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Working for someone else can sometimes be stressful, but at the end of a horrible day, you can still walk away from it. And, in most cases, once or twice a year you can go on vacation and forget about your tasks.
But when the business is yours, there is no easy way to just close the door and forget things. You are responsible for everything and your livelihood depends on ensuring you keep the work flowing, the sales to quota, the invoices sent and money collected, and that you stay current with all of the trends and grow.
It is little wonder that small business owners who do not learn how to manage stress can seriously hurt their mental and physical health.
The Canadian Mental Health Association says the unrelenting stress is linked over time to making us more impacted by infectious diseases and cardiovascular problems, higher incidence of back pain, repetitive strain injuries, cancer and the list goes on.
Even the most organized small business owner running a successful company can find themselves stressed by the unexpected like technical problems, dealing with government red tape, demanding clients and unhappy employees.
Even if you think you are not minding the day-to-day stress of small business ownership, it pays to be aware that it can creep up on you and take its toll. The time to consider how to manage your stress is now, and that means investing a little time and money in yourself.
Remember that according to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, each dollar invested in stress management for yourself or those who work for you yields $3.40 in future savings.
Here are six tips proven to help you manage your stress as a small business owner.
Get seven to eight hours sleep each night
We all read the stories of entrepreneurs who brag that they need only four hours of sleep each night or those who work until the early hours of each morning and imagine that a five-minute nap at 3 p.m. will compensate for it.
When you hear those stories, remember that we can all fool some of the people some of the time, but we can fool ourselves for quite a while before the fallacy of it all catches up with us.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) puts it bluntly. If you live in North America, you probably aren’t getting sufficient sleep to stay healthy. They even go so far as to label insufficient sleep as a public health epidemic.
You need those seven to eight hours a night, and there are no exceptions to that.
But how can you sleep when as soon as your head hits the pillow you start to worry about your business?
Set a specific bedtime routine each night. Begin to ease into that routine half an hour before you plan to fall asleep. Avoid jumping onto Facebook, sending emails and checking your messages during that time.
The experts tell us to do a different thing to clear your mind, and it should be a manual routine, not one involving technology. Write in your journal. Take a hot bath or drink warm milk or herbal tea. Do cryptograms or crossword puzzles that force your brain to concentrate on something different than your work. Put essential oil of lavender into a diffuser and breathe deeply to experience its calming effect.
If those suggestions are too traditional for you, there is an app that I have found to be very helpful for me and it is called “Calm”. I first heard about it on Tim Ferriss’ podcast and I highly recommend it even though it does involve technology. 🙂
Prioritize your daily task list
When your business is your own, everything appears as a priority.
But you cannot live like that or work effectively by assigning everything as urgent and vital.
Learn how to assess each task or challenge on your agenda and select three daily to be your primary focus each day between the start of your work and 3 p.m.
Establish a work routine that allows you to go in and address those three priorities.
There will be dozens of other smaller tasks that require your attention as well. Group together the top seven that need to be done that day, and tackle them only after the priorities have been established by 3 p.m.
In the later stages of the afternoon, complete the smaller items like checking reports, lining up the next day, answering inquiries etc.
Take one day a week, preferably Thursday not Friday, and complete all the loose ends that you can’t delegate.
The trick in avoiding stress and still keeping up your production is to not panic at the length of your list. It is a good idea to write down every task and every project on your agenda, but to keep it manageable, just keep your priorities down to a manageable number.
The hardest lesson to learn is to realize that not everything is a priority. A great tool that can help you with this is called the “Eisenhower Matrix”.
Allow for seepage time to refresh your brain
When you work for yourself, you can’t really separate your work from your home. One is so interdependent on the other that thoughts of both creep into the time allotted to the other.
Don’t get overly-concerned about this. Too much is made of strict separation as a means of achieving work-life balance. Your work is part of your life, and your home life also contains elements of your work.
What you do need to do, however, is to ensure that there are periods of time regularly where you allow yourself to stop thinking about your business specifically, and start thinking about other things.
The other things can be social times with friends, relaxing with a favourite beverage in your comfortable armchair, or simply spending time with your child. There can also be times when you read interesting books that may impact your business but that is not your primary goal of reading them.
Your goal is to give your brain new fuel either through rest or stimulation. You need to take everything that is tossing around in your brain and give it seepage time, time to sort the good from the waste.
Consider it the mental equivalent of cleaning up your work space or clearing out a cluttered closet. You feel refreshed and renewed when you see the spaciousness after your efforts. Seepage time is when you clear out the clutter from your brain.
Always celebrate your wins
As small business owners, we are all good at keeping incredibly long list and detailed agendas of what must be done, but we rarely consider what we have accomplished.
People who keep a slot on their daily work journal to keep track of work completed and tasks accomplished feel like they are getting closer to their destination, and they are.
Too often we stress because of what has to be done without being conscious of what has been completed and what successes we have chalked up each day.
This is a way of reminding ourselves what we are doing right, rather than what is going wrong, and it is a highly effective way to manage stress effectively.
Whenever you feel overwhelmed, pull out that accomplishment list and look at what you have already managed to do this month. It is a tonic that will calm you and help restore your balance.
It is important to always celebrate and remember those wins!
Exercise more and move regularly
You cannot sit at your desk for hours each day and maintain your health.
One of the most important stress management techniques you can incorporate into your day is regular movement every half-hour combined with a defined exercise program like a daily walk or gym workout before or after office hours.
Failing to exercise hurts your body and leaves you weaker physically and mentally. Exercise keeps your body operating at its peak and it also powers your brain.
Walk to meetings if they are within a reasonable distances. Take a 15 minute stroll at lunch time. If you run your business from your home, do exercise routines every half hour, even if it is only stretches and bends or five push-ups.
When you take a mental break, combine it with a brief physical break as well.
Another small piece of technology that has helped me is a simple Chrome extension called “Marinara: Pomodoro Assistant”. It helps you to stay focused and still take regular breaks throughout your day.
Read to stay motivated and inspire yourself
Small business owners often say they have no time to read anymore, but there is room in every life to find time to digest even three or four pages a day, and ultimately, a book is completed.
When you grind out your work, keep mindful of all aspects of your business, and ensure nothing is falling between the cracks, you are not allowing yourself room to grow and develop and be inspired.
When you read, whether it is business books or novels, you are giving yourself permission to turn your brain down a new road. The result is that you make room to allow inspiration to creep in to break your daily routine.
This is vital if you want to continue to feel positive about your work and to enjoy it and be stimulated by it.
Check out this article I recently wrote on some suggested business books that make for great reading.
Until next time. Take care and keep working on managing that stress level.
Copyright : Antonio Guillem | 123rf