There are plenty of wonderful upsides to being your own boss. You’re in control, you set the hours and often you’re doing what you love or following a dream. Of course, it would be unrealistic to paint everything as rosy. Alongside all the great things that come with owning your own business there are also plenty of challenging aspects you have to deal with. The responsibility of sole management and shouldering all the worries, coupled with spending hours working alone can sometimes cause stress, lack of motivation and make you feel isolated.
We take a look at some useful tips to help you deal with stress when it raises its head. Obviously we are not suggesting stress can be erased completely, after all it is part and parcel of owning a small business, but hopefully by implementing a few of the tips we’ve outlined below it will help you manage stress better to reduce its overall impact.
7 tips to help manage stress at work
“71% of small business owners experience high levels of stress.”
Being you own boss, juggling lots of balls and carrying the full weight of success and failure on your own shoulders is undoubtedly stressful at times. Indeed, stress is a key issue for small business owners and solo entrepreneurs. The very nature of small business ownership opens you up to higher levels of stress. At its worse it can lead to exhaustion, depression and hinder your ability to run your business.
Eradicating stress completely is probably unlikely. However learning to identify what triggers stress and taking steps to manage it can make it big difference to how you cope during stressful periods.
1.Learn how to identify stress triggers
Of course different people will have different stress triggers but one of the major triggers is the feeling that you lack of control over a situation – from deliveries not arriving in time, other people’s behaviour and even the weather (the list goes on and on). Accepting that there are certain things you will never be able to control and finding ways to manage them as best you can when they arise will help you better cope when things are out of your immediate control.
Most of us have an idea of what it is that really our stress levels through the roof. For me it’s having too much on my plate to the point I can’t see the wood for the trees. I’ve learnt that on those days I’m far from at my best. Such days don’t go away but by recognising this I’ve learnt to try to pre-empt the impact by planning ahead where I can. If I know I’ve got a ridiculously busy day or week coming up then I try to see if there is anything within my control that I can do beforehand to alleviate some of the pressure.
Point is, if you can learn to recognise what makes your stress levels rise you are better able to work on positive ways to manage it.
2. Recognise the first signs of stress
Recognising the first signs of stress can help you manage your symptoms before they take over and damage your health and your ability to successfully manage your business. Stress can take different physical and mental forms. Some common signs include:
- A feeling of being unable to cope
- Anger and aggression
- Loss of appetite
- Low mood
Recognising that you may be suffering from higher than normal levels of stress will help you take steps to address those symptoms or if needed get help from your GP.
3. Re-evaluate your time-management skills
It probably feels that time management is wheeled out every time stress at the workplace is mentioned – so forgive me if you’ve read it all before! However putting effective time-management into practice really can help you reduce your stress levels and means you’re less likely to find yourself working ridiculous hours to get things done. Examples of good time management techniques include;
Plan. Schedule 30 minutes a the beginning of each day to plan what you’ll be doing that day.
Prioritise. Divide your tasks into things that are critical (they absolutely have to be done today), essential (are important to the smooth running of your business but aren’t as urgent as your critical tasks and then everything else (nice but not essential tasks). Deal with critical first, then move on to essential and finally tackle everything else once the ‘critical’ and ‘essential’ tasks have been dealt with.
Remove distractions. When you have critical or urgent tasks that need your full attention, remove all potential distractions. Put your phone on silent (people can always leave a message) and sign-out of email, instant messenger and social media.
Allow for interruptions. When planning your day allow some additional time for interruptions when you will need to be unexpectedly pulled away from the task at hand.
Organise your workspace. A messy workspace will hinder your attempts at effective time-mangement. So keep your work space organised and clutter free.
4.Outsource where you can
If you are a start-up with a very tight budget, outsourcing may seem like a no-go option. However, you don’t have to outsource something major to benefit. Is there something you could delegate to help out more at home so you not fretting about cleaning the house or making the dinner on top of everything else. Try looking at it from a business perspective as well. Is your time being well-spent? For example are you spending time stuffing envelopes instead of getting on with sales calls which could generate new business?
As a small business owner you are probably juggling lots of hats. Take a step back and see if you can relinquish some control to someone else – perhaps in an area you don’t enjoy or to someone who is better placed to do it than you? Freeing up this time will leave you more time to focus on other important areas.
5. Look after yourself
“Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow.” Helen Keller
Taking care of your mind and body is essential to keeping your stress levels down. Healthy eating, exercise, getting enough sleep and relaxation time are essential. Being able to draw the line is also important – work cannot be all-consuming as it is simply unsustainable in the long run. Taking good care of yourself is intrinsically linked to feeling positive and the more positive your feel the more optimistic you are about work and the world around you.
Practice positive thinking. Think about all the great things you’ve achieved, remind yourself why you wanted to be your own boss and what you love about your business. Positive thinking can have a significant impact on how you deal with challenges.
6. Realistic goal setting
There is a tendency for us to heap pressure upon ourselves to achieve goals and we are often overly hard on ourselves if we don’t always attain them. There is absolutely nothing wrong with aiming high, just make sure that when you are setting goals against which you are measuring yourself and your business, you are being realistic. Otherwise you are simply setting yourself up for failure before you’ve even started. A good goal should be a challenge but ultimately achievable.
7. Tackle isolation
“52% of all small businesses are home-based.” –Forbes
There is no doubt that being a small business owner can sometimes make you feel a bit on the lonely side. In the UK two-thirds of businesses are owned and run by just one person and 52% of small businesses are based at home. When you are feeling stressed it really helps to be around other people for support. If you work in a busy office and have a bad day you can often unload to your colleagues However, if you work from home alone you don’t always have that opportunity.
Have a think of ways you can introduce a bit more interaction into your busy working day. For example.
- Hot desks. There are more and more co-working spaces popping up. Here you can hire a workspace. Even if you can only afford to do it once a week it means that you’ll be surrounded by individuals in a similar situation as yourself who will also probably appreciate a bit of company whilst working.
- Join local business networking groups. This is a great way to meet other likeminded local business people who probably have to deal with similar issues as you.
- Attend events relevant to your business and if appropriate think about opening a pop-up shop every so often.
- Get outside at lunch for a walk or to have your sandwich.
- Go for a coffee and take your emails with you – emails are something you can often answer on the move. You are out and about amongst people and are getting some work done at the same time!
Of course, it’s unlikely that whatever you put in place is going to eradicate stress completely as it is often part and parcel of owning a small business, but by implementing even just a few of these tips it may help you bring stress down to a more manageable level.
Ultimately keep reminding yourself of all the great benefits being your own boss brings and remember to look after yourself and pat yourself of the back every now and then as never forget that as a small business owner, you are absolutely vital to a thriving economy.
We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on managing stress at the workplace, so please do leave a comment.