Feeling the pressure? Here are 5 tips to manage small business stress
Ever had one of those days when your brain’s on par with your internet browser? There are 22 tabs open. Six are frozen. And you have no idea where the music is coming from.
It’s a daily occurrence for many small business owners, given the responsibility for the majority of tasks involved in running a business falls on your shoulders. The day’s to-do list slips into the small hours and weekends morph into workdays, making business owners more susceptible to stress, anxiety and even depression.
Sound familiar? If so, we hear you. And you’re not alone.
Author and psychologist Merryn Snare shares five things you can do to best manage the daily pressures of small business life.
1. Learn to delegate
The term ‘time poor’ is an understatement for most small business owners. Not only are you the general manager, but you’re also head of accounts, human resources, client and supplier relations, product and food sourcing, administration, front of house and… well… the list goes on, right?
That’s why, if and when it’s financially viable for the business, it’s crucial you learn to delegate.
“There’s a huge complexity to the role of small business owners because very often they are doing everything, or most things, themselves,” says Snare.
“That brings with it a great amount of pressure because customers or clients are wanting things done by yesterday. So when it comes time to prepare bookkeeping, quotes or orders, that takes a huge amount of time out of your day and can be a big burden.”
It’s a classic case of working ‘in’ the business rather than ‘on’ the business. But it can be resolved by delegating or outsourcing some of the more administrative-type tasks, so you can focus on what you do best, growing a thriving business.
2. Set realistic timeframes
It’s common to say yes to any and every offer of work that comes your way to establish your business. It’s understandable, but setting realistic timeframes is a crucial component of these conversations.
“You need to be very savvy with your time. That doesn’t mean rejecting work, but rather saying: ‘Yes, I’m happy to do this, but it will be in two weeks’ time’,” says Snare.
“Otherwise, before you know it, you’re working seven days a week and barely seeing your family. That’s when ‘over the shoulder’ stress can emerge, which is stress that builds up without you being aware of it. And then out of the blue, or for no obvious reason, you flip out or lose it.”
That’s because unmanaged stress can lead to anxiety, panic attacks or depression. Balance is key here. Set your timeframes around your non-negotiables and stick to it.
3. Establish a firm payment structure
Late or slow payments, or not being paid altogether, adds a huge amount of financial pressure to the lives of small business owners.
“That can have a psychological impact too,” says Snare. “You end up second-guessing your worth and asking: ‘Was my work good enough?’”
Yes, it was. If you’ve supplied a product or service and met all expectations, you deserve to be paid on time. One way to enforce this is by adding a levy to the invoice for late payments.
It’s also an ideal opportunity to delegate this side of the business to a professional bookkeeper, so they can regularly keep track of outstanding invoices, issue reminders and warnings.
4. Move and nourish your body
Regular exercise, eating well and getting enough sleep are all crucial to maintaining sound mental health and wellbeing. But finding the time to fit a walk, run or swim into your busy schedule can be tough, let alone preparing nutritious meals and sleeping soundly for eight hours a night.
But, if you want to be your best, at work and at home, you need to carve out time to support your mind, body and soul. Do simple things like take the stairs instead of the lift, cycle to work and consider ordering some pre-prepared healthy meal delivery boxes.
“It’s all about monitoring what I call the natural MEDS: your mood, exercise, diet and sleep. Exercise in particular is such a good way to establish mind-body balance, enabling you to truly switch off from work and focus on something different,” says Snare.
“If you spot any changes to these ‘natural MEDS’, in either yourself or someone close to you, it’s a key sign that stress levels are building and it’s time to take action. Reach out to a family member or friend, go see your GP, and look closely at the business to consider what you might be able to delegate.”
5. Book out time for family and friends
Speaking of making time for yourself, that goes for socialising with family and friends too.
“We know that socialisation is really, really important in the mental health space. It’s increasingly coming out in research that a lack of socialisation and loneliness has a more profound effect on people’s wellbeing than many of the traditional risk factors,” says Snare.
“Family time is really, really crucial, particularly making those connections with your children.”
It’s easy for people who are trying to get ahead to slowly start prioritising work and growing a business over these connections. But we need to step back and understand just how important family and social connections are to our mental and emotional wellbeing.
So, go for a walk, catch a movie, delegate wherever possible and remember, the more you nourish yourself, the more your business will likely thrive.
5 growth insights from small business podcasts
Podcasts designed specifically for small business owners are treasure troves of advice, tips and insights. Here are five of the top highlights.
Infographic: How businesses are planning for 2024
The sentiment of small business owners right now, and the techniques some are adopting to foster growth as we enter the new year.