Escape The Pressure Cooker: Part 1- Taking Back Control

We accept that every now and again we’ll need to give up our evenings or work at the weekend to grow our business.  But before long we can find ourselves making too many compromises and working harder than we can sustain.

Left unchecked, the company we worked hard to build can quickly become a pressure cooker trapping us inside and cooking us slowly – so slowly that sometimes we don’t even realise it…until it’s too late. 

Are you feeling the heat?

Every once in a while a week from hell will knock you off kilter and every now again the responsibilities of running a your own small business might feel overwhelming. But, if you regularly feel stressed and you recognise any of these traits, then it might be time to take action:  

  • You can’t switch off and relax when you’re away from the business.
  • You feel like you’re running on empty.
  • You feel pessimistic about the future and lack motivation.
  • You feel frustrated or irritable.

Release the pressure
Trust me – You need to find a way to dial this pressure down, before you reach burnout. All too often business owners ignore these signs and find out to their cost the effect stress can have both personally and professionally.

Your best strategy here is to focus on efficiency, and time management, so you can regain control. There are several techniques you can use to organise your operations and get back on track:

  1. Establish your priorities: Unburden your To-Do list and decide what actually needs to be done and when. Try grading each of your tasks by priority and work through your list logically. Don’t be afraid to put a pin in projects that are less urgent; there’s no sense in stretching yourself or your resources more than you need to.
  2. Declutter your diary: If you’ve slipped into bad habits with time keeping and planning then your schedule may need a tidy. Divide your day into time slots of between 30 minutes and 2 hours, and then allocate your appointments, meetings, activities and other commitments and responsibilities their own designated slot in your schedule. Group similar tasks together so you can make the most of your time. 
  3. Simplify tasks: Things like office administration can soon pile up and add to the pressure you’re already under, so streamline these activities. Create a system for regular tasks and aim to automate as much of it as you can. There are some great tools available to help simplify your admin and record keeping, plus many other activities like creating proposals, invoicing, payment collection, and email and social media marketing. If you haven’t already, take a look at Google DocsAdobePayPalMailChimp and Hootsuite.
  4. Refine your range: Too much choice in the products or services you offer can be overwhelming for you and your clients. It gives you more to maintain and makes decision-making harder for them. But if you reduce your offering to a manageable set of options and include a small number of add-ons or extras should more be needed, you can make life significantly easier for yourself and also your customers.
  5. Stop perfecting: It’s understandable to want and need to delight your clients so you can build a good rapport. But rather than always trying to exceed expectations, develop instead some replicable protocols for the delivery of your products or services. This will ensure you maintain a consistent and reliable level of quality and service with each sale, without the stress that striving for perfection each time, brings. 

If you’re feeling strained, take things slowly you don’t want to increase the pressure you are already under. Try tackling one area at a time and break down any action you need to take into smaller steps you can easily accomplish. 

However hard it may be at first; it’s best to persevere so you can enjoy being a business owner again. Plus, if you’re planning to scale further down the line, it’s better to address any problems and inefficiencies now to avoid limiting your growth in the future.  

Moving forwards
Sooner or later you will reach a glass ceiling, it’s inevitable. As your business grows, it will become harder for you to maintain all the activities and responsibilities you have taken on since starting without reintroducing the pressure you’d managed to relieve. So, it’s important you recognise when it’s time to take the next step and start expanding the core capacity of your business (rather than just the efficiency of what you have)…

How do you manage the stress and pressures of running your business? Let me know in the comments below.

Next up: Part 2: ‘Lighten the load’.

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