PowerlinesWhen your mind is constantly in motion due to the daily tasks and excitement of startup life, the best thing you can do to refresh is get away from it all. I would argue that intentional downtime is necessary for success – maybe as important as the idea for the business itself.

Downtime not only helps keep the mind feeling fresh, but it also helps prevent burnout, something I faced frequently during the initial stages of Wakanow.com. When I started the company, my team was small, and I could never walk away because I feared that all my hard work would fall of apart. My head was always full of worries: Will the new hire do well? Where will the next round of funding come from? How can I assure that all my current employees are happy?

Downtime has allowed me to focus on each issue with a clear and open mind, and it has directly contributed to my success. If you’re struggling to walk away from your business and get some much needed downtime, here are some tips to help:

1. Set Mandatory Downtime

As a new business owner, you’ll need great time management skills. Talk to any CEO, and they will likely tell you that “time management” is at the top of the list of must-haves for success. Your time management skills should include knowing when to schedule slots for mandatory downtime. I can’t express this enough.

My most significant downtime comes a few hours before bed every day and on weekends. There are many healthy reasons to take downtime before bed: It prepares me for a solid night of sleep and allows me to wake up at 5 A.M., which is when I take the time to plan my day.

2. Engage in a Mix of Downtime Activities

Downtime means different things for different people, but a mix of “active” and “passive” downtimes works for me. During my “active downtime,” I work out. Sometimes it’s a simple jog; other times, it’s an intense game of tennis. Getting regular exercise helps me improve my focus and boost my energy levels in both my entrepreneurial and my personal lives.

“Passive downtime,” for me, includes reading, movie time, and relaxing with my family. The latter is of vital importance. A happy family equals a happy entrepreneur, and that combination ultimately leads to a more successful business.

3. Create More Downtime, Even When You’re Busy

FamilyLet’s be realistic: Sometimes, work is hectic and we are forced to break away from our “mandatory” meetings and client calls. But there are some tricks to getting yourself downtime on a daily basis, no matter how busy you are.

Start with your shower. Ever notice how calm you are in the shower? There’s a good reason for this: In the shower, your body relaxes and produces additional dopamine, which naturally relaxes the brain. Use that morning shower to your advantage.

Try waking up an hour before everyone else in your home. Use this time to relax for a bit: catch up on the news, enjoy a cup of coffee, and plan your day.

Don’t forget to relax and breathe during your daily commute. Use your travel time to listen to your favorite music, news stations, audio books, or whatever else allows you to purposefully relax. If you’re the type who enjoys driving, take an extended route home to help you unwind and reflect on the day’s work.

Remember, the path to success means learning about all aspects of running a business, from time management, to managing employees, to interviewing candidates. But without the necessary downtime, absorbing all this information will be much more difficult.


A version of this article originally appeared on BusinessCollective.

Obinna Ekezie is the cofounder and CEO of Wakanow.com, the leading full-service, online travel company in Africa. Obinna played in the NBA for eight seasons and was selected with the 37th overall pick in the 1999 NBA draft by the Vancouver Grizzlies after playing with the Maryland Terrapins from 1995-1999. Following his basketball career, Obinna founded Wakanow out of his personal frustration with the lack of options for easily booking travel online between the U.S. and his native Nigeria.

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