Picture this, it is 5pm on a Friday afternoon. You walk out the door of your business with nothing on your mind other than the amazing things you are going to do with your weekend. All your work is wrapped up for the week, your desk and inbox are clear, your clients are happy, your team is happy, you are relaxed. What a nice picture, but is this your reality?
For most small business owners, knocking off at five on a Friday and heading into a weekend stress free is just as likely as me donning a Green Bay Packers jersey and becoming the next Brett Favre (we can only dream). But seriously, every part of your business has the potential to stress you out, stop you from leaving the office at a reasonable hour, and keep you up at night. Your brain is constantly working, thinking about so many things – lack of sales, level of debt, staff morale, operational challenges, equipment issues, and the list goes on. You are tired, you are anxious, you are stressed.
As a small business owner, I am very familiar with the thoughts that keep you from enjoying your weekend and the stress that comes from running a business. And while it may seem inescapable at times, I have discovered that there are ways to manage stress. Here are my five tips for combating small business owner stress that will hopefully give you back (at least part of) your weekend.
Prioritise Your Workload
When running a small business there are times when you have so many tasks on your to do list that none of them actually get done. Unfinished tasks are obviously a big stress trigger, so make sure you write down all your tasks and prioritise them. Put the things you need to do first at the top of the list. As you work your way through the list, tick off anything that you complete. The simple act of ticking, crossing, deleting, can be quite satisfying.
Now, you may get stressed from the sheer volume of your workload and overwhelmed by the length of your list. Just focus on what you need to work on next and be realistic about the time things take to complete, allow for interruptions and remember to breathe.
The Right Stuff
As you’re building your business, it can be easy to focus on the things that are going wrong, that are behind schedule, underfunded or need to be fixed.
You can better manage stress by reminding yourself of the things that are going right. Make a list of all your accomplishments and any business milestones you’ve achieved, big or small. There are probably more than you realise. Put your list somewhere you can easily see it and whenever you feel stressed about all the things that are going wrong, look at your list. Take a moment to remember all the things that have gone right.
The separation between work and home can often be non-existent for a small business owner. You are constantly thinking about the business and things you could or should be doing, and often you can’t turn your brain off.
If you are finding it hard to switch off and focus on something else, maybe even just going to sleep, writing down what is on your mind can help. Try writing down the problem (or problems), possible solutions, and any notes or additional thoughts you have on the matter. Once you have purged your brain or ‘dumped’ all the thoughts onto a piece of paper, word doc or favourite note taking app, like Team PTAM’s favourite, Asana, you can relax. Your brain can switch off as the thoughts are in a safe place, ready for you to tackle at another time.
Break it Up
This is probably the simplest piece of stress management advice I can give – take breaks. If you are constantly on the go, stressing about a problem and struggling to find a solution, a short break might be just what you need to re-group and come back to the task with a clear head.
Make some time in your day to do something you enjoy. It might be a quick walk, making a nice cup of coffee, chatting and laughing with a friend, or just taking in the fresh air and sunshine. Team PTAM make it a priority to have water breaks outside the office while work chat is left inside. Whatever you decide to do, ensure it is not business related. This is your time to let go of anything that is stressing you.
Look After You
Running a business can take a lot out of you. It can involve late nights, early mornings, non-existent weekends and no sick days. This non-stop lifestyle can put your mind and body at risk, and when you add stress to all of that, things don’t look so good.
Looking after yourself is key when it comes to running a business. Not only do others rely on you, but you need to be able to rely on yourself and know that you have the strength to persevere. Simple things like drinking plenty of water throughout the day, regular and healthy eating, a bit of exercise, less caffeine, and more sleep, can help prepare your body and mind for what could be a stressful day at work. Team PTAM use our Tuesday Toolbox meetings as an opportunity to walk and talk. We get out of the office and walk alongside Lake Macquarie, and of course, we always do our stretches!
As business owners we all experience stress, but if we have the tools to manage our stress like water breaks, meetings beside Lake Macquarie, making time to stretch and perhaps even shorter work days, we will be able to manage our businesses (and lives) even better. Team PTAM are currently working towards having a five-hour work day once a week. We haven’t got there just yet, but initiatives like this, as well as our ‘Get Healthy at Work’ program, help to make our workplace just that much better. What tools do you think you could try to manage stress in your business?