At a recent lunch, a friend and fellow entrepreneur shared with me she is overwhelmed and feels like she is burning out. The anxious feelings she described felt familiar. The heart racing… sleeping too little… feeling like she was shutting down. I have recently felt the same and it’s not the first time. But this time I recognized the red flags early. The demands in my life from being a mom, an entrepreneur, my public speaking, and two books in the works had all started to overwhelm me. With my last company, I brought in an executive coach to help me when I realized my family was bearing a lot of the ramifications of the stress I was under. When I showed him my TO DO list which by then was two and half pages long, I couldn’t see my way out and was at a loss about how to get control. I was paralyzed.
This is as bad as it gets and this couldn’t be further from the life we envision for ourselves as successful business owners. I learned invaluable lessons and this time around I’ve committed to staying “aware” and doing everything I can to not lose sight of what’s really important.
A growing company is a good thing, but with growth comes more challenges and responsibilities. So recently when I felt the anxiety, I recognized I had to get more systems, techniques and people in place right away so I could maintain balance, stay healthy and keep a quality life for me and my children.
Here are 7 steps I’ve taken over the last couple of months:
1. Exercise: I make sure I get in at least 20 – 30 minutes of cardio at least 4 times a week. Weekends I go for longer time periods. These are regular appointments in my calendar which I try my very best to keep. This is paramount because it’s the single best stress reliever for me. Besides that I don’t have time to get sick, I know that if I don’t take care of myself I can’t take care of anyone else or my business.
2. Meditation: I meditate every day usually sometime between 4am and 5am. I focus on affirmations and big picture thinking, as in what do I envision for my life and my business. Besides being a proven-stress reducer, this is valuable thinking time which keeps me focused and grounded. It’s also my most creative time and I often come up with ideas for my business during this contemplative time.
3. Create a vision, mission and purpose statement and set up a quarterly appointment to review and revise: I start with the end in mind. What is my purpose, my mission and what do I want to achieve in my life and businesses? When we’re clear about that, not only do we start making decisions moving us towards our plan, it also makes decision-making easier. For example, my team and I only spend our time on projects and tasks that support the vision, mission and purpose. I say “yes” only to requests for my time or opportunities that support the vision, mission and purpose. Everything else becomes “no”, “maybe” or “someday”. It also means, I spend resources, money and time on everything I can that supports the vision, mission and purpose.
4. Say “no”. We often make decisions based on not wanting to hurt or damage a relationship. So we say “yes” or commit to people, projects or tasks that we really should say “no” to because we’re concerned about the relationship. And we can spend a lot of precious mental energy stewing about the decision we need to make. I’ve learned success does not come easily to entrepreneurs who constantly say “yes”. Set boundaries and stick with them. “No” can be in the form of “I appreciate it, but that doesn’t work for me.” Or “I’m not able to commit, but let me see who I can recommend to you.”
5. Eliminated TO DO lists: The executive coach taught me to organize based on priorities and location. I’ve since learned it’s based on David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) system. Basically, I use software that allows me to categorize what I need to do by place: At the office, on any computer, anywhere, etc. So in my “ @ office” bucket, I have listed tasks I can only do at the office. So when I’m in the office I focus on those tasks. Yet in my “@ calls” bucket, I list the calls I need to make which I can do from anywhere – waiting for a flight, waiting in the carpool lane, etc. My “@ computer” list has everything I need to do using a computer but it can be my laptop when I’m at a Starbucks, or out-of-town in a hotel. My other lists are “@ any device – smartphone or computer, @ anywhere, @ home, @ errands – when I’m out and about I look at this list and try to maximize my time.
6. Get help. To grow a business, you have to build a team. If you’re starting out, it might be part time, or virtual assistance at first or through a non-profit entity to help business owners, such as SBDC centers. It’s amazing the amount of help you can get through those federally funded Small Business Development Centers with their business consultants. Help might mean shopping online for your groceries and have them delivered because the 1.5+ hours you spend at the store and getting your groceries home could be an amazingly productive 1.5 hours for your business. Find ways to have others do what you need so you can focus on what only you can do. That is key.
7. Use technology: One of the people on my team recently reminded me of the importance of this with communication. As our business is growing and we’re accomplishing other goals, I’ve been receiving a lot more communications. Add social media and now there are eight ways people are communicating with me – office voicemail, cell voicemail, texts, emails, Facebook messages on both my personal and business page, LinkedIn emails and Twitter direct messages! And with social media we become more accessible. And people expect you’ll be responsive to them with their preferred method of communication. But staying on top of all that became difficult and my team brought it to my attention when I didn’t see a couple of important communications. I was also spending a lot of time trying to respond and not on what I need to stay focused on including projects that need my attention. So I’m trying out software that converts voicemail to emails and then those emails are sent to me and one other person on my team. Plus she receives copies of my emails, has access to my social media platforms and responds to many communications that need a response but not necessarily from me. Bringing my team into the communication pipeline has been tremendously helpful.
There are more systems, procedures, and strategies we need to set in place, but small steps early on can lead to powerful results. And… the anxiety has stopped which is good for everyone! My wish for you is to build the life you want for yourself!
Any strategies that have worked for you? Please share below.
Michele Ruiz ~ Empowering Entrepreneurs to Empower Themselves!
I’m a former news anchor/reporter turned entrepreneur. I blog about my Life as a Latina entrepreneur which includes being a Mom, a Latina woman in the business world, and an entrepreneur. I share real life, tips, know-how, lessons I’ve learned and insights I think might helpful to you as I launch and build my next company. Hope you’ll join me! You can follow me on my website MicheleRuiz.com, on my Facebook Page , Twitter (@micheleruiz01), LinkedIn,Google+, YouTube vlogs, and Pinterest . Thank you for support! Mil gracias por su apoyo!