Running a small business can be a stressful endeavour, starting one even more so. It is as demanding as it is rewarding, as frustrating as it is exciting and for every great leap forwards, you will invariably take a couple of steps back. Since we’re all human it is inevitable that sometimes we will cope with these ups and downs better at some times than others. A certain amount of stress can be highly motivating. For some of us, it is essential for us to get anything done at all. But what happens when that stress builds up to a level which threatens to make us unproductive and even ill? What happens when wearing all those hats we have to wear as entrepreneurs just gets too much? What measures can we take to counter the effects of stress?
Don’t set yourself unrealistic goals
From experience I can say that when I start to feel stressed it usually means that I have set myself unrealistic goals or overcommitted myself. Although it is really important to have goals so that we can clearly see which direction we are heading in, sometimes we underestimate just how much time certain tasks are going to take and how much mental energy those tasks use up. It is unreasonable for us to expect ourselves to be equally productive and effective every single day. Sometimes just readjusting our goals can reduce stress greatly. It ultimately doesn’t matter if we do everything we have told ourselves we will do in a particular week. It is the direction that counts, not the speed. I’m a great believer in slow and steady progress being more sustainable in the long-term anyway.
5 Stress-busting tips
1. Take a break, do some exercise or get some fresh air – yes, especially when you don’t feel like you have time because you have so much to do. Often the best ideas come to us when we are not officially working on the task in hand.
2. Stop expecting so much of yourself. If you find yourself struggling to meet a deadline, make sure you negotiate a longer one next time. Deadlines set by customers are often unreasonable simply because they don’t understand how much work is involved. It is our job to educate our customers. And if the deadline can’t be changed and is clearly too tight, don’t accept the assignment. You don’t have to do every piece of work which comes your way.
3. If there is too much on your to-do list, prioritise ruthlessly and make a new list.
4. Be mindful and learn to see recurring patterns and take steps to keep stress at bay.
5. If you realise you have overcommitted yourself, do something about it and make sure you say “no” more often in future.