Take Care of You, Take on the WorldArticle by Colleen Francis, May 28, 2018
You know how it goes. You’re having a hectic week of client meetings or at a tradeshow and things begin to slide in the self-care department. Eat a greasy meal here, pull a late night there, and then load up on caffeine to push through.
A few days of this and you’ll be feeling pretty rough. But go beyond that ‒ regularly neglecting both your physical and mental wellbeing ‒ and you’ll simply rob yourself of the ability to perform and network with clients to the fullest. And, you’ll set yourself up for serious repercussions. Just ask Arianna Huffington, owner of the award-winning Huffington Post.
Two years into her venture she woke up on the floor of her office in a pool of blood with a broken cheekbone. She had been routinely pulling long hours and skipping sleep for her digital news site. Finally, her body said “Enough!” and she collapsed in exhaustion against the edge of her desk. This wake-up call led to the publication of her book Thrive, which shares scientific research about the connection between wellbeing and productivity.
So, what does it mean to maintain your wellbeing as a seller? It means you can:
- Work at peak energy, especially when meeting with customers
- Be balanced both physically and mentally so you come across as positive, motivated and excited – exuding an energy that people want to be around
- Be present and focused
- Be creative and solve problems quickly
I fortunately haven’t been sick on the road for at least ten years. And I travel on airplanes a lot, which are incubators for germs. I attribute my health to a few key methods I practice to stay balanced.
If you’ve fallen off the wagon, follow these tips to regain your wellbeing and be at your best.
Count those sheep
According to the National Sleep Foundation, we need seven to nine hours of sleep each night. Everyone can survive a little deprivation once in a while, like taking a red-eye flight home from a conference or pulling an all-nighter to write a proposal.
However, we need to make up for that loss of sleep or we won’t be fully functional. Our hormones that control appetite will get out of whack and lead to weight gain. And we’ll trigger inflammation in the body that can cause illness. Instead of following up with clients in the week after that trade show – a crucial window of time, – we’ll find ourselves out sick.
Here are a few techniques to help you sleep:
- Turn off all electronics – laptop, smartphone, Kindle, TV – an hour before bedtime. The latest studies indicate the light from these devices interferes with the secretion of the hormone melatonin, which brings on sleepiness at sundown.
- Eliminate any light in the bedroom as this also interferes with your natural sleep cycle. Turn your alarm clock away from the bed and put your smartphone on the floor or in another room. Also consider using an eye mask.
- If you’re head’s swirling with stressful thoughts, jot them down on paper. I once told a client suffering from stress-related insomnia to keep a gratitude journal. Before bed each night, they listed ten things they were grateful for that day ‒ and they didn’t need to be work-related. “Choosing a healthy dinner” and “Calling my mother” counted. This helped my client achieve a positive frame of mind that made them sleep more soundly.
Schedule R&R time
A fellow business owner is having a great year ̶ likely to finish with a salary of half a million to $600,000. I recently asked if he was taking time off this summer. His reply? “No way! I haven’t been doing well enough for long enough to take time off.”
He believes just a couple days away with his family will cause his business to plummet. This attitude harkens back to the 1980s and 90s when being busy rather than productive was the focus. Since then, many have realized it’s not the best way to work.
The truth is we all need to rest and recharge our batteries. Even unplugging for the weekend can make a difference. Another client learned this the hard way by pushing himself to a heart attack.
He was pulling 60-hour weeks and couldn’t turn off. When he did take that rare vacation with his wife, he left the cottage every day for Starbucks to check his work e-mail. This client wasn’t a business owner and had a large corporate structure around him, so it was completely unnecessary.
I tell clients to think of it this way: Selling is a creative pursuit. Taking a step back gives you a fresh perspective on the business. Your mind’s free to entertain new ideas about how to achieve better success when you return from vacation.
You are what you eat
My former co-workers and I used to say if you’re going to work a tradeshow booth, you can’t survive on a bag of Fritos™ for lunch. Otherwise, you’ll be a zombie by afternoon.
Eating clean – especially on the road ‒ is one of the hardest things to do, but it makes a huge difference. I also like to carry snacks, which is helpful when you don’t know what will be available to you.
Here are smart choices for that afternoon pick-me-up:
- Protein bars
- Nuts – especially almonds
- Sugar-free dried fruit
The sales field also has a tradition of social drinking. And I’m certainly known to enjoy wine with dinner and a glass of scotch for dessert! You take a client out to discuss things in a more relaxed setting. Limit yourself on the booze, though, and be sure to drink lots of water – especially if you’ll be flying out. You don’t want to return to the office dehydrated, which takes more than one day to fix.
When it comes to exercise, weekly activity is important, and here’s another tip: Standup. Back in 2012, the New York Times and NPR reported that getting up from your desk every 20 minutes and standing for two minutes can profoundly affect your health and focus. One of my clients has a complete open office structure with rows of desks and no dividers between workstations. All the desks and chairs are fully adjustable so employees can raise them to a level where they’re standing and then lower them to sit.
Another client, a Fortune 10 customer, programmed their computers to send a reminder to take a break every 45 minutes; to go grab water, stretch and chat with a neighbor. This works well for sellers since they’re usually high-energy and don’t like to be still for too long.
Creating a work environment like this that gets you moving, in addition to eating clean, sleeping enough and scheduling R&R time, are among the best investments you can make toward your wellbeing and your job performance. Make these adjustments, and you’ll be working and networking to your full potential. Remember, you can’t make sales if you are flat on your back, sick in bed!