Most of us become entrepreneurs because we're good at what we do, and we want the flexibility to do it on our own terms. We want to put our personal stamp on something meaningful. It's exciting, it's hard work, it's fulfilling, and...it can be exhausting and stressful.
A recent Fast Company article, “How to prepare yourself for the ups and downs of entrepreneurship” talked about this confluence of opposites.
“The reality is that entrepreneurship is an emotional roller-coaster–it’s either going to kill you or make you stronger. Most entrepreneurs out there are wrestling with this flux day in and day out. No doubt, the lifestyle can be exciting. The work can be incredibly fulfilling. But it can also be insanely stressful at times.”
In my experience as an entrepreneur, I've found that there are two things that keep me sane:
- Building and maintaining a community
- Making time to feed my soul
Building a community
Working on your own can get lonely. Especially when you're in development mode and spending long stretches of time not talking to another human being. It's important to make opportunities to share ideas, get feedback, and simply connect with others for community, support and, let's not forget, laughter.
A few years ago I put together an AdviseHERy Board. The initial goal was to create a small board of directors (there were three of us, and this has now grown to four) who would help each other build our businesses, talk through issues, give feedback and ask questions that would move us forward. Over the years it has developed into an incredible support system both professionally and personally.
Another thing I've done to build community is join a co-working space. It gets me out of my home office a few days a week, and I can walk there, which is another benefit. In our current sharing economy, co-working spaces are becoming increasingly popular. Most even organize social and business-related events to help connect people.
Feeding your soul
The second thing that I think is really important for entrepreneurs - or for anyone really - is to take time (make time!) to feed your soul. Whatever that means for you.
We often get so busy trying to get that next gig or to keep up with all the responsibilities of business ownership that we forget to take time to rest and recharge. How often do you say, "I don't have time for a break," or, "I just need to get through this project, and I'll take a break"? Don't...put...it...off!
It doesn't have to be a two-week or even a one-week vacation (although I highly recommend them!) It can be a 30-minute walk three times a week. An hour a day reading something that has nothing to do with your work. A concert. The theater. Yoga. Whatever it is, factor it into your schedule and make time to do it. Feed...your...soul.
Oh. And don't forget laughter. You need at least one belly laugh a day!
Till next time,
Work-related stressors and the maladies they cause, like hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and decreased mental health, are more deadly than diabetes, Alzheimer’s, or influenza, according to an article in The Atlantic.
Additionally, workplace stress can interfere with productivity, impair relationships, and even cause safety issues. We’ve all seen over-busy people walking along – even crossing streets – with their eyes focused on their cellphone and not what’s in front of them.
So how do you recognize when you’re under too much stress – when you are “overextended”? It starts by being self-aware. When you start to feel overwhelmed, pay attention to how you respond to your work and the people around you. When we’re overextended, our positive qualities may actually become “too much of a good thing” causing negative impact. For example, someone who is detail-focused and analytical may exhibit “analysis paralysis” when overextended. Someone who is typically creative and social may become impulsive and overly emotional under extreme stress. And the “people person” who brings harmony to every meeting may suddenly become stubborn and resistant. When Mr. Peabody becomes Attila the Hun it’s time to get a handle on stress.
Oh, right, you say. There’s work to be done and we’re down two people…I don’t want to lose my job…I just need to get through this month and then I’ll (fill in the blank): get back to my family, get back to my workouts, get back to my life.
OK, people. Listen up. Part, not all, but PART of the reason we’re in this environment is that we allowed it to happen. Just like Lucy and Ethel in that famous bit in the chocolate factory, the more we demonstrated a willingness to work more, work faster, sacrifice life balance for the sake of a pay raise or out of fear for our job, the faster the conveyor belt went. The 40-hour work week turned into 50, then 60. Vacations? Who has time? Off hours? What are those? Welcome to our 24 x 7 world of work.
So what to do? I say, let’s take back our lives. Let’s stop the insanity and lean out for a change. Here’s how.
1. Set boundaries. Establish a time after which you don’t take work phone calls or respond to work emails, texts, smoke signals, whatever. Manage expectations about your “work hours.”
2. Be willing to say “no.” When asked to do something with a clearly unreasonable deadline or without appropriate resources, explain the impact it will have on your current work. Offer alternative dates, suggest alternative resources.
3. Stop and pause. Do a personal check-in. Adjust priorities, if needed. Take a break.
4. Breathe. Deeply and often. Consider meditation. Take a walk in the park or along the beach.
5. Laugh. Find something to laugh about every day. It’s good medicine.
"If you ask what is the single most important key to longevity, I would have to say it is avoiding worry, stress and tension. And if you didn't ask me, I'd still have to say it."
-George Burns (who lived to be 100)
Till next time,