As a society, we tend to glorify working long hours and sacrificing our leisure time for the sake of productivity. However, many successful entrepreneurs have a different approach - they recognise the importance of relaxation in achieving peak performance. Our ability to be productive is directly tied to our ability to relax. When we take time to rest and recharge, we're better equipped to handle the challenges of our work and personal lives.
What Is Relaxation?
Before we dive into the secrets of successful entrepreneurs and how they make relaxation a core part of their weekly routines, let's define what we mean by relaxation. Simply put, relaxation is the act of intentionally reducing stress and tension in our bodies and minds. This can take many forms, from physical activities like yoga or meditation to leisure activities like reading a book or taking a walk.
The Benefits of Relaxation
There are many benefits to incorporating relaxation into our daily routines. Here are just a few:
Chronic stress has been linked to a number of health problems, including heart disease, high blood pressure, and depression. When we experience chronic stress, our bodies release stress hormones like cortisol, which can have negative effects on our health over time. For example, high levels of cortisol have been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Additionally, chronic stress can lead to mental health problems like depression and anxiety.
Relaxation can help reduce the release of stress hormones and counteract the negative effects of chronic stress on our bodies. For example, studies have shown that relaxation techniques like meditation can lower blood pressure, improve sleep quality, and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. Other relaxation techniques, such as yoga or massage, can also have similar benefits.
Incorporating relaxation into our daily routines can also have indirect effects on our health. For example, taking time to relax and recharge can reduce the likelihood of burnout and improve our ability to cope with stressors. This can have a positive impact on our mental health and overall sense of well-being.
When we're in a constant state of stress or busyness, our brains tend to focus narrowly on the tasks at hand, leaving little room for creative thinking. However, when we take time to relax, our minds have the freedom to wander and explore new ideas and connections that we may not have considered before.
Relaxation techniques like mindfulness meditation or deep breathing exercises can help quiet the mind and allow space for creative thoughts to emerge. By focusing on the present moment and releasing our attachment to thoughts and worries, we create a mental environment that is more conducive to creativity and innovation.
Additionally, relaxation can help reduce mental fatigue and burnout, which can also have a positive impact on creativity. When we're constantly pushing ourselves to produce more and do more, we can become mentally exhausted and depleted. Taking breaks and allowing ourselves time to relax and recharge can help prevent burnout and keep our minds fresh and alert.
When we're stressed, our bodies activate the "fight or flight" response, which can lead to increased heart rate, rapid breathing, and a surge of stress hormones like cortisol. This physiological response can make it difficult to think clearly and make rational decisions, as our bodies are primed for survival rather than careful consideration.
On the other hand, relaxation techniques like deep breathing or progressive muscle relaxation can activate the body's "relaxation response," which counteracts the stress response and helps bring the body and mind into a state of calm. This can help us approach problems with a clear, rational mindset and make more thoughtful, deliberate decisions.
Furthermore, taking breaks and practicing relaxation techniques can help prevent decision fatigue, which is the idea that the more decisions we make in a day, the more our ability to make good decisions deteriorates. By incorporating relaxation into our daily routines, we can give our brains the rest and recovery they need to make sound decisions throughout the day.
Secrets from Successful Entrepreneurs
So how do successful entrepreneurs incorporate relaxation into their busy schedules? Here are some of their secrets:
Many successful entrepreneurs prioritise sleep as a key component of their productivity strategy. Getting enough sleep is crucial for our bodies and minds to function at their best. Without adequate sleep, we're more likely to feel stressed, irritable, and unfocused.
"Eight hours of sleep makes a big difference for me, and I try hard to make that a priority," - Jeff Bezos, Founder of Amazon
"By helping us keep the world in perspective, sleep gives us a chance to refocus on the essence of who we are. And in that place of connection, it is easier for the fears and concerns of the world to drop away." - Arianna Huffington, Founder of The Huffington Post
"I’ve always found it difficult to stop whatever I’m working on and go to sleep. I’m making an extra effort this year. I have a physical calendar keeping me on track and I tick off the days when I get at least 8 hours sleep a night." - Melanie Perkins, Founder of Canva
Make Time for Hobbies
Successful entrepreneurs know that it's important to make time for hobbies outside of work, not just for relaxation but also for creative inspiration. When we engage in activities we enjoy, our brains are able to shift into a different mode of thinking, allowing us to see things from a fresh and different perspective. Hobbies can also provide a way to learn new skills or explore new interests, which can translate into innovative ideas and approaches in our professional lives. By taking the time to pursue hobbies, entrepreneurs can boost their creativity and problem-solving abilities, while also improving their overall well-being.
"These hobbies give me clarity and provide perspective about how I see reality versus what is true. This leads to better decision-making and greater creativity." - Deborah Goldstein, DRIVEN Professionals
"The game reminds me to stay fluid, look for all my options, take nothing for granted and to stay present in the moment I am in." - Catherine Hickem, The Dash Group
"Many new insights have emerged to inspire and influence new ways of doing business while I’ve been drawing, reading, hiking or driving." - Lillian Gregory, The HumEx Institute
Practicing mindfulness can be a powerful tool for entrepreneurs seeking to improve their productivity and well-being. By making a conscious effort to focus on the present moment and cultivate a non-judgmental awareness of their thoughts and feelings, they can better manage stress, boost creativity, and make more intentional decisions.
Successful entrepreneurs have long recognised the benefits of mindfulness, and many have incorporated practices like meditation, deep breathing, or even mindful eating into their daily routines. By taking just a few minutes each day to be fully present, entrepreneurs can improve their ability to prioritise and manage their time, and approach challenges with greater clarity and calmness.
"Mindfulness is one way that many entrepreneurs choose to combat the toll wrought by round-the-clock emails, long working hours and other aspects of our accelerated business culture" Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin
"Focusing on the present moment is an important practice when only 34 percent of employees are engaged at work. Mindfulness techniques can also help to decrease burnout and, as a result, minimize staff turnover." Isa Watson, CEO of Squad
Taking breaks is a key strategy for successful entrepreneurs to stay focused and energszed throughout the day. By intentionally scheduling short periods of rest and relaxation, they can prevent burnout and improve productivity. It's important to recognise that breaks don't have to be long, but they should be frequent and meaningful. This might include taking a quick walk outside, doing some stretches, or even just closing your eyes and taking a few deep breaths. By giving yourself permission to step away from work and recharge, you'll return to your tasks with renewed energy and a fresh perspective.
"If you put them in a race with someone for one month, and one works 60-hour weeks, and one works 32, then yes, the person who worked 60 hours is going to get more done in that one month," he said. "How about in 12 months? How about in seven years? - Ryan Carson, Founder of Treehouse
"Being busy is a form of laziness - lazy thinking and indiscriminate action. Being busy is most often used as a guise for avoiding the few critically important but uncomfortable actions." - Tim Ferriss, Podcaster and Angel Investor
Disconnect from Technology
Successful entrepreneurs know the value of unplugging from technology and being present in the real world. The constant pings, notifications, and updates can be overwhelming and take away from our ability to focus on the task at hand. By disconnecting from technology, even for short periods of time, we can clear our minds and increase our ability to problem-solve and innovate. Successful entrepreneurs make it a priority to set aside time to disconnect from technology and engage in activities that nourish their minds and souls.
"Our phones are repositories of everything we need to put away in order to sleep: our to-do lists, our inboxes, the demands of the world. Charging your phone away from your bed makes you more likely to wake up as fully charged as your phone." - Arianna Huffington, Founder of The Huffington Post
"I'm a much better decision-maker, I'm a much better strategist, I'm a much better leader when I'm not wrapped up in the minutia of what's going on in the company and what's going on in the world," - Justin McLeod, Founder of Hinge.
Research studies and relaxation
And it isn't just the entrepreneurs themselves that think relaxation Is the key to productivity! There are many research studies that show how relaxation can make entrepreneurs more effective:
"The Impact of Mindfulness on Leadership Effectiveness" - This study found that mindfulness practices, which are often associated with relaxation, can increase a leader's effectiveness. The study surveyed 105 CEOs and found that those who practiced mindfulness had higher levels of emotional intelligence, were more resilient, and had better decision-making abilities.
"Recovery, Work Engagement, and Proactive Behavior: A New Look at the Interface Between Nonwork and Work" - This study examined the relationship between recovery activities, such as relaxation, and work engagement among employees. The study found that employees who engaged in recovery activities outside of work were more engaged and proactive at work. This suggests that taking time for relaxation can actually improve work performance.
"The Effect of Breaks on Sustained Attention and Cognitive Control: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis" - This meta-analysis examined the effect of breaks, which can include relaxation activities, on sustained attention and cognitive control. The analysis found that taking breaks, especially those that involve physical activity or relaxation, can improve cognitive performance, including attention and working memory.
Overall, these studies suggest that relaxation can have a positive impact on leadership effectiveness, work engagement, and cognitive performance. Entrepreneurs who take time for relaxation may be more effective at decision-making, more engaged and proactive at work, and have better cognitive abilities.
By taking time to rest and recharge, we can improve our health, creativity, and decision-making abilities. Successful entrepreneurs understand the importance of relaxation and prioritise it as a key component of their productivity strategy. By following their example, we can all achieve greater productivity, greater happiness and better health!