus, kick-start the day every morning with meditation. If your morning routine is already too rushed, make your breaks mindful instead. Although the benefits might not be noticeable at first, spending 15 minutes to focus on your breathing and clearing your mind will improve your concentration, focus and productivity.
Contrary to popular practice, sufficient sleep is crucial to performing well at work. A recent study on nearly 400 employees shows that less than six hours of sleep is a strong predictor of on-the-job burnout. Sleeping well at night and taking daytime naps reduce the drowsiness and exhaustion that often impede productivity. It restores the body and rejuvenates the mind, thus boosting performance. Fight the sluggishness that accompanies sleep deprivation by having a consistent eight-hour sleep schedule. Try going to bed at the same time every night! Turn off your computers, and unwind with a book instead as you near bedtime. It will ease you into a more restful sleep. If a stressful day at work saps you of this energy, take a power nap. It will refresh you for the rest of your day.
Although conventional wisdom drives us to work long and hard, slowing down can be beneficial for our health and our productivity. A walk around the block, grabbing lunch with friends or lounging on the couch are simple measures that go a long way in making our lives more balanced while also improving outcomes at work. If you are overworked and overwhelmed, it is time to hit the pause button and take these few simple steps. The next time you are rushing to meet a deadline, remember to slow down and breathe. Remember, life is a marathon -- not a sprint!