Stress is an inevitable part of running a business. Despite its many rewards, it can be difficult to ignore the many pressures that come with an entire company resting on your shoulders. As your business grows and you bring on more employees, that sense of responsibility will only increase, leading to varying degrees of anxiety.
If you let stress consume you, it can hurt your productivity and eventually impact your bottom line. For that reason, it’s important to find coping mechanisms that allow you to worry less. You’ll then be able to focus on what needs to be done, which is growing your business.
Here are a few tips for keeping your entrepreneurial anxiety in check.
1Set goals and work toward them
Anxiety often comes as a result of trying to accomplish everything at once. Instead, cut your larger goals into small, manageable chunks and work toward reaching each small milestone every day. Celebrate when you make significant progress toward a goal.
Over time, you’ll learn to pay more attention to what you’ve accomplished rather than feeling daunted by the many things you have left to do.
Experts recommend rewarding yourself as you reach certain milestones. That will give you something to look forward to in the near future, which will also keep you from looking past the milestone to what you’ll need to do next.
Set aside time each month or quarter to review your long-term goals and update your progress on each of them. You’ll likely notice how much you’ve accomplished in the previous term and feel good about your momentum.
2Outsource and automate
Business owners often work long, tiring hours, whether they’re running a one-man operation or they have a full staff. Either way, it’s important to find ways to offload as many daily tasks as possible.
The more routine the duty, the more likely someone else should handle it. If you can’t afford a salaried worker, consider a part-time entry-level worker or outsourcing to a freelancer.
In addition to human service providers, you can also use technology to free up time without sacrificing work output. Software can take over your invoicing and bookkeeping features, for instance, often without the errors that you might make when you’re multitasking or rushing to get to your next meeting.
3Learn coping mechanisms
“Mind over matter” may sound like jargon, but anxiety and stress really are under your control. Relaxation techniques can help you when stress is at its worst, with your mind racing and your body tense. You don’t have to take an hour or two to attend a class to practice relaxation. In fact, you can just lock yourself in your office for 15 minutes in the middle of the day and do a few exercises to centre your mind.
For some, however, learning to relax is an art. Look for meditation classes or mindfulness-based yoga courses near you. You’ll be able to take the information you learn in class with you throughout the week. Over time, you probably won’t need a class at all to utilise healthier ways to deal with stress.
“As a business owner and trial attorney, anxiety is a natural and healthy thing,” says Robert May, founder of The May Firm. “However, when it feels too big I really try to step back and take a couple minutes to put things back into perspective. I take a few calming breaths and focus on the task at hand and not everything that needs to be done. Also, take time to do something for yourself. Sometimes just taking my dog for a 30-minute hike really helps.”
Related: Your Stress Management Toolkit
4Recognise clinical anxiety
For some people, anxiety goes beyond a reaction to daily stressors. If your anxiety is getting in the way of living a happy, productive life, it may be time to seek professional help. With an anxiety disorder, you feel general anxiety about life events even when that level of anxiety wouldn’t seem merited by others. In some cases, anxiety can accompany clinical depression or panic attacks.
“Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental illnesses in the United States,” says Cole Rucker, CEO at Paradigm New York, a centre that works with teens suffering from anxiety and depression.
“With treatment, you can learn coping mechanisms and even find medication that helps regulate the condition, which will in turn help you lead a healthy, productive life.”
Anxiety not only impacts your productivity, but it also disrupts your health and well-being. By learning how to manage your stress and finding healthier ways to cope, you can eventually begin to enjoy the chaos of the day. Whether you use relaxation techniques or learn to meditate, just a few minutes when stress is at its worst can make a big difference.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
How To Optimise Your Productivity After Quitting Your Job
You’ve done it. You’re your own boss. All the time in the world. Now the problem is – you’re used to 10 hours of your day being allocated elsewhere – there’s almost too much time now. So much time… and so many ways to waste it.
The idea of having control of our own time is bliss. In many ways, nothing could be better than the idea of “freedom”, of having “full control” of one’s life. The reality is that it can be incredible, however it can also be life’s biggest trap. If there is no strategy to optimize this available time, it will turn into one major procrastination session.
If your time is not carefully managed, your entrepreneurial journey could become months of regret and self-loathing because of wasted opportunity. On the flip side, Peter Thiel has been paraphrased in saying that one of the beauties of an entrepreneurial life, is that if someone were to put a gun to your head and demand that you achieve 10 years worth of goals in 6 months, it would be possible. If time is used extremely effectively, anything is possible. That, in my view, is something to get excited about, and is reason enough to want to put tangible methods in place.
Note that many of these methods were inspired by Tim Ferriss and the many world class performers he has interviewed on his podcast. I have since experimented with recommendations and have found that the below have worked best for me.
1. Organise meetings
This may sound counterintuitive, because meetings are commonly considered (at least in the corporate world) to be the ultimate waste of time. The reason for that perception is that there is usually so much work to be done, and corporate meetings classically aren’t necessary for all the attendees, and do not result in a definitive next step.
My argument for organising meetings is to conjure momentum when none exists early on in the process. If you are sitting with a blank calendar and a blank agenda, by arranging meetings with potential clients, partners, employees or investors, this will create a sense of scarcity; a simulated “due date” that will force you to do the appropriate work to be ready for said meeting, and could put you on an exciting unforeseen path post-meeting.
These meetings also get people on the same page as you; to buy into your vision and to get them excited by what excites you in your entrepreneurial journey – you never know what doors can open from connecting with the right people at the right time.
I read a quote recently that said “great opportunities never have ‘Great Opportunity’ in the subject line”.
2. Say No
You may receive a deluge of exciting propositions and projects out of nowhere that others less committed than you would like you to work on. These can be extremely tempting, but as Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks says, “The single most important distinction in life is to distinguish between an opportunity to be seized and a temptation to be resisted”.
Derek Sivers makes this distinction by removing any middle ground – if he doesn’t feel that the opportunity is a “HELL YEAH!”, it’s simply a “no”. Another tool you could use is to rate opportunities out of 10 – but you’re not allowed to use the number 7. When in doubt, you have to either rate the opportunity as a 6 or an 8. If it’s a 6, it’s a definite “no”.
Saying no can be infinitely more difficult than saying yes. That’s why, it can be argued that nurturing the ability to decline mediocre opportunities is one the most important skills on the path to success.
3. Don’t let others set your agenda for you
You will wake up to several emails, whatsapp messages and a missed call. You are then faced with a difficult decision – to reactively respond to all before pursuing your agenda for the day; or proactively completing your agenda first and then addressing the needs of others.
The risk of the reactive approach, is that there is a high probability of getting derailed entirely by requests from other people. A seemingly short request could end up cascading into several hours of back and forth. It is quite possible that by the time this has reached completion, you have no energy left to allocate to the most important tasks for the day. You will leave feeling unfulfilled, as if the day was wasted – a routine you desperately need to avoid.
You should set your own agenda, and when the key tasks are completed, you attend to the emails and requests of others.
4. Set your most important 3 tasks each day
On any given day, you may have 32 important things you want to achieve. Where does one even begin to prioritise these? Typically, we may start with the easiest of the 32 to get that “small win” feeling. The downside is that the easiest may not be the most important or urgent, and could leave you feeling in a similar position to where you started. That’s why I set the most important 3 each day.
They may take 5 minutes each or 5 hours each, but if you can consistently overcome the most important 3 tasks on a daily basis, you will not only make tangible progress in your work, but develop an unrivalled (and somewhat addictive) sense of productivity.
In addition, I recommend setting these 3 tasks at the end of each working day, so that you can get straight into them the next morning. I find that setting the next day’s objectives is a nice way to wind down the day, and reduce chances of morning procrastination the next day because your agenda will already be pre-constructed, leaving no room for excuses.
5. Find the environment that speaks to your working soul
Some people thrive in 8am-5pm busy office environments, while others can only work from night time when it feels like the world around them is asleep. Some people love absolute silence while others need the madness of boisterous conversation and loud music. There is no perfect way to work.
I have found that the ambience of coffee shops is conducive to a productive environment – being surrounded by people of different backgrounds and occupations leads to a complementary sense of both community and urgency, and removes any sense of loneliness. Furthermore, don’t underestimate the power of the right music to aid productivity.
Certain melodic lyric-less music could help create a rhythm conducive to productivity (Tim Ferriss highly recommends Gramatik as an aid to his book writing). Some people prefer music they are extremely familiar with, and even play the same song or album on repeat for hours; the familiarity could create a sense of comfort, and you won’t get distracted by the lyrics.
There is no perfect formula for productivity. There is no script, as much as others may try enforce theirs onto you. That’s why this journey is so exciting – you can use any of the methods above and do what works for you. Be productive by using your mind, not your time.
Immerse Yourself In Purposeful Reading This Holiday Season
As the festive season draws close, and we have a bit more time on our hands, I thought I’d share details about a few of my favourite books which I encourage everyone to read.
I am an avid reader. Maybe not as avid as Nelson Mandela was or self-made billionaires Warren Buffett, Bill Gates and many others are, but still very avid. Buffett, in fact, estimates that he spends as much as 80% of his time reading. He puts his success down to the amount of literature that he consumes, saying that reading is what makes him a more nimble and astute businessman.
Reading broadens the mind and allows for learning through others’ experiences. Through learning, we build up knowledge. By putting that knowledge into practice over time, we build wisdom. Wisdom in turn builds trust, builds relationships and attracts followers.
As the festive season draws close, and we have a bit more time on our hands, I thought I’d share details about four of my favourite books which I encourage everyone to read.
Is There A Link Between Physical And Financial Wellness?
To reduce stress and find your feet, get going down the road to better financial and physical health. Here are some ideas:
Many of us have goals connected to both physical or financial health, but would you have expected them to be linked? According to some new studies, they are. In one study by Momentum (UK), a survey “show[ed] a clear and significant relationship between overall wellbeing and Financial Wellness”. They looked at established areas of economic wellbeing, and asked respondents about their feelings towards their physical health.
The survey found that “39% of people in ‘excellent health’ reported feeling confident about their finances in the long-term. Of those who reported being in ‘poor health’, just 18% were confident about their long-term finances.”
Stress is at the root of many health complications and diseases. It stands to reason that one of life’s biggest stressors, money, would be linked to health. This goes both ways though, so if you are less stressed about money, you are likely to have better health. To reduce stress and find your feet, get going down the road to better financial and physical health.
Here are some ideas:
Just as you’d make a food diary to figure out where you’re eating badly, you should also keep a spending diary. Log every cent you spend, both fixed and variable, and after just a few weeks you’ll notice where the pitfalls of your spending habits lie.
Work on healthier eating habits and healthier spending habits: Try grocery shopping with a list when you’re not hungry, to avoid buying all the things that expand your waistline and shrink your bank balance.
Do some exercise(s)
Exercise is key when it comes to physical health, but you can do some spending exercises too. Once you’ve tracked your spending, allocate all of it to named expenses. Then play with the numbers and aim to reduce your spending to increase savings.
Figure out the sweet spot between what you get in and what goes out, to figure out spending and savings goals. Then at the end of each month, do a reconciliation to see if you reached your goals. Just as you may aim for a personal best when running, so you can aim for a PB in your spending habits too.
Eat at home
Think this one isn’t financial? Think again. Eating at home is better for your health, but it’s also better for your wallet. Aim to eat at home 70-80% of the time, and take a packed lunch to work (leftovers work a treat, as long as you plan for them). If you buy lunch every day at R40/day, you can save R200 a week or nearly R10 000 a year. That’s a quite a lump of cash you could be saving for retirement.
Related: Is Sitting the New Smoking?
Save to splurge later
Several new studies link good savings habits in early life, to better health later in life. A life you’ll actually be around to see, if you’re healthy that is. According to this article, a new study in the Psychological Science journal found that “people who value their future selves enough to regularly put money aside in a nest egg, are more likely to also make healthier choices in the present to improve their health in the future”.
So there you have it. A few steps you can take now to improve your financial wellbeing and your physical health, to ensure you’re healthy, well and cared for when you retire.
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