By: Kevin Leahy
Stress is inevitable in operating any business. Customers complain, cash flow isn’t enough to cover the expenses, high impact decisions must be made, employees don’t show up for work, workload requires more than 60 hours a week, family complains you’re never home and the list of possible stressors goes on and on. Stress causes anxiety which can lead to burn out, illness, business failure or family problems.
Here are some basic ideas that might help relieve some business stress and anxiety:
Prioritize tasks and do the important ones first even if they are unpleasant. For instance, collection calls on past due accounts are unpleasant but highly necessary for the success of your business. Do those tasks when your energy is at its highest. Follow the unpleasant tasks with something you enjoy doing that moves your business forward. It’s not healthy to avoid a stressful situation that needs to be addressed, but you may be surprised by the number of stressors in your life that you can eliminate.
Learn how to say “no” – Know your limits and stick to them. Whether in your personal or professional life, taking on more than you can handle is a surefire recipe for stress. Distinguish between the “shoulds” and the “musts” and, when possible, say “no” to taking on too much.
Avoid people who stress you out – If someone consistently causes stress in your life, limit the amount of time you spend with that person, or end the relationship.
Take control of your environment – If the evening news makes you anxious, turn off the TV. If summer traffic stresses you out, take the back roads. If you don’t like to be around crowds at Fred Meyer, Safeway, COSTCO and other retailers, shop early in the morning or mid-afternoon on a weekday.
Eliminate the tasks that are unnecessary to successfully operate your business like checking email multiple times a day, or reading text messages as soon as they come in. (Note there is a way to “code” your phone so you don’t miss important family or critical texts.) Delegate tasks that can be done by someone else. This also gives your staff the feeling of empowerment, and being a decision-maker in your business, which builds loyalty and retention. Many time management tools are available to help you plan each day so important tasks get done on time and correctly.
Maintain a healthy lifestyle. That means making time to exercise, eat right, get plenty of rest and spend time with family and friends doing fun activities. Once you’re in the habit of being physically active, try to incorporate regular exercise into your daily schedule. Activities that are continuous and rhythmic—and require moving both your arms and your legs—are especially effective at relieving stress. Walking, running, swimming, dancing, cycling, tai chi, and aerobic classes are good choices. Quality of life is as important to operating a successful business as hard work. Much research has been done on the value of a healthy lifestyle in creative thinking and having more energy.
Honesty and integrity reduce stress and create a more successful business environment. It’s much easier to be truthful then try to remember a story to cover dishonesty. Employees will often behave as they see management behaving. Customers appreciate knowing they can trust you to deliver on time and on budget but if you can’t communicate how you intend to meet the customer’s timeline, problems will occur. Family will react more positively if you share what you are feeling and address their concerns proactively.
Accept the ups and downs of running a business as part of the process. A positive attitude is often the most important part of reducing stress. Not everything that happens in a business is controllable. Let go of the need to make every decision and run every project. Delegate where appropriate. A good resource on stress management is available at http://www.helpguide.org/mental/stress_management_relief_coping.htm.
To reduce stress, find the management tools that work best for you. Develop a healthy prospective on what’s truly important to your happiness and what’s getting in the way. Most business owners say operating their own business is the most exciting thing they can do to earn a living, that even with the stresses they wouldn’t want to do anything else.