A universal, or certainly an entrepreneurial, truth is that everybody is stressed. Stress manifests in many different ways and can have a debilitating effect on your wellbeing, your business and your personal relationships.
I had such a great response to the blog post Being an entrepreneur: The struggle is real… but the benefits are plentiful, that it made sense to expand on this by sharing how I deal with stress (and I am very familiar with this monster… he sometimes still sleeps in my bed!).
Stress can break you, which is why it is so very important to put plans and practices in place to manage it as best as you can.
The best I can do is share how I manage my stress. Hope there’s some tips and tricks in here for you too. Please feel free to share how you deal with stress too.
1.) Exercise for energy:
Exercise is one of the most important ways to counteract the harmful effect stress has on the body. Stress can push up your blood pressure, which is what happened to me. I also started getting acid reflux, which was being caused by stress. I had to go on chronic medication for both conditions, which is something you would rather want to avoid when young (I was 32 at the time). You must have heard that high blood pressure is a silent killer and I realised I had to do something to fight it off. The best way was to make some lifestyle changes and found that exercise was an excellent start. So now I exercise three times a week and I love it. I do pilates but find something that you enjoy. It’s also a great way to spend time with other people.
2.) The magic 8:
All work and no play makes Natalie a dull girl! It’s true, which is why I am very strict about working an eight-hour day. As far as possible I only work from 9am to 5pm, and spend the rest of the time doing other things and relaxing. You need to give that overthinking brain of yours a rest! When I was working for a boss, I would only worry about work during work hours and when I’m done with work, I would relax and focus on my hobbies. The same applies when you are running your own business. In fact, you probably need the downtime so much more. And it’s something you need to be disciplined about. Don’t check emails outside of your working hours and if you’re tempted to work try to find something else to do instead. We could learn something from the French where it’s now against the law to check your work email after hours. Whaaaat? I’m moving there tomorrow.
3.) Work remotely once a week:
Because my office is at home and I mostly work alone, it can get pretty lonely at times (don’t get me wrong, there are many benefits to having your office at home). It’s important to interact with other human beings and relationships (both personal and professional) plays a big role in our happiness. My way of counteracting the isolation that comes from working at home is to work remotely at least once a week. Sometimes I work from a coffee shop for the morning, or I meet a fellow entrepreneur or friend for a coffee break. This gets me out of the house and curbs the loneliness.
4.) Delight in delegating:
Once you accept that you can’t do everything and that you need help, you’ve ready an important maturity point in your entrepreneurial journey! The truth is that there are other people that can do a task just as well as you can. Do what you enjoy and what you are best at, and outsource the rest. This frees up time (and tons of mental energy) to grow your business more strategically. In my case, the things I enjoy most is graphic design, illustrating, marketing and customer liaising. I outsource the bookkeeping, the admin, the copywriting, photography and product packing. Collectively these individuals all do a great job, and I can focus on other aspects of my business.
5.) Seek inspiration and motivation:
If there is a myth to be debunked then it is that creatives definitely don’t wake up feeling creative every day! Just like everybody else, we need to find the inspiration and motivation to do the creative work that we do (in fact, sometime we need to dig pretty deep!). It’s important to find things that inspire you and to make a point of surrounding and exposing yourself to it. I love podcasts and find many of them very inspiring on various levels. I download them and listening to them while driving. Some of my favourites include “Happier”, “Super Soul”, “Freakanomics” and “Invisibilia”. Some podcasts inspire me, where other are just interesting stories from around the world. It also helps fight loneliness, as it feels like you in a conversation with other people. Other times I love taking a “Pinterest break” where I find inspirational quotes or blog posts worth a read.
6.) A plan for planning:
There’s a famous quote by Benjamin Franklin that reads “by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”. Preparation and planning is a key part of managing stress. When you plan, you eliminate the stress of having to get things done at the last minute. I start planning your marketing calendar as early as October and November for the following year. Here I insert my blog post subjects, giveaways, promotions and new range releases. This helps you plan your budget too. The recipe that I found works for me is two blog posts a month and two social media post per day. It’s nice to have a framework to work within. While I sometimes chop and change things out, depending on situations that change, it still makes me feel “safe” to know that I have a plan. It makes me feel organised and in control. Lovilee, one of my favourite blogs and a frequent Sugar & Vice collaborator, has a monthly theme, which I think is a great idea. You can plan all your marketing and sales initiatives around this them, which also makes things much easier.
7.) Savvy about the social schedule:
I’m yet to meet an entrepreneur who is not overwhelmed by social media. While social media is a great business tool, it can be very demanding on your time and creativity. The best way to manage this is to plan and schedule your social media posts in advance. Every Tuesday I schedule my social media for a week or two in advance, I curate my Instagram feed, by doing a layout in InDesign of the photos next to each other, so that I make sure that it looks balanced and complement each other. I schedule my posts on Facebook and have a daily alarm at 8:45 to remind me to copy and paste the post on Instagram. Ideally you would want the posts to be different on Facebook and Instagram, but I don’t have the capacity for that just yet.
8.) Ready with replies:
Are you familiar with the automated reply function on Facebook? If not, you need to explore this right now! Set this up to keep your response ratings up and not stress that you have to reply immediately on social media. Sometimes people message at the oddest hour, like in the middle of the night. I only reply during work or daytime hours. This is part of the professional standards I maintain.
9.) Less is more (kinda) with social media:
Unless you’re some massive news organisation having a presence on ALL the social media platforms that there are is a near-impossible task. I used to try and have a presence on four social media platforms, but soon realised where my customers engaged the most, which was Facebook and Instagram for me. These works the best for my brand and is much easier to manage than four or more. Find that works for you and rather do that consistently and creatively.
10.) A for organisation:
Organisation could have been the first point, because it is probably the most important. When things are organised you’re able to control them, and when you’re in control there is less to be stressed about. I cannot stress (see what I did there?) the importance of good organisation enough. Find a system that works for you, and be disciplined about sticking to it. For example, I have a dedicated day for filing (mine is every other Monday, I don’t have a lot of filing, and I try to keep things digital, being kind to the environment and all). I have files four files – Suppliers, Customers, Receipts and Miscellaneous. Within the files I have A-Z dividers, which makes it easier to find anything when looking for something. I love filing on a Monday, as it leaves me feeling organised and in control for the rest of the week.
Disclaimer: These tips certainly won’t eliminate stress from your life completely but some of them should at least help you manage it. A little bit of stress is good for you anyway…