I am, like most people, pretty much always busy. I guess it’s partly just the way I’m wired – I’ve never been someone who is happy to sit back and let things come to them. I’m proactive, and I love to get out there and engage with real people to try and understand how I can help them via OMNIA.
But it’s equally important for me to apply that same approach to other areas of my life – to engage fully with the world outside work in a way that, I believe, is absolutely critical to staying healthy and productive. So, what is that approach? Well, for me it breaks down into a number of areas – passions that while they might not seem to be directly linked to my business life, are actually fundamental to it. Without these elements in my life I know that I could not be as successful as I have been over the years.
Exercise – whether it’s going skiing or playing squash, or even playing skydiving – is such an important part of my life. It’s where I decompress – it actually has a similar effect on my life and my general wellbeing to the mindfulness practice I also do, in the sense that it is a part of the day when I can focus on something that is completely unrelated to work.
Obviously, exercise is hugely beneficial physically, but for me, as it is for many busy people, it’s also incredibly important for my mental health. After I’ve been for a run – as I try and do most mornings before work – I feel energised, more alive, and more appreciative of the world around me. Exercise takes you out of your daily bubble, gets your blood pumping and forces you to let your mind rest on something other than the endless planning ahead or reflecting on the past that takes up so much of our lives.
Mindfulness has become something of a buzzword in recent times, and seems to be something that everyone is engaging in nowadays in some form or another. And I actually think that’s an incredibly valuable thing – the clarity, insight and peace of mind that I get from a few minutes of mindfulness meditation every day has genuinely transformed my life – personally and professionally. Essentially, mindfulness practice takes you away from the state that I mentioned earlier – the one where you’re worrying about the future, or continually mulling over the past – and gently brings your focus back to the only time that you actually have any influence over: the here and now.
As I began to practice mindfulness on a daily basis, I realised that it’s actually a skill that has applications in all parts of my life – I’ve always been a multi-tasker by instinct, in and out of work, but mindfulness practice has also taught me the value of single tasking – focusing solely on one job or challenge and devoting my attention completely to it. It’s been a real game-changer.
- Healthy eating
Fundamental to my love of healthy eating has been the new-found enjoyment I get from cooking. I’ve never been a particularly keen cook, but I’ve recently started to do a lot more as I’ve tried to eat more healthily. Again, it ties in with the mindfulness approach – even spending a bit of time preparing vegetables and cooking a dish can be an experience that can contribute not just to your physical health, but your mental health too. When I cook, I think about nothing else (as a relative novice, I can’t afford to!) and I find it incredibly relaxing. Then of course there are the benefits of eating more healthily, and knowing exactly what you’re putting into your body – I’ve become physically much healthier since I’ve renewed my focus on healthy eating, and I’ve certainly seen an impact in terms of my concentration levels and general energy at work.
- The art of unplugging from your business and taking time out
The curse of the self-made business person is that it is so hard to take time out from the businesses you run. My solution to this has been simple however – employ incredibly talented people who you trust, and who don’t need you looking over their shoulder. I’m so grateful to the fantastic people working at OMNIA, but one of the greatest gifts they give me is the confidence that sometimes – just sometimes – I can unplug from the business and take some time away. And when I do, I’m not ashamed to say that I make sure that I forget completely about work – I switch my notifications off and disengage – because I know that actually this is the best way I can help the business. By returning refreshed and reinvigorated, I can be more effective than ever.
Routines are vital. I have them in many aspects of my life, and I believe that they’re fundamental to creativity. Routines provide a set of firm foundations for your mind to operate from – a safe framework upon which the creative side of you can then build. Everyone has their own idiosyncrasies and I know I have mine – but they work for me. So, find yours, and if they produce results, then stick to them.
I’ve always believed that life is one long learning opportunity – whether we succeed at something, or fail, we have something to learn. The zen master Shunryu Suzuki talked often about the need to have ‘beginner’s mind’, and I love this approach. It’s about dropping the mindset in which you believe you’re the expert in a particular subject, and instead approaching everything as a beginner would – as someone who knows nothing, but who is open to learning. As beginners, our minds are incredibly open – for example when we’re just starting to learn a new language – but as we learn more we become less open and less receptive to new things. I try to bring ‘beginner’s mind’ to every new challenge and situation.
- Tech breaks
Technology is a wonderful thing: it has brought us enormous power, and has certainly made running a global business with a diverse workforce much simpler. But as much as it seems to connect us, it has also pushed us apart in many ways. I am as guilty as anyone of spending too much time checking my emails and texts, or the latest news – and so I try to build regular tech breaks into my life. I’ve taken to avoiding using my phone for an hour or two before bed – which has certainly improved my sleep quality, and I also try to make sure that my phone isn’t the first thing I interact with in the morning.
And when I take a break from work, I make sure that I switch off completely – a habit that ultimately I think benefits me hugely when I do return to work.