Owning your own business isn’t just another job. You’re the captain of your fate now, and with that great power comes responsibility. The buck stops firmly on your desk. You’re not just responsible for taking care of yourself and your family – your team are depending on you too.
It’s this double-edged sword of freedom and responsibility that pulls a certain type of person to their own business. Unfortunately, it comes with some negative side effects…
The stress of running a business!
In my practice as The Shrink for Entrepreneurs, I see the grimy underbelly of self employment. Stress, anxiety, insomnia and more can plague entrepreneurs as they adjust to the self-employed life. Typical stress management advice that might work for 9-to-5 employees falls short with business owners. Operating outside the conventional rat race means that conventional tactics don’t help.
The good news: There are strategies you can use to ensure stress never rears it’s ugly head in your career. Smooth sailing through business is doable – you simply have to be proactive. The sooner you start implementing these strategies, the more resilience you’ll develop.
Without further ado, I want to introduce you to the most powerful – and unconventional – stress management tactics I use with my clients…
1. Understand the difference between proactive and reactive work
A huge amount of entrepreneurial stress comes from the unrealistic expectations business owners put on themselves. As a high performer, you expect more from yourself than anyone else does – which is a good thing. However, feeling thwarted every day because you’re not moving forward on your massive task list… isn’t helping anyone. Least of all your blood pressure.
The nuance between proactive and reactive labor is key to understand. When you’re managing all the moving parts of a business, there are going to be fires to put out. That’s just how it is. This type of urgency based work is reactive labor and it’ll supersede all your best intentions.
Knowing that urgent, reactive work is a natural part of running a business frees you from the expectation that you should always be proactive. Immediately, this will reduce your stress. Plus, you’ll start to value, plan and leverage the few hours of proactive labor you can find in a busy day.
2. Do your proactive work first thing
A client of mine – also the CEO of a successful start-up – has mastered the balance of proactive vs reactive labor. Reactive labor isn’t all bad – sometimes it’s the key to building a good team. My client coaches, troubleshoots and mentors his staff as they bring him problems – from the moment they show up at the office at 9am.
His secret to proactive work is to show up at 7am! That way, he knows that he has two hours a day to work on purely important but not urgent projects. These are his two golden hours, to work on the business instead of in the business. Because he’s identified them as such, he is hyper diligent in both how he plans to spend that time and the focus he applies when he’s doing the work itself.
Doing your proactive work first thing in the morning has some serious stress fighting advantages. If you do the opposite – arriving at work to check email and immediately put out fires – it’s easy to end the day without really feeling like you’ve moved forward on anything significant.
A full day working in (as opposed to on) the business leads to stress. Negative self talk and anxiety are inevitable. Do your proactive labor first thing though, and it’s done. It doesn’t matter what else happens – you’ll feel as if the day was a victory.
The less-than-obvious key is acknowledging that, like most entrepreneurs, you are really only good for an hour or two of reactive labor a day. This is the truth and realizing it will serve you. You simply have to ensure those two hours always count.
3. Have just one item on your to-do list
Now you know you’ve got an hour or two a day to proactively move your most important stuff forward. So reign in those expectations. Many entrepreneurs simultaneously stress themselves out AND waste time by sitting down to work – filled with good intentions and motivation – only to confront a huge list of one hundred to-dos. Overwhelm immediately sets in, coupled with frustration and a sense of futility.
When you’re planning your hour of proactive power, pick one item off your list. Ideally do this the day before, so you don’t even need to consult the master list. Know your day’s single proactive task and make your mission to cross it off. The simplicity of a single goal will focus your thinking, eliminating the psychological floundering that leads to stress.
Build a stress busting proactive practice
Know the difference between proactive and reactive work. Do your proactive work first – and plan for just one major task per day.
Make this process a ritual and your business bottom line results will rise – along with your personal satisfaction and happiness.
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