5 Life Lessons from a Sick Entrepreneur

medical conditions Dec 17, 2018

It's that time of year when the cold and flu bugs are flying all over. I'd like to think I'm pretty good with hand hygiene but that's only part of the picture. All you need to do is step into an elevator where someone recently sneezed and whamo- you're sick.

That's pretty much what happened to me. I woke up fine one morning and then in the hour before bed I started to feel run down. By the middle of the night I had knives stabbing my throat, joint aches and a stuffy nose. Nothing like a dramatic entrance. Thanks cold and flu season.

If you have a steady salaried position, getting sick is no big deal. Stay home for a few days, rest up and you'll be fine. Only as an entrepreneur that's not how it works. If I don't work, I don't get paid. There's no one else to pick up my slack. For every day that I miss work, that means I have one more day of things to catch up on. So what's a gal to do? While we can't entirely avoid getting sick (unless you want to live in a bubble) there's a few things that I've learned from being forced to take time off.

Slow down to go fast

Yup. As much as I don't like to stop working (and I'm sure you don't either), that's exactly what you need to do. Staring at your computer screen with a fuzzy head isn't doing you any good. Answer only the critical emails. Put up an out of office reply to let people know you're sick and that you'll reconnect in a few days. Your body needs rest. Listen to it. If you don't, it will take twice as long to recover.

Pick Your Priorities

Having some time off and falling behind really makes you reevaluate what's important. Do you actually have to do that???? Maybe not! Our to-do-lists get filled with tons of activities that don't even make an impact to our bottom line. Do what's going to make a difference to grow your business and leave the rest. Your list will be cut down significantly using this approach. Maybe we should be using this approach all the time!

We are Social Creatures

It's important to have an intimate connection with others. Some of us prefer to connect closely with one or two people, while others have wide circles of friends. I forget how social I am until I get sick. I like to talk. A LOT. Perhaps my husband is happiest when I lose my voice because our house is silent. I can't pester him with every new thought that pops up in my head. After not being able to speak for a few days, I felt very isolated and lonely. It was hard not even being able to pick up the phone for a quick hello to someone. I would have been happy with a short chat with the mailman. Or anyone for that matter.

While you may be sick, being an entrepreneur can be isolating at times. Make sure that you set aside time to maintain your friendships. It's these deep connections that are important to maintain so that we can stay healthy and balanced. Loneliness and depression are common symptoms for entrepreneurs that can be easily managed. Go out, have fun and I'll bet you'll be way more productive the next day.

Put Yourself First

Why is it when someone gets sick we tell them to take as much time as they need, yet when we are healthy and take time off we're being selfish? Let's face it. When you put yourself first and make sure that your own needs are met, you're in a better position to give. You can give time or energy to others from a place of strength, rather than feeling depleted. You end up feeling better about yourself and less resentful towards others. Isn't that a good thing? So be a little bit selfish. Put your own needs first. Not just when you're sick, but all the time. You'll have more to give to others when you put yourself first.

Plan for the Busy Times

Every business has cycles. Some times of the year are busier than others. It's often when we can least afford to take time off that we get sick. I'm in the middle of pulling together a new version of a course to be released in January. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and was finally feeling like I wasn't drowning. Maybe that's why I got sick. Because I was slowing down and my body finally had a chance to realize what I was doing to it. Burning the candle at both ends for far too long. I teach this stuff and yet it's so hard for me to not overdo it. I think that I'm invincible or an exception to the rule. I'm not. I'm just as human as you are. By identifying the busy times for your business, you can plan to have extra support during those times so that you don't burn out. Keeping your workload manageable is critical to staying healthy and sane. Reach out for support. If you're just starting out, recruit volunteers or students that create amazing work for a fraction of the price. You aren't superwoman (or superman) and it's ok to ask for help.

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