On Saturday morning I went running with a close friend whom is in the process of starting up his first business.
The weather was perfect. Blue skies, not too hot out, with high 70’s.
My friend and I made our way through a suburban neighborhood, picking up distance by turning down side streets. After we reached our goal of four miles, we headed back and drank water while we talked on his porch.
“Man, I am stressed out. I’m telling everyone I’m starting this thing and now I feel like the pressure is on. I have to make it work now.”
His words made me recall when I first launched AutoGrow in 2010. I remembered writing and rewriting the email launch announcement. I was sending it out to friends and anyone who I had met in recent years, over 500 people in total.
A lot of emotion and editing went into the process before I pushed “send.” Five years and hundreds of thousands in revenue later, I can say that sending that email was one of the easier parts of the process.
Being an entrepreneur is not glamorous, but that’s just the reality of starting a business. There are no shortcuts to reaching a sustainable level of success.
So, if you’re putting in the hardwork and long hours right now here are 7 simple ways you can better manage your stress levels without decreasing your productivity (in fact, if you follow these tips your productivity will probably skyrocket).
Note: Everyone says “exercise” to manage stress. Speaking from experience, I think that’s a good idea. But because I’m sure that you probably already know that cliche tip for managing stress, I’m not going to list it here… although I kind of just did but, whatever.
#1 – Breathe, Reset Your Perspective
There are two commonly quoted expressions here:
- The road to success is always under repair.
- The journey is the destination.
These cliche quotes get repeated for a reason. The process of growing a company from nothing into something big enough to support you and hopefully other people is a long term process.
You can’t expect to go from zero to one million over night. There are some exceptions to that rule, but many of those “overnight successes” don’t even exist any longer. Who knows if hyper growth success stories we read about on the cover of Entrepreneur or Inc magazine will be around in a few years?
A famous Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu, is often quoted for saying:
The journey of a 1000 miles begins with one step.
So, focus on enjoying the process and make sure that each step you take is done to the best of your ability.
#2 -Do a “Brain Dump” — Identify the Real Problem
Talk out loud; write it down. The most important thing is that you get out of your head.
I’ve often found that it can be difficult to fall asleep after I’m faced with a big business decision or issue that day.
The easiest way to force myself to relax is to confront the issue by writing about it in a journal. Often, this helps me to quiet any irrational feelings or fears, while also identifying the root cause of the issue that I can tackle the next day.
As an added bonus, writing down or recording your thoughts on your phone has the added benefit of helping you to fall fast asleep by the time you’re done.
#3 – Schedule Relaxation Time
If you’re concerned that you might be overworking yourself, then set a specific day or range of time during the work week that you simply will not work.
And if you have trouble disciplining yourself to stop working at a certain point? Schedule a coffee date with friends. This will force you to break your habit of overworking by creating a loss-based incentive for you to hit pause on your work (i.e. you will be late to see your friend and they won’t be happy if you try to cancel).
#4 – Plan the night before
According to the popular productivity book, Eat That Frog, from serial author and entrepreneur, Brian Tracy, the best way to start your day is by already knowing what you’re going to do.
Why and how?
Well, make a list of what you want to get done the night before and then do each task in order of importance.
This allows you to start your day on auto-pilot without having to stop, think, and plan about what you’re going to do next (it also saves you the risk of getting lost in your inbox).
You can even go a step further (I do this) and estimate the time each task takes. Then, you can turn it into a game by setting a timer for that task and try to beat the clock.
#5 – Focus on One Thing At a Time
Stress usually comes from the feeling that we don’t have control over some part of our life.
The easiest cure for this is to focus on accomplishing one task and one goal at a time. Simultaneously, you want to take deliberate “control of your brain” (and your time) by minimizing distractions.
For example, close all open tabs on your browser other than the one you need, and put your phone on silent (face down, and out of reach).
#6 – Sleep More.
Sleep and stress can be a vicious cycle, so it’s an important point to focus on.
In other word, stress can lead to a lack of sleep, which can lead to more stress, and so on.
According the American Psychological Association or APA:
Sleep is so crucial that even slight sleep deprivation or poor sleep can affect memory, judgment and mood… Research has shown that most Americans would be happier, healthier and safer if they were to sleep an extra 60 to 90 minutes per night
Need more convincing?
So here’s the tip:
Don’t simply set an alarm for when to wake up. Set an alarm for when to get ready for sleep and drop whatever you’re doing to follow it when you hear it go off. This is the easiest way to start waking up mentally recharged and ready for the new day.
#7 – Don’t Believe the Hype (Including Your Own)
Thinking you have something to prove to other people is only going to add to your stress levels.
In addition, multiple studies have recently shown that social media can cause symptoms commonly associated with stress, like depression and low self-esteem.
It’s not a huge leap to believe that reading about the success stories of other companies and entrepreneurs that that might not also have a negative impact as well.
The key action step here?
be like Kanye who is clueless believe your own hype, and stay humble by competing against yourself rather than comparing yourself to “overnight success” headlines — which are misleading anyway.
Bonus #8 – Don’t Get Too Comfortable…
You might wonder, “Is it actually a good thing to minimize or eliminate all kinds of stress?”
My answer is that there are two kinds of stress.
We are all familiar at this point with the negative kind.
The positive kind of stress is the kind that focuses your attention and energy in a constructive, productive way.
The best way to prevent yourself from ever getting too comfortable is to take steps to activate this positive kind of stress from time to time.
To do this, simply write down your top 1-3 goals, and attach it to the wall directly in front of you, or some place where you are sure to see it every day.
Remember, too much stress can literally be toxic for you and your business. But by implementing at least one of the tips in this article each week, you can start to feel more in control of your life, your work, and your stress levels.
So go ahead, take action.
What are some other simple tips for keeping your stress levels low? Leave a comment below and share.