An artisanal cheese vendor and a tech entrepreneur may not have much in common, but it’s likely that both are stressed. According to the spring 2017 Bank of America Business Advantage Small Business Owner Report, 41 percent of respondents identified their business as their top source of personal stress.
While it’s often a labor of love, if the anxiety of running your own venture is beating out exercising, juggling finances, maintaining relationships and even raising children, you’re already caught up in the grind. When you’re consumed by entrepreneurial endeavors 24/7, you lose sight of self-care and other important things. You may not realize how rapidly you’re burning out, and this can have innumerable long-term repercussions.
When work-related stress becomes overwhelming, it’s time to take a step back and recharge. You have to be at the top of your game to run a successful business.
Block out a little time for yourself every day, especially in the morning, before your schedule fills up and demands flood in. You’ll feel more refreshed, and you’ll not only enhance your personal development, you’ll also strengthen your relationships and improve your business all around.
As Stephen Covey says in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, you have to “sharpen the saw” if you want to cut more wood and increase productivity in the long run. Give yourself a much-needed boost with these simple activities that will charge your internal battery every day.
1. Get virtual help.
With a million little things that can eat up all the time in an entrepreneur’s day, a simple and easy way to reduce stress is to outsource some of those more mundane tasks. Make more time for yourself by hiring a virtual assistant like Drift, Clara or x.ai to field questions and handle follow-ups and appointment setting.
If you opt for Clara, your cyborg virtual assistant—part algorithm, part human—will use artificial intelligence to reply to your emails within minutes, even into the wee hours of the night. Clara communicates solely via email, handling time-sucking interactions and setting up meetings, calls, and even lunch or coffee dates on your calendar. And if you don’t like her name, you can rename her. The company keeps human helpers in the loop, too, who will step in when her algorithms can’t handle a complicated email or situation.
Amy Ingram is the name of x.ai’s virtual assistant, and she’s received excellent reviews for her friendly demeanor. Amy’s competence and positive attitude puts her clients so at ease that one said he finds himself being polite to her when requesting that she schedule appointments for him.
Just moving your body—whether it’s going for a stroll or doing high-intensity cardio—helps release tension, and it has the added benefit of releasing endorphins. If you pick physical activities you enjoy, you’ll be more likely to stick with them.
I love running with my dog, Finley, lifting weights and shooting hoops at the gym. Doing these exercises doesn’t feel like drudgery to me, and having a few in rotation keeps me from getting bored.
In addition to the obvious health benefits, burning extra calories on a regular basis helps you better deal with anger and stress. Researchers found that an exercise routine provides an outlet for negative emotions, which is why active people are less likely to project work-related anger or frustration onto their loved ones.
If not for your own sense of well-being, exercise for your nearest and dearest. Even a long walk at lunch can help you reap these rewards.
3. Spend time with family.
In stressful times, it’s so important to get back to the “why” behind your business. The best way to do that is to spend time with the people you’re building a business for, or those who gave you the confidence, inspiration and support you needed to become an entrepreneur.
Try a family dinner to reconnect. Eating together improves relationships, and a home-cooked meal is generally healthier than takeout. One way to double your benefit is by playing games with your family or friends. Pick a physical game to improve your health or a board game to challenge your mind.
4. Give back.
There’s an old adage that do-gooders sleep better at night, but a recent study has actually shown this to be true. Participants were surveyed about their sleep quality, as well as their feelings about having purpose and meaning in life. Those who felt purposeful slept better and had fewer instances of sleep-related health problems, such as sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome.
Getting involved in your community also gives you an intrinsic boost that keeps you going when you get bogged down. Put those skills that make you successful in your career to use, and exercise a sense of purpose.
I’ve personally found meaning in coaching youth sports, using my leadership skills to make a positive impact on the lives of others. When I started coaching, it felt great to be a mentor to the next generation of leaders in our community. Years later, I get an extra lift when I run into my former players and they call me Coach. It’s a vivid reminder that giving my time makes a difference, which keeps my battery charged.
5. Connect with other entrepreneurs.
A little shoptalk is good for you—when you can get out of your bubble, that is. Taking time to get to know other entrepreneurs helps you step back from your own venture and refocus.
Find colleagues outside your company who can relate to your experiences. Other entrepreneurs understand your challenges and will revel in your accomplishments once you get to know each other. Listen to their problems, and don’t be afraid to share your own—it’s a chance to discover not only tried-and-true solutions, but also a healthy outlet for discussing things you can’t tell colleagues or team members about.
Talking with other entrepreneurs can also help improve your business. In fact, the business owners polled in the Future of Business Survey, conducted by Facebook in partnership with the OECD and The World Bank, said that they relied on other entrepreneurs more than Google for learning how to run a business. Joining or even creating your own online and offline communities can spark collaboration and problem-solving innovation.
Starting tomorrow, set your alarm clock a little earlier than usual to take some “me time” in the morning. Whether you read, help the kids get ready for school or make a plan for a small business meetup, this time will be well spent. You’ll be better equipped to face the many challenges of your workday with your internal battery fully charged.