3 great ways to reduce stress and feel in control (of your business)
It’s so easy to feel overwhelmed when your to-do list is endless and it seems your work is never done. But please don’t wait until something bad happens to throw you completely off course. Here are my 3 (rescue) tips to help you reduce stress and feel in control again!
Reduce stress by being kind to yourself (and how to keep your to-do list short)
This is some ways the easiest and hardest thing to do at the same time, which is why I want to get this point out of the way first!
Sometimes, you just have to pare things back and deal with essentials only. And trust that the time will come when you can get round to doing more – perhaps even pay someone else to help you.
Difficulties can arise when you’re not sure what the essentials actually are. That is actually quite common when too many of our tasks seem urgent!
But please don’t be fooled into thinking that everything needs doing just because it feels urgent.
Initially it may make more sense to prioritise something that will help you strengthen your financial situation. Maybe you ought to deal with the dithering customer who is not sure whether to continue working with you?
If you neglect tasks like that (or the marketing that leads to results) your work could dry up. And that can be much harder to deal with in the long run.
Try to put no more than 3-5 daily tasks on your list. Your exact number may depend on what’s causing your stress. When my chronic illness flares up, one or two tasks may even be enough. And if ever I do need to take time off (and just focus on self-care) I’ll do so without feeling guilty!
Being effective and productive doesn’t mean piling more pressure on. You want to be kind to yourself and avoid having those high expectations that may not be realistic.
Another useful strategy is to assume that everything will take you at least twice as long as normal. Then, if you finish a task early, you can always stop or tackle another one. This will lead to a more relaxed way of working and could help prevent a lot of unnecessary pressure!
Reduce stress by communicating what you can and can’t do
This is all about setting clear boundaries. Which you want to do to protect yourself and make you less vulnerable. It always helps me to reduce stress and feel in control when things get on top of me.
For example, you may not feel able to say no to a colleague or client who has run into problems. Perhaps you’ve previously dropped everything to help and don’t want to disappoint them this time. You know deep down that you don’t really have any spare time or energy. But you hope that somehow it will work out in the end.
The trouble with that thinking is that it could backfire causing you even more stress. (That’s unless setting up your own business was a deliberate lifestyle choice so you’re always free to change your plan at short notice.)
But even then there will be times when you probably should say no and put yourself first.
Many women struggle with this. You’re probably not sure how to change your thinking and what to say so the other person doesn’t get upset. But with a bit of practice you’ll find that setting boundaries doesn’t just help you to reduce stress and feel in control, you’ll feel much calmer overall.
Start by writing a list of things that cause you stress. Mine includes last-minute requests (which are often down to other people’s poor planning!) and a few negative habits of my own (e.g. late nights or tolerating an untidy work space).
Then all you need is a simple positive affirmation of how you want things to be instead.
You could write it on sticky notes and place somewhere you can see it. An example could be, ‘I stay calm when under pressure and I feel in control ’. Or… ‘I will not feel guilty if I take care of my own needs first before rushing in to help others”.
It’ll probably take you a while to change your thinking so you need to remind yourself of your affirmation whenever you can.
If you forget, you could always buy yourself time by saying “I’ll need to check on a few things first and will get back to you as soon as I can”. In my experience, if people respect you they will understand!
And if they don’t respect you and your time, should you be putting them first?
Reduce stress (and prevent it too) by creating processes that save time
I didn’t really think about processes in the early years of my business, partly because I’m a creative person who is good at improvising. But over the years I learnt that ‘winging’ it is the last thing you want to do when pressure mounts. You don’t want to have to recreate the same thing over and over again from memory.
Think about your invoicing template. You wouldn’t want to write and design an invoice from scratch every time would you?
- The same goes for your pricing. Why not create a document with your services, brief descriptions and your fees?
- Another useful document to have is a social media checklist. It will encourage you to be more strategic with sharing content.
- Also, how about a client intake questionnaire, a client project checklist or a template for certain phone calls that always follow a similar format?
These are just some ideas for starters. Any process that you carry out on a regular basis can be made quicker and easier by working with a checklist or template.
These don’t have to be stodgy or corporate – if the idea fills you with dread! I often use creative drawings, doodle lists, journaling and mind maps which can be much more enjoyable to use for creative people.
If you’re in a hurry and don’t have time to create your own documents, why not google what you want. You can find lots of ideas online and some documents are free too.
So there you are: 3 of my tried and tested tips to help you cope when there’s more pressure than usual. They should help you to prevent and reduce stress and feel in control. Always remember that it is your business and you are in charge no matter what happens – and so it’s up to you to stay as calm as you can and in control.