When I first started my business, I reacted to everything. On top of taking care of marketing, cash flow and all the other big picture business decisions, I was also involved in all the minor decisions too. Anything at all that happened, I knew about it, worried about it and tried to resolve it. In addition, my business partner was a night owl and I was an early bird, so it felt like my days never ended, I was constantly available and my mind never switched off. By the end of the first year I was emotionally and physically exhausted. I felt completely overwhelmed, unproductive and I was not taking care of myself.
So I went on vacation with instructions to my business partner, “Don’t contact me unless it’s urgent”. She didn’t and I enjoyed 2 uninterrupted weeks of total relaxation. But of course, I didn’t stop thinking about my life and how I had ended up so stressed and close to breaking.
While I was away I thought carefully about the things in my personal life that made me happy. I identified the major triggers that were preventing me from letting go and causing me to react unnecessarily. I devised an action plan and set new rules for myself. I’ll admit, old habits die-hard and some things were difficult to stick to constantly, but life definitely became easier and I recovered my sense of self for the benefit of my business and everyone around me.
If you’re feeling the same way in your business, here’s what I’d recommend:
1. Protect your time with vigilance. Set specific work hours for your day, like 8am to 7pm, 5 days per week. Religiously abide by those hours. Don’t look at your work emails and don’t respond to anything outside those hours unless it’s an absolute “my business will burn to the ground if I don’t respond” emergency. You’ll soon realize that most things can wait until tomorrow or let the person know when you’ll get back to them (remember that being an entrepreneur means you can set your own schedule).
2. Make "Me Time" non-negotiable. Identify activities you enjoy and block time for them in your schedule. The best activities are the ones that make you smile and make you unavailable for a set period of time. Going to the gym with your iPhone is not a break. Take up skiing, sailing, martial arts, knitting, painting, singing or anything else that requires you to put down your phone and focus on the present, uninterrupted.
3. Establish an issue escalation process. When a problem arises, ask yourself, “Does this really require my attention or can someone else handle this?” Problems in business should be expected, save your energy for the big stuff. If you have a staff member that’s capable of handling issues but constantly brings them to you anyway, it’s likely you haven’t given them the responsibility and authority to act on their own. Sit down with them and set parameters of authority. Encourage them to take responsibility, reward them for taking initiative and retrain (not reprimand) when they make a mistake. Check out my HR Management website for more on this topic.
4. Communicate your new rules. If you’re currently in a pattern of being constantly available, you’ll need to let people know that the world is about to change. Tell them your new rules, why you’re changing and how they can contact you if there’s an emergency. Most likely they’ll feel relieved that you’re taking a little step back. Since you’re the boss, they’re probably working overtime to keep up with your demands.
Do you have your own advice to share on this topic? Feel free to provide comments below, I’d love to hear from you.