7 tips small business owners can implement to help combat stress

how to combat stress

 

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
  • Anxiety
  • Lethargy
  • Sleeplessness
  • Demotivation
  • Exhaustion
  • 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

 

effective timemangement

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.

positive thinking

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.

tackle isolation at work

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. 

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7 indispensable time management tips for small business owners

Time management for small businessWhy does it always feel that there are never quite enough hours in the day? Lack of time is a challenge most small online business owners face daily. The very nature of a small business or start-up means constantly juggling multiple tasks, trying not to let anything slip. Small business owners have to wear many hats, dealing tasks ranging from formulating company strategy to changing a printer cartridge.

Interestingly,  50% of small business owners feel lack of time is one of the most difficult aspects of owning a small business – even higher than making a profit!   Clearly getting on top of managing your time effectively is something worth conquering.  In the US 1 in 4 small business owners believes that  just one extra hour in the working day is worth more than $500. Successful time management can help:

  • increase productivity   
  • reduce stress levels
  • improve efficiency 
  • cut time-wasting.

We take a look at some practical, easy to implement tips that will help you better manage your valuable time.

1. Prioritise

There are always going to be some tasks that need to be prioritised over others. The trick is to ensure you focus on the real priorities rather than just the tasks that are easier or of more interesting. Before embarking on your working day decide what your priorities are. A simple way to do this is to get into the daily habit of categorising tasks into order of importance and urgency. This way you can focus on the tasks that have to be completed today rather than ending up spending your time on something that really could wait.  For example categorise tasks into groups –

 1 – Critical tasks. Important tasks that have to be completed  today or you face significant consequences

2 – Tasks essential to the daily smooth running of your business – important but not so urgent as your critical tasks

 3 – Everything else. 

Ensure you get everything completed in group 1 before you move onto group 2 and then only move on to group 3 when all the tasks in group 2 are completed. Getting into the discipline of prioritising your daily workload will enable you better focus your time on the areas that matter rather than being sidetracked by the ‘nice’ but not essential’ tasks.

planning2. Plan

Planning follows neatly on from prioritising. Once you know your priorities then you can schedule them into your day. A schedule can sometimes be more effective than a ‘to do’ list. There is a tendency to just keep adding to a ‘to do list’ until it becomes a very long, endless list of tasks – which is no help to anyone.

Juggling lots of things at the same time makes it difficult to see the wood for the trees. Try putting half an hour aside first thing to plan and prioritise. This will help you feel in more control of what you are doing. Think realistically about what you want to achieve that day and plan your day around those task. At the end of the day it feels rewarding to have completed what you set out to do.

There are certain times of the day that we work better. For example if you know you are a morning person then plan to get all the tasks that you know you need to focus on done first thing. Plan the routine ‘no brainer’ jobs during the afternoon slump time – it’s a far more productive use of your time. Trying to get complex tasks done when you are tired will take twice as long as it would if you were fresh and at your best.

staying motivated3. Stay motivated

Small online business owners often work from home and as a consequence can find themselves spending long period of time alone. Humans are inherently social creatures so it can be demotivating not having people around to banter with or bounce ideas off. The weight of your business usually rests on your shoulders alone so keeping motivated is essential. Of course everybody has an off day now and then but you need to remain motivated to ensure you stick to plans, manage your time well and stay focused.

  • Make time to be social. Try joining small business discussion forums or local networking groups. This can be a good way to share any small business concerns or ideas you have amongst like-minded people.
  • Take regular breaks. Typically the human brain uses up its energy reserves in 60-90 minutes so putting time aside to recharge is essential.
  • Try exercise. research shows that regular exercise is closely linked to increased levels of motivation.
  • Remind yourselves of all the positives. It can be all too easy to focus on the harder aspects of owning a business. Make time to remember all the great benefits there are to being your own boss!

organised work space4 . Streamline your processes and organise your work space

Sounds simple but an ordered workspace will make you more efficient. A messy, cluttered environment can be a real distraction. Keep on top of paperwork and have a proper filing system in place.

Think about what processes could be streamlined in your business. For example, do you spend hours a week dealing with customer queries? If so implement a Help / Frequently Asked Question page on your website and direct people there as their first port of call.  Can you set up templates for routine communications? The more efficient you can make your systems and processes the more time you will be able to free up.

And, don’t forget there are some excellent automated software and apps available to help you in all aspects of your business such as time management, task management, scheduling, accounting and email, to name just a few.  Work out what areas you could do with a bit of help and investigate some of the software on offer.

time management procrastination5. Stop procrastinating

We’ve all been there. It’s all too easy to put off things we don’t won’t to do by focusing our efforts on more enjoyable things. Many a time I’ve put off doing a task I’m dreading by distracting myself with other ‘pressing’ jobs such as tidying the house or surfing the internet. Of course we all know that in long run the unwanted task doesn’t go away and often just gets worse the longer we leave it. So instead of leaving it to fester,  grab the bull by the horns and just deal with it. I promise you’ll feel a whole letter better and waste a lot less time by getting uncomfortable tasks done as soon as possible.

“Done is better than perfect”

We also put things off by spending too long trying to get things perfect. Perfectionism can eat up your time like nothing else. Sometimes it’s better to just do ‘good enough’ and get it finished  so you can move on to the next thing.

6. Delegate or outsource

We all have things that we are better at doing than others. But as small businesses owners the need for control in all areas of our business can mean we end up doing absolutely everything – even things that we know we could easily  delegate or outsource to somebody else. It is always going to be a struggle to keep up with the demands of a small business. According to research, the average small business owner has between 3-6 different roles in any one day. If you want to manage your time more effectively try outsourcing or delegating areas you don’t enjoy or  feel confident doing to someone who is better placed to do it. It will free up your time to focus on other important areas.

managing distractions7. Get rid of distractions

Distractions can disrupt all you good time management intention. You could be cracking on with a priority task only to get distracted by a phone call, email or social media update. Once distracted it can be hard to get back to the task in hand and you can end up wasting a lot of valuable time.  Learn what things are most likely to distract you and have a strategy to cut those distractions out until you have got on what you need.

The average American worker admits to “wasting” about 3 hours of a typical 8 hour work day (not including lunch breaks).

For example group together routine tasks such as admin, social media updates, answering non-urgent emails and phone-calls and build in a specific time of the day to deal with all such tasks. Put your phone on silent log-out of the social media, close the door and focus on getting on with what is important.

The very nature of small business means we’ll always want more hours in the day. Of course that’s impossible, however getting on top of time management will help you better cope with the many jobs and pressures you deal with on a daily basis. In return increasing your productivity and helping lower your stress levels.

We’d love to hear your own tips on time management – so please do share you thoughts and experiences.