The life of a CEO is a hectic and demanding one—being a leader means we’re always on the move, always multitasking and focusing on the immediate detail-oriented issues that need our attention, while maintaining a high-level overview of the big picture. We have to look after internal issues and deal with external forces at the same time, which can result in incredible amounts of stress on the mind and body.
In addition, having the weight of a company on our shoulders means that we can’t sign off at the end of each day like our employees—as such, the standard approach of maintaining a work–life balance of working hard and playing hard does not work with our lifestyle, as the company and its issues becomes intertwined into our lives. And with modern technology, it’s almost impossible to sign out of work when your email, apps, and cloud-based software are constantly ‘on’ in the background, demanding attention regardless of the time of the day.
Because of our inability to sign out of technology and our responsibilities, I’ve learned over time that the best approach is to accept both into my life and reconcile them in a holistic and harmonious manner rather than trying to force a separation.
So instead of forcing yourself to turn the phone off during non-work hours, for example, why don’t we instead use the phone to bring some relaxation and stress relief during our work hours?
Of course, with technology today, there are apps and strategies for this. Here are some of my favourite apps to deal with the stress and demands of our CEO lifestyle.
The first key to achieving some sort of balance in your day is to make sure you’re getting quality rest at night. Without adequate and quality sleep, it’s impossible for us to maintain the focus and calmness required to do our job.
Sleep Cycle is a simple app that can be easily integrated into busy lifestyles. It’s basically two things in one—a sleep analyser that tracks and records how well you’re sleeping, and an alarm clock that wakes you up ‘smartly’.
The sleep analyser works by tracking movement on your mattress, but the real benefit of this app is the smart alarm clock. By tracking when you’re in deep sleep and when you’re in light sleep, the app wakes you up at an optimal time when you’re sleeping lightly, rather than at a fixed alarm time—so even though you might wake up at seemingly random 13 minutes earlier, you’ll feel more rested and ready to fire right off the starting line. Not bad for a simple alarm clock.
Meditating for 20 minutes when you wake up is a great way to sharpen mental focus for the day ahead. Meditation is not a mystical or spiritual skill—it’s simply exercising the muscle that is your brain. And just like bicep curls will increase the efficiency of your biceps, meditation has been scientifically proven to improve focus, awareness, and judgement simply by actively exercising the brain regularly through simple mental exercises.
Headspace is a series of audio recordings that teach a beginner how to meditate, with unique daily instructions that coach you gently through the practice. It only requires 10 minutes of your time at the start, which increases to 20 minutes as you settle in and become more comfortable. The lessons can be extended out over a year, so there are more than enough lessons for daily use, and the quality of the lessons is excellent. Using Headspace daily will help you to increase the intensity of your focus, improving clarity and sharpness and allowing you to cruise through those difficult situations and decisions that we all face daily.
7 minute workout
Now that we have sleep and mental focus under our belt, the next key to happiness and relieving stress is to integrate some sort of physical exercise into our lives to release those critical endorphins and hormones. This is easier said than done—our lives are filled with appointments and to-dos, to the point that exercising becomes a luxury.
The 7 Minute Workout method is an intense exercise routine that only requires a chair and seven minutes out of the day, but has been scientifically proven to produce great results for the little time it needs.
There are many apps for this, but my favourite is 7. Not only does it give you the seven-minute routines with verbal instructions and images to show you what to do; it also gamifies the process to encourage you to maintain the practice daily over seven months. It uses a heart system that deducts a heart for each day you slack off, with achievements that reward you for consistency. As with all things, it’s not about doing it once or twice; it’s the regularity that will keep you fit and happy. This app is an excellent investment for the relatively small time cost.
Sometimes it’s not endorphins or focus that we need during the day, but some calmness and the ability to retreat from the stresses and demands of our job. I’ve found that yoga is great for this, as it allows us to take a step back from our job and is a great complement to the intense mental focus exercises of meditation and physical exercises of the 7 Minute Workout.
As with physical exercise, attending a class or having a real instructor is still the best choice, but when you can’t fit these sessions in, the next best thing is to take a few minutes out of your day in between meetings to do some exercises in the comfort of your own office. The best app I’ve found for this is Yoga Studio.
Yoga Studio is a beautiful app, and, like Headspace and 7, walks you through everything you need to know. It does so with professionally edited HD videos for each movement, and you can follow ready-made classes or create your own using a mix of the 280 poses in their library.
Achieving better sleep, improving your focus, physical exercise, and relaxation are only some ways in which apps and technologies can be integrated into our busy and demanding lifestyle. Rather than trying to schedule hourly blocks of time for each of these, apps allow us to make these activities work with our lifestyle rather than the other way around. It’s only the start of how mobility can help with our lives—and how as CEOs we should all pay more attention to the fact that technology is not just another business requirement but an essential tool to improve our lives and our businesses.