Many things contribute to success as an entrepreneur, but there’s one critical factor that has more impact than any specific talent or strategy: it’s taking care of yourself.

I know from both personal experience and assisting overwhelmed clients that self-care is actually the number one business strategy for on-going entrepreneurial success. It’s so important that I call it Fuel for Your Ultimate Self. And just in case you’re unclear, Fuel for Your Ultimate Self (AKA “self-care”) is anything you choose to do to sustain yourself physically, emotionally, and mentally.

Here are some ideas to help you begin putting yourself first.

Overcome Stereotypes

Particularly in America, we believe that success doesn’t happen without long hours, constant hustle, lack of sleep, and continuous stress. No pain, no gain is the mantra. Step one is to change this ingrained conviction about ourselves and others.

When interviewed by Entrepreneur a few years ago, Arianna Huffington shared her belief that stress and overwhelm mean death for ambition and creativity.

“The Western workplace culture — exported to many other parts of the world — is practically fueled by stress, sleep deprivation and burnout,” Huffington stated. “Even as stress undermines our health, the sleep deprivation so many of us experience in striving to get ahead at work is profoundly — and negatively — affecting our creativity, our productivity and our decision making: The very things entrepreneurs need in order to succeed.”

Learn To Make Choices

Rather than just being carried along by the continuing current of work, remember that you can stop and choose how you want to live and that you get to choose the fuel that works best for you.

Based on my experience, as you get more successful you have to make different choices about balancing your work and personal life. And unless you’re at a good place emotionally and physically (AKA fueling your ultimate self), it’s harder to do this.

For example, it’s important to make good use of your time during the day so that you can then stop working and have time with family and friends in the evening. The paradox here is that if you’re practicing self-care, it’s easier to draw clear guidelines and stick to them–but making time for self-care often doesn’t feel like a priority.

When I work with clients closely on this, I see it time and time again: setting aside time to take care of your mind and body pays back during the work day as more focus and productivity. It is THE KEY to unlocking that peaceful productive flow and fulfilling personal life that many entrepreneurs are after.

It’s not about the will power to keep pushing, even past the point of being effective. It comes down to how you use your moments and what you’re choosing to take care of first. When you choose yourself, you’ll find you have the stamina to consistently show up for your business.

You’ll be able to roll with the punches, maintain your energy levels, and actually enjoy what is often a long journey of being an entrepreneur.

Have a “Say No” List and a “Fuel for My Ultimate Self” List

When I teach my clients to create their To Do Lists and set their priorities, I also have them make a list of things they will say NO to in order to practice fueling their life.

When putting together your “Say No” list, think about things like not checking your email after a certain time in your day, not taking on activities that drain you, or not handling tasks that others on your team can do instead of you.

As Warren Buffet says, “The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say no to almost everything.”

Each of us defines self-care differently. For example, one of my must-do self-care activities is taking a walk in the woods with my dog. Others might need time to be with their spouse or children, to work on a creative hobby, or just watch a movie.

Whatever it is, make time for it in your day. Saying no in the right ways will allow you to say yes to yourself as often as needed. Taking care of yourself will yield amazing results for you as an entrepreneur—and as a human.

Equally important is creating a “Fuel for My Ultimate Self” List.

As you get clear about what you are saying no to, you also need to make sure that you are adding in activities that fuel your mind and body. When putting together your “Fuel” list think about things like fun, contemplation time, physical activity, sleep, and social connection. These kinds of activities are the fuel for your focus and productivity during the day which will allow you to leave work knowing you spent your time well.

Here’s a Tip to Try Today: What is one thing you can say “No” to so that you have time for your personal version of self-care? What is one thing you can put into your day that will Fuel Your Ultimate Self?

Sarah Reiff-Hekking