I talk with small business owners every day and there are two words I hear all the time: “busy” and “exhausted”. It’s a common ailment of the business owner operator. I’m sure you know how it feels.
So how can you look after yourself and try to minimize that feeling of overwhelm that sometimes feels like it will consume you? Here are three strategies I’ve found useful…
- Schedule ‘time out days’ in advance. Make sure you keep a calendar that shows a month at a glance. Look at your calendar for the next 6 months and see where you can find two whole days that you could take off each month. They don’t have to be consecutive. If you can’t see two days, then juggle things around. Shift appointments onto other days. This is a discipline and a habit. I schedule the first week of every month ‘off’. I have no appointments during this week and I won’t allow any to be scheduled for me. If this means I have some pretty crazy days during the rest of the month, so be it. Once you have these days scheduled let your team, clients and suppliers (or anyone else who might want a piece of you) that you will not be available on these days.
- Plan how you will use your time out days. Remember the purpose of these days is to help you with those feelings of overwhelm and exhaustion. However, if you are anything like me then you won’t be able to just lie down for the day. Your brain will be too busy thinking and worrying and going over every little thing that you should be doing. The guilt will get the better of you and you will be on the phone or answering emails before you know it! So rather than take the time ‘off’, take the time ‘out’ and use it to work on your long term planning and strategies. Or to write that blog you’ve been meaning to write. Or to catch up on some important reading that you never have time for. Use the time constructively but with relish and gusto. Enjoy being productive rather than busy. Believe me, it will re-energize you as much as a day at the beach!
- Plan your to do’s a week in advance. A business owner’s to do list is a scary thing and more likely to keep you awake at night than any monster under the bed. The overwhelm you often feel comes from a sense of being out of control. This happens when the to do list gets longer than the hours in the day and starts to encroach into your personal space in an unhealthy way (you know what I mean don’t you?). My personal discipline to help combat this involves getting up extra early on a Monday morning (I can’t bring myself to sacrifice my Sunday evening) to map out my to do’s across the week. I use a paper diary (shock horror!) to do this. Once I’ve put my appointments in for the week (taken from my online diary) I then spread my to dos across each day, taking into account what else I have on that day. On days that are quite full I give myself less other items to do and on quiet days I make the to do list longer. Of course I prioritize them by importance and urgency as I go too. If my to do list is looking particularly ominous for the week then I won’t allow any other appointments to be booked in. I make a conscious decision to put my health and well being first at this point. And note: my running and yoga times are already scheduled in the diary for the week and are not to be moved.
It does help to know that you are not alone in the feelings of overwhelm and exhaustion. Many before you have trodden that lonely and sometimes depressing path. Most survive and as your business grows and you build a good team around you, it improves I promise.
In the meantime, try my three steps and let me know how it goes. I’d love to hear of any suggestions you have for managing the busy side of business too. Share them here and I’ll pass them on to other business owners out there.
Be kind to yourself
From the desk of liber8yourbusiness. Business mentors and publisher of Liber8 your Business: The revolutionary business planning technique that will set every business owner free