Get a Grip, Small Business Owners! 5 Tips to Help You Deal With Stress. Eliminating stress is impossible, but here are some tactics to help you cope and stay strong.
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I can't tell you how many times I got called crazy when I wanted to quit my high-paying engineering job and start a business.
And maybe I was a little crazy—I had recently bought a house and was about to marry my sweetheart. Did I truly know what I was getting into by taking the leap and starting my own company?
No, not exactly. There were a lot of surprises, sleepless nights, hot dog and mac-n-cheese dinners, maxed out credit cards, 70-hour workweeks…you get the picture. But you know what? I now own a multi-million dollar company, Patriot Software Company.
Starting my first business 30-some years ago put me to the test. Sure, I lost my marbles from time to time, as I'd wager most entrepreneurs do. However, by the grace of God, I found a way to stay pretty sane and keep balanced, particularly through those early, hectic, stressed and sleepless years.
And here's the part I know you want to hear: you can, too.
5 ways to keep your sanity and not stress out
If you're a newbie entrepreneur, you may be in for a rude awakening when starting your business. In fact, a Bank of the West survey reveals that 62% of business owners say the stress of ownership was worse than what they anticipated.
Do you feel like you're going crazy running your business? Here's how to stay sane.
1. Take the darn vacation already
Only 57% of small business owners take vacations, according to Bank of the West' survey. Eight-seven percent take one week or less off from work. And, 67% of the entrepreneurs who take a trip check in at work at least once per day.
What are you doing?! I know that taking off a couple of days to go to the beach may sound like a longshot when you're just trying to stay afloat (no pun intended), but refusing to take time off from work can cause your stress levels to skyrocket.
Don't just take my word for it. There's hard evidence showing that taking some time away from your beloved startup is good for business. One Harvard Business Review survey found that 94% of well-planned trips result in improved energy and job outlook.
Consider the following benefits of taking a vacation:
- Boosted productivity
- Increased engagement
- Reduced burnout
The State of the American Vacation report from Project: Time Off finds that workers take just over 17 vacation days a year. You may not be so inclined to take that many as a business owner. But, keep that average in mind the next time you limit yourself to something like two days off a year.
If you're stubborn and push yourself without taking a vacation (like I did for years), you or your spouse may come to resent your entrepreneurial journey.
Don't resent your decision to pursue your dream. Be proactive and take that darn vacation already. Your spouse or significant other will appreciate your willingness to put them first!
2. We live in a technological world — use it to your advantage
Unless you actually enjoy stress, wouldn't you want to find ways to streamline business processes? My guess is yes.
Whether you're a fan of it or not, the wave of the future is here, and it's called automation. And since it's here to stay, you might as well take advantage of it. Automation tools are exactly what they sound like: tools that automate your processes to save you from doing manual work. In most cases, automation lets you get things done faster, more accurately, and cheaper.
What should you use automation tools for, you ask? From your administrative responsibilities to your marketing efforts, you can automate just about anything in business.
Here are a few automation tools you may consider using in your small business:
- Email marketing services
- Customer relationship management software
- Social media management software
- Payroll software (like the kind my company offers)
- Accounting software
- Employee performance management software
Before investing in different automation programs, do some research. Assess your business's needs, look at your budget, and shop around. Test out different systems with free trials. And, pay attention to whether the tools have contracts or month-to-month pricing systems.
3. Hire an extra pair of hands…or two or three
Although automating things frees up your time for more important tasks, you probably can't get by on your own forever. The time may come when you need to hire your first, second, 10th, or 50th employee.
And doing so can help you to keep your sanity—and grow your business.
Bringing on a new employee can alleviate some of the stress of running your business. Rather than juggling a million responsibilities, you can experience the joy of delegation. And, you wouldn't be solely responsible for coming up with innovative business ideas. Sounds pretty great, right?
So, is it time to bring on new talent? Of course, you don't want to over-extend yourself and bring on new employees you can't afford. You might consider hiring an employee if you:
- Desperately need help in your business
- Have steady profits
- Are falling behind on customer orders
- Want to expand your business (e.g., additional location)
Here's a word to the wise: When hiring your first employee, do not do what I did. I think I actually lost a little bit of my sanity the day I hired my first employee…because I had to fire her that same day. Make sure you actually interview the person before you hire your first employee. Who knew?!
4. Understand that your health is your wealth
If you want to keep your sanity in business, you've gotta prioritize your physical, mental, and emotional health—no exceptions. That means exercising and eating right, getting enough sleep, making time for non-work activities, and setting workplace limits.
Yes, you love your business. And yes, everyone knows you're committed to seeing your vision through. But, you aren't doing anyone any favors if you work yourself to death.
Failing to take care of yourself harms not just your health but also your business. Consider these fast stats about the importance of prioritizing your health:
- Employees who eat healthily are 25% more likely to have higher job performance
- Exercising helps boost your cognitive health, according to science
- Nearly 38% of U.S. survey respondents said they accidentally fell asleep at least once in the previous month
- Not getting enough sleep slows down your thought processes, impairs memory, makes it harder to concentrate, and can put you in a bad mood, according to WebMD
- Research shows that taking time for hobbies can help you cope with stress
I'm not all talk, folks. I try to take care of myself by biking to work, picking up some weights throughout the day, drinking fruit and veggie smoothies, attempting to get at least seven hours of sleep, and trying to separate my work and personal life.
Setting limits and sticking to a strict regimen is difficult. But if you don't set boundaries, you could wind up like the 39% of small business owners who told the Bank of the West survey that they work over 60 hours a week. And when all you're doing is working, you could run out of steam very, very quickly.
5. Lean on your support system
Family, friends, church family, colleagues, mentors—the people who make up your support system are there for you. Don't let your pride hinder you from turning to them when you're in need.
I've been blessed with a pretty great network of people I can turn to with questions, ideas, and help me keep my sanity. Without one person in particular—my wife—I would have lost my sanity years ago!
Make sure you lean on your support system. Talk to your family and friends about things that are stressing you out at work. Seek advice from business mentors and fellow business owners. Discuss issues with your employees and get them involved. Read articles from business experts who have been there and done that.
And above all else, don't just turn to your network with business-related things. Participate in social activities with your support system and don't forget to enjoy life outside of your business!