It was 2010. I was in my 5th year of being a freelance nerd.
It was 2:00 in the afternoon and I was still in my PJs. I was living the dream… and I smelled bad.
And I was starving. And I was becoming very angry.
“OK!” I declared. “I’m stepping AWAY from the computer now, and I’m NOT coming back until I’ve eaten a proper MEAL!”
I went to the kitchen and threw a frozen block of pre-made food into the microwave.
Just as I had begun to take the first bite … the phone rang. It was one of my more demanding clients.
My day had officially spiraled out of control.
It all began from the innocent little habit of checking my email immediately after getting out of bed.
It might seem harmless, but in my opinion this is one of the worst habits a business owner can have.
Are you excited about the opportunities that might have come in overnight? Eager to see if that prospect finally decided to buy from you? Or worried about how one of your more difficult clients may have responded to your last email?
Well, take it from me: if you aren’t making YOURSELF (and your own well-being) the top priority of every day — making sure that you’re taking care of YOU before you start worrying about other people — you’re setting yourself up for a low quality of life.
A low quality of life leads to an unhappy business owner… and unhappy business owners are famous for making decisions that sabotage the business and bring “the dream” to a crashing halt.
It doesn’t take much to send my brain into a chain-reaction and end up getting sucked into “ok, just one more email then I’ll go have breakfast.”
So, to help ensure that I stay away from the email trap, I have a checklist that I repeat to myself every time I think about work in the morning. I stay away from even thinking about work until all items have been crossed off that list.
It’s super-short, super-simple, and it keeps me out of trouble.
3 words. Love, food, shower.
Yes, it’s cheesy, and it’s the first priority of every day. If I wake up beside my girlfriend, I’ll take a few minutes to snuggle before I get up. If I’m alone, I think of people (or situations) in my life that I’m grateful for. Starting the day with happy thoughts is the easiest habit in the world, and so much better than getting out of bed with the thought of, “OK, I gotta deal with that energy-draining project now.”
I make absolutely sure that I have had a proper breakfast before I do any work of any kind. Even if I get out of bed super-late, I consciously force myself NOT to check my email until I’ve given my body the energy it’ll need to get started.
As much as I loved the cliché of the freelancer who stayed in his PJs until 4:00, after a couple years I found that showing up at my computer feeling clean and fresh did wonders for the level of enthusiasm with which I began each work day.
*A note about step #2: This includes trips to the grocery store. If know I won’t be able to make lunch with what I have in the fridge, I’ll stock on up groceries BEFORE I start working. When I’m working, I’m generally “in the zone” and HATE being interrupted — especially if I have to leave the apartment. Not having a proper lunch can also force my day into a downward spiral.
Here are some other times where I strongly recommend AGAINST checking email:
- Halfway through dinner
- While hanging out with friends
- Before going to bed
- Before shutting down for the weekend
- Before leaving for vacation
All of these lead to thoughts that pop up and bother you constantly until they’re dealt with. It only takes one “stupid” email to send your brain into a chain-reaction that will ruin your sleep, your weekend, or your whole vacation.
If you run your own business, maintaining your happiness must be among your top priorities. Spreading your time, energy and focus between “work” and “not-work” is a great way to ruin your business!