How Smart Business Owners Manage Stress

How Smart Business Owners Manage Stress

“My small business is killing me!” read the comment from an entrepreneur. “I have so much to do, and all I can see are the thing that I haven’t done, are going wrong or out of my control! I cannot find any way of getting through this!”

I recently read about one small business owner who was so stressed that he couldn’t get out of bed in the morning. He relied on his neighbour to keep knocking on his door until he had to get up and answer it.

Not exactly livin’ the dream!

Stress is insidious, extremely damaging and can quickly pull you down into a state of physical, mental and emotional exhaustion.

This makes it very hard to keep up with your commitments and effectively run your business.  And according to lots of research, it’s the factors you cannot control which are the leading cause of stress.

Client misbehaviour, getting paid (or not), supplier deliveries, insomnia, regulations, the weather(!) are all things you cannot control, but which have a direct impact on your success and your feelings of wellbeing.

Just for fun, I’ve selected 7 habits of highly stressed small business owners (with apologies to Stephen Covey).  Believe me, there are plenty more!

  • Everything is important and urgent
  • My starting skills are legendary, my finishing skills… Not so much
  • I treat every waking moment as a working moment (which is good because I cannot sleep anyway).
  • If it’s to be, it’s always up to me. “I can guarantee that it is very unlikely your team will come up with actual creative that I can put my name to.” (client quote today)
  • I don’t make time for exercise. I have a gym membership I’ve never used.
  • It takes too long to explain how stressed I am, so I’ve given up trying. I just keep it to myself.
  • I put up with headaches, palpitations, short breath, muscle aches, because a) I’m scared to find out if there’s something really wrong, and b) I don’t have time to go to a doctor.

If you look closely, here are the symptoms associated with each one:

  • Poor time management
  • Not setting and keeping to priorities
  • Not allocating time for rejuvenation of mind, body, and spirit
  • Not sharing the load
  • No trust

Depressed already?  Well, you don’t need to be.  There are some extremely effective ways of dealing with each of the 7 habits listed above, through addressing the symptoms.

Here are some easy-to-implement solutions for you.  These are external things you can start doing right away.  They will have an immediate impact on your stress levels or your money back!

I will address some specific “scrubbing and repainting the temple that is your mind and body” ideas in another post.

Here they are:

Solution #1: Write down everything you have to do, first thing every morning.  If you use one of the many apps available, you can see when you first entered things and how overdue they are, so you don’t lose sight of them.

Solution #2: Use the 4 quadrants from “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Managers” to prioritise.  The book is an absolute classic:

A  Urgent and important

B  Not urgent and important

C  Urgent and not important

D  Not urgent and not important

Classifying things by priority could be the biggest improvement you can make to your use of that scarce resource called your time.  You’ll be surprised how much withers and dies because it really wasn’t important – just noisy!

Solution #3: Create a “Done That” list.  This highly innovative low-tech list is where you write down everything you got done, big or minuscule. And put it somewhere you can see it easily.  Nothing reinforces success like success. You ARE much more successful than you give yourself credit for – you just forget sometimes how very successful you are.

Solution #4: Make one of your absolute goals to take exercise 4-6 days a week.  It’s called fitting work around your life and not the other way around. And you’ll sleep a whole lot better.

Solution #5: And while you’re at it, check that you’re eating properly.  And if you’re not, fix it.  The supermarket sells good food as well as the crap you’re eating now!

Solution #6: Outsource carefully, with clear performance levels.  You may go through a few freelancers until you find the right one(s), but it’s absolutely worth your investment.  The synergy of 1+1 = 3 is worth its weight in gold.  It’s how I run my business.  And it really works.  High performing people like to work with other high performing people.  So, my freelancers have a ball, love spending productive time together and get shit done!

Solution #7: Get a coach or a mentor. Not your cat. I don’t care how snuggly she is. Getting things outside of your head and into the world is called “mental hygiene”.  Absolutely essential for a smooth-running you.

Solution #8: Get regular check-ups. Every 6 months. Especially as you get older. You have to be operating at peak performance, so you need to know that everything’s ok.  Some stress symptoms can kill you.  Dead.

Solution #9: Don’t drink tea or coffee after 3:00pm.  It’s crazy what an incredible impact it has on your sleep.

Solution #10: Drink 6 glasses of water every day.  It cleans out toxins.  Keeps that well-oiled machine called your body operating efficiently.

OK, that’s enough for now! If you cannot afford to a) get a check-up a couple of times a year, b) engage a coach for regular sessions, c) outsource work so you can perform more efficiently or d) buy decent food, I suggest you get a job.  Stop killing yourself.

Seriously.  Running a business is a serious, serious commitment. If you don’t have the resources to do it efficiently, you’re like a car with a flat tyre.  You know where you want to go, but you’ll never make it.

The good news though, is that becoming highly effective in your work, and living a healthy, fulfilling life are not complex. They can be easily learned, and if done regularly, will become life-saving habits.

“We are what we repeatedly do,” said Aristotle.  “Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.”

By the way, just in case you think I’m lecturing you from the (up my arse) stance of an “enlightened being,” I’m not. I’m sharing what works for me.

I have massive issues with stress if I let things get on top of me, so I do all of these things to control it.

And most of the time, they work.  Really well.  When they don’t, I go and talk to my mentor. She quickly helps me regain my perspective, and away I go again.

The world’s most incurable optimist!

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