If you own a business, you don’t need me to tell you how stressful it can be. Paying down your debt, managing employees, building trust with customers, developing new business, and making ends meet every month can be terrifying—and thinking about it all constantly can wear you down, making it even harder to accomplish all your goals.
For business owners, personal stress management isn’t just an option. If you want to be successful, it needs to be the key and forefront of your business strategy. In the past 10 years of running Whiteboard Digital, I’ve learned a lot about how business owners can combat anxiety. Below are just a few tips that can help you relax, stay focused, and weather any storm that comes your way.
Remember What’s Going Right
As you’re building your business, it’s easy to get caught up in all the things that are behind schedule, underfunded, or unplanned. In order to reduce your stress level, try focusing on the things that are going right. This is something you will likely have to force yourself to do, especially at first. The best way to do this is to schedule a time for it. Try taking ten minutes at the end of every day to write down all the positive things that are going on, and all the milestones you’ve achieved. Don’t think of this as a waste of time. Any time you allocate to stress management helps you and, by extension, helps your business.
TIP: Don’t just acknowledge your own successes to yourself! If you have a team of dedicated employees behind you, make sure to also acknowledge their successes and positive contributions. This provides them with encouragement and builds overall positivity in the workspace. It goes a long way, and helps your team understand that you want to listen and openly communicate ideas and shared successes with them!
Become a Master Prioritizer
Prioritizing is something you’ve likely had to practice since your very first job working as a newspaper delivery boy before school. (No? Just me?) If you haven’t mastered prioritization yet, now’s the time to make it a, well, priority. If you try to do every single thing on your list, you’ll quickly become overwhelmed. Try to highlight the top five, or even top three items you’d like to get done in a day, and focus only on those most-important, most time-sensitive tasks. If even that is too overwhelming, go even smaller: highlight the one most crucial thing on your list, and focus on that. Once you’re done, move on to the next.
TIP: Don’t check off items until they’re 100% done. If you cross something off when you’re only halfway through, you may forget to come back to it.
Set a Designated No-Work Hour
There’s an old saying about being a small business owner: when you quit your 9-5 job to start your own business, you’re leaving a 40-hour-a-week job for a 24-hour-a-day job. It’s true: business owners never stop working. In the day of instant smartphone notifications, it’s all too easy to answer client emails, work on ongoing projects, follow leads, and manage employees, even when you’re supposed to be “relaxing”. That’s why it’s crucial to force yourself to get off the grid every once in a while. Turn off the smartphone, turn off the computer, and do something for yourself and yourself alone. Again, resist the instinct to think of this as “wasting time.” You’re not wasting time; you’re recharging your batteries for the day or week ahead.
TIP: I call this “Me time.” If you struggle with allotting time for yourself, try blocking it off in your daily calendar! Treat your “me time” as a client appointment, a networking event, or a meet-up with partners–as a commitment to yourself that you need to honor. Make a conscious effort to carve out this time only for yourself. Run, walk, bike, sit in silence, meditate, workout, meal prep, listen to music… you get the point.
Set a Designated My-Business-Only Hour
If you are a B2B business (or, well, any business that has clients), you obviously will want to take care of your paying customers before you take care of your own website and marketing strategy. While that’s completely understandable, and probably wise, remember to bookmark an hour, or a day, each week in which you only focus on building your own brand. Create some social media posts; update the company blog; add a new service page; make a video; request online reviews; or send an email newsletter out to customers—anything to engage your target demographic and keep your business top-of-mind. If you just don’t have time to do all that, consider hiring an outside partner who can help (like us!)
TIP: It’s easy to forget about your own marketing needs. I like to call this phenomenon, “The chef eats last,” and it really resonates with our clients. Months and in some cases, years, can go by without updating your social media profiles, your blog, your services, or worse, your staff. Be sure to give your businesses marketing the attention it deserves, even if you are working with a marketing agency or a digital marketing company. You know the inside scoop, so be sure to get things updated.
Take Periodic Breaks
If you’re constantly spinning your wheels, not getting anywhere, and stressing out about a problem, step away from it. You’re your own boss, so take advantage of it! Take a walk; sit quietly in the sunlight and soak in some Vitamin D; or go run a small errand—anything that takes your mind off of work. Once you’re refreshed, you’ll be better able to tackle the challenge anew, and you might even have a clearer perspective.
TIP: I like to take advantage of a pretty, peaceful neighborhood lake behind our Apex, NC office. Its low-traffic, partly-shady walking path is a great place to clear my thoughts. I also try to burn off some energy by taking calls in the hallway (for those curious, it’s 168 steps from end to end). Our Content Manager also likes to walk around our building to clear her head and, hopefully, free up some creative juices for blog writing. If you’re sitting for most of the day like we are, it’s important to remember to get some exercise. Which leads us to…
Take Care of Your Body
Running a business can take a lot out of you. Pulling long nights, early mornings, and weekends–not to mention battling through what should be a sick day–puts a strain on your body, and having to occasionally subsist on grab-and-go fast foods doesn’t help! Remember to drink plenty of water; eat regularly (or, if you’re a fan of intermittent fasting, to eat enough calories during your daily meal), get 8 hours of sleep, and get some exercise. I’m not saying to take up CrossFit (unless you want to, of course); even a brisk walk in the morning and afternoon can reap significant health benefits.
TIP: It’s important to set aside time for your body to not only release stress, but also to heal. I especially like to take time to stretch out my back while I’m at work, as I firmly believe “sitting is the new smoking”. I also hit the gym 5 days a week to keep myself flexible, strong, and conditioned. Now, with that said, I must admit that I do have a tendency to forget to eat–something I’m working on changing!
Learn to Say “No”
When you’re a business owner, and especially if you’re just starting out, it’s easy to say “yes” to any potential project that comes your way. But remember, it’s important to be judicious. If a client wants a whole lot of your working hours, it’s important that they compensate you for that time as well as the value you bring. I know from experience that it’s tough to say “No”, but it can often be worth it in the long run. To put it metaphorically, the amount of time you spend cleaning, gutting, and prepping this very small sardine is time you could be out on the water, casting your line for a much bigger catch.
TIP: In my decade of experience working with all types and sizes of businesses, I’ve learned to say “No” to a lot of projects. The best way to do this is to be diplomatic. Rather than bluntly rejecting a project, I try to help shed light on the value we bring, and explain why our services are priced they way they are.
I try to let our clients know that their success is our success. If they succeed, we ultimately succeed–not in an abstract, feel-good way, but in the sense that we are then able to then grow their business even further.
If you are struggling to identify “problem clients” early on, pay attention to how they communicate, both via emails and in meetings. If it’s bad now, it’ll be worse later. And if they’re asking for discounts now, and you give in, they’ll expect more later–so stand your ground!
Get Comfortable with Delegation
Of course, things need to get done promptly in order for your business to run smoothly. But that doesn’t mean that everything needs to be done by you. Many tasks can be delegated to other employees, or even to outside partners. Accountants and bookkeepers can help you keep your financials straight; digital marketing companies can help with your website, content, and Google ads; staffing firms can help you find the right people; the list goes on. Examine where you’re spending time that could be affordably outsourced, and get the help you need to run your business effectively.
TIP: Many of our small business clients tend to have “trust issues” with outsiders handling aspects of their business, especially when it comes to financials, accounting, marketing, and hiring. However, I’ve noticed that those who can delegate responsibilities tend to be happier and more aware of their business, because they aren’t caught up managing their day-to-day operations.
I’ll admit, Whiteboard Digital is guilty of this, as in the past I’ve tended to try to tackle every project component by myself! However, in the past year, we’ve added some dedicated resources who can handle specific aspects of digital marketing, like web development, graphic design, and content writing. While some aspects of the transition have been challenging, it’s been a blessing in terms of creating better processes and more efficiency–which all translates to much less stress.
Digital Marketing Help Needed? I’ve Got Your Back!
Shameless self-promotion time: If you need digital marketing help in the Cary, Apex, or Raleigh region, Whiteboard Digital can help. We’ll take over the task of growing your business, so that you can focus on running it. We use content marketing and SEO to help your search rankings; email marketing to engage new leads; PPC to bolster your sales; and a number of other marketing techniques to boost your visibility online. If you’d like to learn more, just give us a call.