Running your own business is one of the most satisfying and rewarding things anybody can do but it is not without its pitfalls. The biggest issue many of us face as entrepreneurs is stress.
In our line of work, we come across a lot of stressed people. Dealing with numbers, financial and legal compliance and government bodies are naturally very stressful. So, for many of our clients, we are the biggest stress reliever they have, as they know can rely on us to answer that complex question quickly, deal with the tricky compliance issue on their behalf or just take over and manage the full accounting function for them.
But dealing with the taxman isn’t the only source of stress. Stress is endemic in modern society and it certainly seems that we are living busier lives with higher expectations than ever before. Digital communication means we’re bombarded with emails, notifications and texts, social media means we’re constantly seeing eye-catching visual content and psychologically triggering lifestyle messages and advertising and entertainment is constantly telling us how and even WHY to live our lives.
At Cloud360, our clients know that we do more than ‘keep the books.’ As part of our onboarding with new clients, we help them plan and set goals for their personal and professional future. This goes to the core of what we do here because while we offer accounting services what we actually offer is ‘focus.’
We deal with your accounts, so you can focus on your business.
Over the years, we’ve learned from our own experience of stress, as well as reading about ways of managing it and we want to share a number of simple but effective ways of changing your toxic relationship with stress.
1. Change the language
NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) is an approach to behaviour modification that stems from its founder’s theories on neuro-linguistics. NLP teaches us that words frame thought, and thoughts cause behaviour.
So to tackle the negative aspects of stress we should reframe our thoughts around it by avoiding the word ‘stress’ itself. Stress has become such a well-recognised point of negativity in our culture that just saying to yourself “I’m stressed” increases those feelings further. Stress is such a monolithic concept that it gives away control to the feeling rather than seeing it as it is, an emotional reaction to an external force.
Rather than saying ‘I’m stressed,’ try saying “I am feeling overwhelmed.’
This takes control of the concept and demotes its importance to a feeling, rather than something which literally defines you!
Feeling overwhelmed is psychologically a shorter-term affair than ‘being stressed,’ it is something that can be controlled and overcome with help and with the passing of time.
The same goes for other ‘catastrophising language’ we often hear, such as “I’m struggling” or “I’m drowning.”
Change the language to change your outlook.
2. Change your reaction
When feelings of overwhelm surface, you have to change your reaction to them.
The first reaction to master is acceptance. Stressful things will happen in running a small business. A colleague might make an error in forecasting your profits for the quarter, an email with an important performance report will mysteriously bounce and miss a deadline or you’ll get stuck in traffic and be late for a meeting.
Mistakes happen, human error is natural and God acts in mysterious ways. We can’t control everything, so just accept that they will happen and roll with the punches. This shift in mindset can take the power out of those moments when they do occur.
Secondly, change what you can when you can.
You’re not in control of everything but when something happens that perhaps could be improved it’s important to take the time to understand how that stressful event could be avoided and change what you can to stop it from happening again.
Does the mistake show a training requirement for a team member, does there need to be an extra peer-review step in the process to pick up on common errors or could we change the language or presentation of what we’re sending out to fix misunderstandings?
Finally, if the problem is naturally occurring or impossible to correct within current resources, we can choose to leave it. Don’t dwell on the mistakes of the past. Learn what you can and move on.
3. Tame your distractions
A big part of feeling overwhelmed is dealing with the massive amount of incoming sensory and psychological input coming our way every day.
All we can do is retain focus by reducing the number of inputs we are receiving so we can better manage those we have to.
There are a number of excellent methods for doing this and if this is symptomatic of your own sense of overwhelm we highly recommend the book Hyperfocus by Chris Beattie.
One of the ways Beattie suggests to reduce the noise is by turning off notifications (or turning off your phone), limiting your time on certain websites, apps that cause distraction and sharing or delegating tasks that are taking you away from dealing with the “one thing” you need to do that day.
4. Get on it, not in it.
As a business owner, you’ll naturally find yourself dealing with the day to day running of your business. For many of us, this is partly why we got into the business we are in. We enjoy what we do, we enjoy the sense of accomplishment we get from doing a good job but if we are to overcome the feeling of being overwhelmed we should shift our focus to working on our business, rather than working in our business.
The concept is usually attributed to Michael E Gerber and his book the E-Myth Revisited. In this book, Gerber posits that it is the job of the business owner to work on systems, processes, people and strategies that will directly improve the business, rather than becoming involved in the day-to-day running of the business itself. The idea is that your team will deal with the work and your job is to continually improve the business to help everyone reach their goals together.
This might seem more relevant for small businesses with staff who can be delegated to but even sole traders can learn something from this.
There are hundreds of tasks that are simple and repetitive, that take us longer than they would an expert or cause us feelings of stress. If you’re a sole trader it is often more cost-effective to spend the time automating what you can or to outsource these tasks to an expert.
Consider the cost of continuing to do this work yourself both in terms of your own time, the lost business you could be spending your time on and the psychological benefits of not having these tasks on your list. Consider additional training for yourself, look into automation tools like Zapier or hire a virtual assistant to do the tasks which regularly cause anxiety or lead to roadblocks in your business.
5. Plan to succeed
It’s vital that you plan and prioritise what you have to achieve that day to make it a success.
In its simplest form, this might be writing a list of everything you need to achieve and ranking it in order of importance. For a more sophisticated version, use the four quadrants from the classic book on overcoming problems in your professional and personal life, Stephen R Covey’s ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People.’
The four quadrants are:
As a business owner, you should be focusing your time on the Important Not Urgent area of the quadrant but too often we get bogged down in the Urgent Not Important and critically miss the Urgent and Important quadrant. This is commonly referred to as ‘firefighting’ (there’s that catastrophising language again!) and is intrinsically stressful.
Dealing with important things when they are not urgent means few will ever enter the ‘important+urgent’ quadrant and delegating or outsourcing not important+not urgent tasks will clear up your workload quickly.
6. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
This mantra is closely related to the idea of acceptance and tells us ‘don’t worry about the small things and in business, everything is small.’
It may not feel like it but in business, it is rarely a matter of life and death. At times you may lose money, you may get negative feedback online or a team member might leave your business. All of these things might seem catastrophic but in reality, they are manageable, temporary and often present other opportunities if we have the wisdom to see them.
This change in perspective can change everything. The motivational speaker Tony Robbins asserts that your inner beliefs, your actions and your outcomes are all linked in an unbreakable cycle.
However, while unbreakable, it is not unchangeable. By changing our beliefs about something, we immediately change our thoughts and the potential around it. When our thoughts change, our actions can change and can produce different results and of course, a different set of results will feedback into our beliefs.
We commonly see this in the cycle of binge dieting and failed fitness regimes that many of us get caught up in. Society tells us that we are too fat or too skinny or too weak or unfit and we often internalise those messages and believe them. Many of us are scared of being seen to fail so we start off on a new fitness regime with the idea of “I’m going to try this for a short time” because in the past it hasn’t worked. We are far more likely to fail with this mindset and so we will never change the outcome.
However, if we just get started, in whatever small way we can, then we can create a new positive feedback loop.
Yes, you can make the time to get to the gym by getting to bed a little earlier each night and getting up earlier the next day. The sense of achievement of overcoming that previously held belief might be enough to continue this action and turn it into a consistent habit which will eventually produce positive results and reinforce the positive belief that exercise is possible and even enjoyable.
In essence, all of the above tips come down to two main things. Changing how you feel about the things which cause stress and creating better focus in managing your workload or life.
We can’t say we have totally mastered this ourselves but we are continually striving to improve and make positive changes.
Hopefully, you’ve found this blog useful. We highly recommend reading any of the books mentioned here and if you’d like to know more please follow us on Facebook or LinkedIn as we regularly discuss mindset, tools and systems for improving your business.
The number one way we can help your business is by dealing with your accounting function, so often the biggest source of stress for business owners like you.
Why not get in touch with us today to book a no-obligation, introductory phone consultation? Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 028 7135 9028