It goes without saying; the entrepreneurial life bears many advantages when compared to the regular workforce. These could include a more flexible schedule, the ability to be your own boss, and of course, having more authority over your financial destiny. However, these advantages are not without costs. When foregoing typical employment entrepreneurs take on additional risks, and mismanagement could mean the lack of one’s livelihood and increase in entrepreneur stress. Such a concern is not unfounded, according to Bloomberg, 80% of small businesses fail in 18 months.
Small business-owners, try to resume breathing. While this stat is not very reassuring, excessive worrying won’t do your business any good. As we’re all aware, stress can make work more difficult and can cloud your faculties when you need them the most. Of course, managing stress levels is easier said than done. According to a recent Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, business owners experience greater levels of anxiety than those who work for them.
So if stress is characteristic of business owners, how do they manage it? Like any facet of entrepreneurship it is important to address stress systemically and strategically.
To begin, it’s best to determine what the root cause of your stress is. While the causes will differ from business to business, the way to narrow them down is the same. Set aside time to sit down and think about your business’ problems. In the business world these can typically be grouped into three categories: time, money and relationships. Get a piece of paper, write these three groups at the top and elaborate until you find your problem area. This is not only an exercise in problem-solving but in de-stressing –writing down your problems can act as a venting mechanism if you feel you have few people to discuss your issues with (as is often true in small-businesses).
Once it’s apparent what your primary concerns are, determine a two-step course of action. Determine how to solve your issue at hand and develop a strategy to discontinue your stress with said issue. When addressing your problems, itemize your actions into simple, short-term, and manageable goals. You’re already stressed, don’t make yourself overwhelmed. I would say one of my old college professors put it best: “make sure you get something done before lunchtime.” Pick goals that are achievable but quantifiable so you can mark your progress and reap the psychological benefits of a job well-done.
As for dealing with the stress associated with your business’ problems, you need to take both proactive and reactive measures. Proactive measures are typically habitual and will require a change in behaviors and routine. Because disorganization can be a bottleneck on time utilization, a huge proactive measure is to get organized, mentally, virtually and physically. While there’s no quick fix for a disorganized head, keeping a good diet, exercise routine and regular sleep habits certainly can’t hurt. Following that, maintaining a neat virtual schedule (I recommend Google Calendar) with reminders will prevent you from getting bogged down in the future. Finally, keeping your physical space tidy can help ease your mind and will reflect well on your business.
Reactive de-stressors are much more individualistic but are important nonetheless. It’s wise to establish these early on in your business’ life and to avoid unhealthy ones such as the use of drugs and/or alcohol. For some these could be as simple as a walk or a workout when feeling stressed. For others it could be in the ways of a “support group” or reading inspiring accounts of other successful entrepreneurs. Dan Rosenberg from Cash for Cars says that reading the accounts of successful entrepreneurs inspires him to push himself and his team to do their very best work. The ultimate reactive de-stressor however, comes from the age-old reminder to learn from your mistakes. You heard the stats; mistakes are common and inevitable in new businesses. It’s up to you to decide how you respond and ultimately fare.