The One Thing I Wish I Knew Before Becoming a Young Female Entrepreneur

All the goals and strategies in the world won’t help unless you take care of yourself.

November 11, 2020 4 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

I was only 18 when I was fueled to fight for sleep equity. The best way I knew how was to start a (501)(c)(3) nonprofit, End No Sleep, Inc.

I planned lots of goals, strategies, and numbers to hit before the first anniversary. Ironically, while running a charity whose sole focus is to ultimately put an end to sleep deprivation, I was often sleep deprived. I knew then that I’d I turned into one of the clients we needed to help. So here is the one thing I wish I knew before running a startup: 

Self-care should always come first. Yes, that includes eight hours of sleep every night.

I can’t even begin to tell you all the videos, memes, and stories I’ve heard about exhausted leaders making millions. Or how the only way to reach success is to never take a break. These are narratives written to inspire, but they really only harm. In fact, Arianna Huffington states that when people ask her if she would have gotten to where she is today if she had slept eight hours per night, she responds, “I would have done it better.”

Related: 7 Ways Science Proves Early to Bed and Early to Rise Really Works

Walk the talk

As the leader of your business, you have to walk the talk. Wanting your volunteers or employees to reach their full potential at work means you have to be in a position to do the same. The only way to reach maximum potential is to take good care of your brain and body. Give them the nutrients and necessities they demand, such as having good sleep hygiene.

Thanks to sleep scientists and doctors, we now know that sleep is a time for rest, but also for our minds to detox from the day. Our minds go through this detox mode, cleaning out all the excess neurons and allowing us to have space to build new memories and information the next day. Can you imagine going to work unable to retain new pivotal information? 

Related: 8 Reasons Sleep Is Crucial for Entrepreneurs and Leaders

Balance is key

Another key to a successful career is a stable work-life balance. Often, to prove dedication to their work, executives will show a nonrealistic approach to success — an overly busy schedule, exhaustion, and no life outside of work. However, this will only encourage your employees and teammates to reach the burnout stage faster. Show them you value good health and a clear mind before going to work each day.

When I started the charity, I was hustling between a full-time job, studying for standardized testing, and running the startup. Naturally, I allowed myself to have meetings every day of the week — until I realized that not taking a day off only deteriorated my mental and physical health. I was in focus mode 24 hours every day. I would have dreams about what to say in future meetings or how I could have written a pitch email differently.

My mind was tired and needed a break. A break I did not think I owed to myself. Not only did this mindset of constant burnout affect me, but it also affected the business. I found myself unmotivated to pursue the company’s goals and often zoned out during meetings. I tried to put 100 percent into everything, but physically my body could not do it. Instead of being productive, I was ineffective. Now, I don’t allow meetings on Sundays; instead, I take them as a day to rejuvenate, create, or read. 

In the beginning, I constantly had to remind myself that self-care isn’t selfish. But the more love and care I show myself, the more routine it becomes. Practice makes perfect. Even if you are not used to a healthy lifestyle, try it for your company and your community. Slowly but sure, you will see positive change. 

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