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An Entrepreneur’s Guide For Knowing When To Take A Vacation

Lifestyle

Most of us suffer from something called overconfidence bias, meaning that there's a significant gap between our belief in what we can accomplish, and the reality. I would imagine that the gap gets even wider for most entrepreneurs. I don't have any research to back this up, other than proof that if you can quit your job and step into an unknown world, create something new, and expect people to actually buy it, well, you must be pretty damned confident.


Most of us suffer from something called overconfidence bias, meaning that there's a significant gap between our belief in what we can accomplish, and the reality. I would imagine that the gap gets even wider for most entrepreneurs. I don't have any research to back this up, other than proof that if you can quit your job and step into an unknown world, create something new, and expect people to actually buy it, well, you must be pretty damned confident.

Where overconfidence bias tricks us up is when the rubber meets the road. It's the end of the day, your list of to do's is still long, and you make the decision to forego personal time and just keep grinding.

This seems like a great idea at the time, but it's only short-term thinking. I propose that entrepreneurs take a long-term thinking approach to their productivity, much like we should be doing with our business strategy, finances, and everything else. In fact, when it comes to your personal health, it feels like that should be priority number one, simply by reasoning that if you fall ill or drop dead, the rest of the planning really doesn't matter. With this in mind, here are 5 ways to know that it's time for you to take a break. Whether it's a formal vacation, or simply a meditative walk, the goal is to clear your mind so that you can perform to your best, over the long-term.

1: You're exhausted, but forcing yourself to keep going.

Jeff Bezos recently said that sleeping 8 hours per night is key to him, and his shareholders, in making good decisions. A host of other entrepreneurs, including Arianna Huffington, are declaring lack of sleep, and burnout, a multi-billion dollar crisis. Regardless of how much you want to keep going, when you're feeling lethargic you have to stop. You decision-making skills, logic and reasoning are not in the right place for you to work. And the risk of burning out is simply too high. Make good micro-decisions, for long-term greater productivity. Follow the example of the greatest entrepreneurs today and be sure to get 8 hours per night, catch up on any hours you lose, and take mental, and physical, breaks throughout the year. Your overconfidence biased brain may not believe it's necessary, but all research points the to the opposite.

2: You're stressed.

I do a lot of work in corporate culture design with emphasis on workforce wellness. Researchers have found that the costs of high-stress environments will kill a business. It's only recently that many businesses are willing to break free of the high-stress leadership styles and adapt to more long-term thinking. This applies to entrepreneurs as well. Imposing high levels of stress on yourself and your work will speed up short-term productivity, but at a great cost. Organizations with high-stress show 40% more absenteeism, make 70% more accidents, and have 50% higher healthcare costs[1]. Why are the numbers so high? Depleting your cortisol levels is bad for your mental state and bad for business. It leads to health issues, less precision, and burnout.

Take a daily assessment of your stress levels. If you're feeling out of balance, the answer isn't to work harder, it's to stop work altogether. Think about how many times you've made yourself sick from stress. All of us high-performers do it naturally, so the need is urgent to stop ourselves. A week out of work because you're not well is a greater cost than taking an hour of mental vacation to do something you enjoy.

If some people didn't tell you, you'd never know they'd been on vacation." -Kin Hubbard, American Cartoonist

3: You feel weak.

Your mind is still whirring away at your entrepreneurial venture, but your limbs just don't seem to keep up. In the fitness world we call this “dead arms" or “dead legs". It's the byproduct of over-fatigue. This can happen to you from typing on a laptop too much, just as easily as it can from lifting weights. Dead arms or dead legs means that your body is fatigued. To get your limbs back to operating at their best, its time to increase blood flow. Get a massage, or even better, get a workout in. I know it seems counter-intuitive, but when you're fatigued, a workout will increase your blood flow, which reduces the fatigued feeling you're getting. Force yourself outdoors for a run, on the treadmill, or take a fitness class. If you aren't the fitness type, I am a huge proponent of cryotherapy for body recovery. Find a cryo spa near you and give it a try. Most offer a discounted first time rate. It only takes stripping off your clothes and three minutes to get your body feeling brand new again.

4: You Feel Depressed

Depression is incredibly common among entrepreneurs for a laundry list of reasons. If you're feeling down, a great way to overcome your blues is to get out and attend a networking event or social gathering. When you're depressed this is exactly the opposite thing of what you want to do, and absolutely what you need to do. Connection is the opposite of depression. Neural networks are shown to improve in mid to moderately depressed people who attend social events. Get out and re-wire yourself, ASAP.

An often-overlooked aspect of entrepreneurial management is emotional self-management. We have to focus on our mental and emotional game as a priority if we're meant to perform at our very best. As an entrepreneur, you don't have a boss to tell you to keep going, or to take a break. Take on the role of your own boss. Keep your body and mind feeling great. Your business is counting on it.

7min read
Culture

The Middle East And North Africa Are Brimming With Untapped Female Potential

Women of the Middle East have made significant strides in the past decade in a number of sectors, but huge gaps remain within the labor market, especially in leadership roles.


A huge number of institutions have researched and quantified trends of and obstacles to the full utilization of females in the marketplace. Gabriela Ramos, is the Chief-of-Staff to The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an alliance of thirty-six governments seeking to improve economic growth and world trade. The OECD reports that increasing participation in the women's labor force could easily result in a $12 trillion jump in the global GDP by the year 2025.

To realize the possibilities, attention needs to be directed toward the most significantly underutilized resource: the women of MENA—the Middle East and North African countries. Educating the men of MENA on the importance of women working and holding leadership roles will improve the economies of those nations and lead to both national and global rewards, such as dissolving cultural stereotypes.

The OECD reports that increasing participation in the women's labor force could easily result in a $12 trillion jump in the global GDP by the year 2025.

In order to put this issue in perspective, the MENA region has the second highest unemployment rate in the world. According to the World Bank, more women than men go to universities, but for many in this region the journey ends with a degree. After graduating, women tend to stay at home due to social and cultural pressures. In 2017, the OECD estimated that unemployment among women is costing some $575 billion annually.

Forbes and Arabian Business have each published lists of the 100 most powerful Arab businesswomen, yet most female entrepreneurs in the Middle East run family businesses. When it comes to managerial positions, the MENA region ranks last with only 13 percent women among the total number of CEOs according to the Swiss-based International Labor Organization (ILO.org publication "Women Business Management – Gaining Momentum in the Middle East and Africa.")

The lopsided tendency that keeps women in family business—remaining tethered to the home even if they are prepared and capable of moving "into the world"—is noted in a report prepared by OECD. The survey provides factual support for the intuitive concern of cultural and political imbalance impeding the progression of women into the workplace who are otherwise fully capable. The nations of Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Libya, Jordan and Egypt all prohibit gender discrimination and legislate equal pay for men and women, but the progressive-sounding checklist of their rights fails to impact on "hiring, wages or women's labor force participation." In fact, the report continues, "Women in the six countries receive inferior wages for equal work… and in the private sector women rarely hold management positions or sit on the boards of companies."

This is more than a feminist mantra; MENA's males must learn that they, too, will benefit from accelerating the entry of women into the workforce on all levels. Some projections of value lost because women are unable to work; or conversely the amount of potential revenue are significant.

Elissa Freiha, founder of Womena, the leading empowerment platform in the Middle East, emphasizes the financial benefit of having women in high positions when communicating with men's groups. From a business perspective it has been proven through the market Index provider MSCI.com that companies with more women on their boards deliver 36% better equity than those lacking board diversity.

She challenges companies with the knowledge that, "From a business level, you can have a potential of 63% by incorporating the female perspective on the executive team and the boards of companies."

Freiha agrees that educating MENA's men will turn the tide. "It is difficult to argue culturally that a woman can disconnect herself from the household and community." Her own father, a United Arab Emirates native of Lebanese descent, preferred she get a job in the government, but after one month she quit and went on to create Womena. The fact that this win-lose situation was supported by an open-minded father, further propelled Freiha to start her own business.

"From a business level, you can have a potential of 63% by incorporating the female perspective on the executive team and the boards of companies." - Elissa Frei

While not all men share the open-mindedness of Freiha's dad, a striking number of MENA's women have convincingly demonstrated that the talent pool is skilled, capable and all-around impressive. One such woman is the prominent Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid bin Sultan Al-Qasimi, who is currently serving as a cabinet minister in the United Arab Emirates and previously headed a successful IT strategy company.

Al-Qasimi exemplifies the potential for MENA women in leadership, but how can one example become a cultural norm? Marcello Bonatto, who runs Re: Coded, a program that teaches young people in Turkey, Iraq and Yemen to become technology leaders, believes that multigenerational education is the key. He believes in the importance of educating the parent along with their offspring, "particularly when it comes to women." Bonatto notes the number of conflict-affected youth who have succeeded through his program—a boot camp training in technology.

The United Nations Women alongside Promundo—a Brazil-based NGO that promotes gender-equality and non-violence—sponsored a study titled, "International Men and Gender Equality Survey of the Middle East and North Africa in 2017."

This study surveyed ten thousand men and women between the ages of 18 and 59 across both rural and urban areas in Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco and the Palestinian Authority. It reports that, "Men expected to control their wives' personal freedoms from what they wear to when the couple has sex." Additionally, a mere one-tenth to one-third of men reported having recently carried out a more conventionally "female task" in their home.

Although the MENA region is steeped in historical tribal culture, the current conflict of gender roles is at a crucial turning point. Masculine power structures still play a huge role in these countries, and despite this obstacle, women are on the rise. But without the support of their nations' men this will continue to be an uphill battle. And if change won't come from the culture, maybe it can come from money. By educating MENA's men about these issues, the estimated $27 trillion that women could bring to their economies might not be a dream. Women have been empowering themselves for years, but it's time for MENA's men to empower its women.