Entrepreneurship and stress go hand-in-hand; however, I recently had lunch with a civil engineer who helped reframe some of that work-related stress for me.
During the meal, my friend talked about a bridge restoration project over a local river he was working on that presented significant challenges. The physical terrain, elevation, running water as well as other factors applied different types of stress to the various building materials. Specifically, he described three types of stresses encountered on this project namely: tensile (stretching); compressive (squeezing); torsional (twisting).
He explained how various parts of the bridge are pulled in opposite directions, stretching some of the steel while the weight of the entire structure applied downward pressure or a squeezing effect on the concrete support pylons at the base. Additionally, blowing wind, rushing water and the shifting earth created a twisting of the bridge materials at various connection points. Any, or all ,of these stresses can occur at the same time.
I'm not an engineer but I understood his basic explanation of these concepts resulting from various types of force and pressure. I also recognized the parallel of these stresses with similar entrepreneurial pressures. And just as there are engineering solutions to those stresses, there are solutions to reduce workplace stress as well.
Has there ever been an entrepreneur who didn't feel they were stretched too thin? We all have experienced that.
By definition, we as entrepreneurs typically want to do things ourselves, launch our ideas, grow our business...etc. Inevitably, trying to do everything all the time ensures that nothing gets done well.
Delegation and outsourcing are the keys to relieving this type of stress. The key is to empower and trust your in-house team to help complete your sensitive, mission-critical projects and outsource the repetitive transactional aspects of your business to freelancers and virtual assistants.
We have all dealt with the squeezing and pressures that derive from various constrained resources including: under funding, personnel shortages and time compression.
Tips to securing adequate financing and the best talent to sustain your venture are beyond the scope of this article; however, three ways to help alleviate time compression are the effective use of relentless re-prioritization, intentional time management and saying "No." The idea behind relentless re-prioritization is that all priorities are not equal and they are not static. They require constant evaluation to ensure maximum results.
The same level of vigilance needs to be applied to how we spend our time every day. Entrepreneurs need to intentionally and jealously guard every work-related hour because once those hours are gone you can't get that time back. The easiest way to protect those precious hours is by being ready to say "No" to distracting requests, projects and initiatives.
If an opportunity doesn't help you do things faster, cheaper, easier or better - just say "No" to it. That's an easy test any entrepreneur can apply.
This type of engineering stress is analogous to the tension and twisting surrounding the need to grow a business while facing uncertainty, ambiguity and incomplete information. Many have used the quote, "Twisting in the wind" to express the emotions related to this situation.
One of the best ways to deal with uncertainty is to obtain information that is both rich and abundant. Rich information is the type of insight you glean from a face-to-face meeting with an expert mentor as compared to non-rich information - which would be akin to an unsolicited email from a stranger.
Additionally, you need a lot of "rich information" to help navigate uncertainty. Strive to empanel a cabinet of trusted, expert advisors to help you push through uncertain times - teams make better decisions than individuals. Their counsel, guidance and expertise can serve as an escape value to relieve this particular brand of pressure.
Whether you're building a bridge or building a business you will encounter stressors. But if you reframe that work-related stress as an engineering problem to be solved, you're apt to see new solutions and ways to address and advance past those issues.