We all experience stress. As a small business owner, though, you may find that you take on more than your fair share. This can eat away at your mental and physical health—researchers have found that long-term stress suppresses the immune system, leaving you more vulnerable to illnesses and chronic disease.
It also damages memory function and decision-making skills, which can lead to reactive choices and ineffective meetings. Overall, learning to manage stress is a necessary part of being an entrepreneur, both for your personal health and the health of your small business. Start with the seven strategies below to stay well and be your best self at work every day.
1. Don’t skimp on sleep
When your to-do list is a mile long, it is tempting to stay up a few hours later trying to get it all done. However, that is actually one of the worst things you can do on a regular basis. Missing out on even a few hours of the necessary seven to nine that most adults needs can negatively impact your concentration and judgment, not to mention lead to issues like high blood pressure, obesity, and heart disease.
In other words, staying up to try to get ahead can actually put you behind and create a vicious fatigue-stress cycle. Therefore, set a consistent bed time every night and stick to it. Don’t forget to stop screen time several hours before turning in—the light from your television or smartphone can affect the production of melatonin, the hormone that controls your circadian rhythm.
Some of the most successful entrepreneurs and leaders in the world swear by exercise, from Richard Branson to Warren Buffet. It’s no secret as to why: exercise not only produces mood-boosting endorphins and increases energy levels, but can also help to “rewire” your brain to make it less susceptible to stress.
Don’t let other activities push out a bit of physical activity in your schedule; make exercising a priority, even if that just means a walk around the block after lunch every day. As an entrepreneur, you have the opportunity to create your own schedule—take advantage!
3. Practice mindfulness
Being “on” all the time only leads to burnout. In addition to exercising, set up a routine to help mentally unwind and become more mindful. For instance, research has found that meditation reduces stress, increases happiness, and improves productivity and focus.
Other mindfulness exercises include practicing gratitude and focusing on your breathing. Taking even a small 10-minute break in your day to relax, appreciate the present, and refocus on the bigger picture can successfully ward off stressful feelings.
4. Remember your “why”
When things get rough, remembering your “why”— the reason why you decided to become an entrepreneur—will remind you of your purpose and reignite your motivation. For example, check out what a few of our Community Futures success stories say drives them:
- Caroline and James Hewson, owners of Hewson’s Enterprises, Inc.: Providing mechanic services to a community that was lacking, and eliminating landfill usage by integrating total waste management.
- Brittany and Michelle Monkman, co-founders of The Hedge Hair Co.: A lifelong dream of entrepreneurship, and a desire to start their own salon that did things differently than existing salons.
If you haven’t done so yet, sit down and write out your purpose for starting your small business. Then, refer back to it on a daily basis to replenish your motivation stores.
Watching the news while checking emails, taking client phone calls while driving, keeping an eye on the kids while going over your small business financials… multitasking seems like the right thing to do when everyone and everything needs your attention. But did you know that it can make you 40% less productive?
Rather than split your attention among multiple things at once, double down and focus on just one task. Then, move on to the next thing when finished. You will feel less scattered while getting more done, which goes a long way toward beating stress.
6. Assess urgency and importance
U.S. President and military general Dwight D. Eisenhower famously said, “What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.” He led his life by this dogma, planning out his days using what is now termed the Eisenhower Decision Matrix, a four-quadrant box designed to prioritize tasks by their urgency and importance.
When planning out your task list, use the Eisenhower Decision Matrix to discover what is most urgent and important.
7. Outsource, schedule, delegate, or delete
After writing your tasks into the matrix, take the appropriate actions:
- Urgent and important: Do these tasks first
- Important but not urgent: Schedule to your calendar
- Urgent but less important: Delegate or outsource
- Not important and not urgent: Delete from your to-do list
Managing your to-do list this way will lead you to focus the most attention on the most essential tasks, so you can accomplish the things that grow your small business (like creating buzz to build your brand)—without the stress.
Enjoyed these 7 tips to relieve stress and help you become more productive?
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