STRESS Management 

by Joanne Mansell, Kaizen Coaching.

 STRESS - even the word causes an increase in blood pressure and heart rate for most of us. Closely followed by a "list" of things to do or a flood of images of piles of work and feelings of guilt about what hasn’t been done.

Sound familiar? Well, put your feet up and relax for a few moments. This article will cover causes of stress and both long and short term solutions.

CAUSES OF STRESS.

Medical practitioners tend to rate stress by "life change factors", and pay less regard to ongoing stresses small and home based business people have to deal with, often "a whole bunch of ‘little’ things at once". While life transitions like moving house, births, deaths (divorces) and marriages are stressful they can be dealt with in a more formal, standard and structured way. Our support networks like family and friends are more accustomed to assisting with these one-off issues. The small business stresses tend to require underlying changes in systems, behaviours, focus, attention and habits. Our support networks can at least listen. A life coach can be of assistance with both life and "business" or ongoing stress, with a combination of strategies, resources, information, systems, experience and an impartial perspective.

If you are seriously and health-threateningly stressed the first thing to do is create some breathing room. Consider insurance for your income protection and business, so you can have some time off if it becomes necessary.

Small and home business specific stresses.

People running small businesses, especially from home, do have additional stresses than "corporate" stress. We still have people not delivering on time or to quality, not returning phone calls, changing specifications/deadlines, etc. and we have to deal with:

  • Conflicting priorities (particularly between working on and in the business)
  • Legal responsibilities we "have" to do (GST/BAS) to be in business
  • Frustration of having less time to for the technical work
  • Running the house – washing, cooking, shopping and often a family as well.
  • Isolation of working alone. Less people to "bounce ideas off" to listen to problems or share your success.
  • Interruptions of family as well as telephones and meetings.
  • Overwhelm, from having deadlines for a number of roles – technician, marketing person, office admin, book-keeper/BAS accountant, strategic direction ….. and so on.
  • Feeling trapped (no sick or holiday leave) "If I don’t work, I don’t eat."

 

 

HANDLING STRESS – You and your business.

Consider the picture to the left – it represents YOU as the

inner triangle and your business as the outer triangle. You are not

less or smaller than your business - your identity and self image should not depend on the business; rather the business should be an expression of you, your talents, ideas and values.

The diagram aims to illustrate 3 points, discussed in detail below:

  1. You (smaller triangle) are the core of your business.
  2. A triangle, therefore you and your business, should have a strong foundation.
  3. The outside environment affects the business which in turn puts pressure on us.

 

 

YES, BUT WHAT SHOULD I DO ?!?!

Strategies and Solutions relate to the triangle model.

YOU ARE THE CORE AND HEART OF YOUR BUSINESS.

For many working from home you ARE your business - you can improve or develop your business by improving and developing yourself. This blurs the line between business and personal coaching. Similarly, reducing YOUR stress will reduce the stress of the business and impact on results like quality, service, delivery and commitments, and coping with the unexpected opportunities and threats that the environment throws at us.

Guiding principle: Your fitness and wellbeing come first. If your health breaks down you wont have time or energy to give to your business. Invest in yourself.

  • Food – eat well and often (6 small meals a day without grazing in between). Seek specialist advice if you are uncertain, particularly if you have medical problems. General principles are to avoid high sugar "fixes", eat more fresh fruit and vegetables, drink plenty of water and as much as possible avoid "addictions" like caffeine and nicotine.
  • Get plenty of sleep. Stress can be a cause of insomnia, so hang in there – as you work on these strategies you will start to sleep better.
  • Exercise – start off gently if it has been awhile. See your doctor first.
  • Breathe – take deep breaths often, especially when you are feeling stressed. Tense people breathe shallowly and quickly which inhibits oxygen flow to the brain and increases stress.
  • Do some stress-busters. In case you have forgotten how, these are things like taking a walk, relax in the bath, treat yourself to a massage, play with your kids or pets, spend some quality time with your spouse, meditate, or get some exercise. Be a teapot and let off some steam (just not in front of clients!).
  • Change (or create) some habits! What habits aren’t supporting you? It could be the time you get to bed, or get up, eating patterns, scheduling "you" time, choosing which things you respond to and how….
  • Create a routine and schedule time for all of the roles in your business, and time for you. You know you have time allocated for each task in it’s turn, and are more likely to keep to deadlines knowing your time is fixed. You then choose how and when to respond to changes rather than reacting immediately. As a minimum standardise your start (and finish) times, and if possible are available for interruptions or questions.
  • Seek information, education and advice. What do you need to learn more about or need help with?
  • Broaden your support network: Hire a coach, talk to your family and friends. Join a support group like SWAP (Salespeople with a purpose) and mix with others in your industry.

BUILD A STRONG SUPPORT AND FOUNDATION

Guiding principle: a strong base or foundation will allow you to grow taller, and give you more stability against changes in the environment or it will be harder for you to be knocked "off balance". Consider that building the foundation takes time. As an example, think of a total fire ban as protection against bush fires. It gives awareness that the environment has high potential for a fire. Short term things you can do is not light fires, but long term actions are things like clearing combustible materials away from your house and clearing out the gutters.

SHORT TERM strategies. I believe time and money are inter-related. Stress about not having them seems to cause more stress. These simple tips are a great starting point:

  • Save your time by delegating/outsourcing – hire someone to do the books, banking, or house chores like washing and cleaning.
  • Focus on one thing at a time, even if only for an hour while the answering machine gets incoming calls.- Do you allocate time based on business needs, or fall for temptations to win more business at the expense of keeping the existing customers ecstatically happy?
  • Share and celebrate your successes. Focusing on success carries momentum into your next task or project and gives you something to draw you towards finishing.
  • Just start it! Making any start makes the tasks seem more manageable, which reduces stress.
  • "Begin with the end in mind" this motivates you because you can see an end to the task, but it also provides a better quality of product as well as a product that may be usable with other clients and customers with minimum reworking.
  • Plan (or budget) time for ALL of your roles. Time to work "on" the business (marketing, systems, legal/tax/government obligations) as well as "in" the business (dealing with customers and commitments) "doing the job".
  • Do you really lack time? Or do you lack clarity on values and priorities, or focus.
  • Simplify decision making. Save time and avoid "information paralysis". Decide quickly and objectively, based upon YOUR values and business direction – you will be less side tracked by distractions. Do you value time with your family more than financial success,? Where does your health fit in?
  • Prioritise based on internal and external deadlines and the time required for tasks. A trap is to prioritise by tasks we enjoy or are confident we are good at, or to make the current "crisis" the top priority. Be sure to include deadlines for all of the roles you are responsible for, and fit in tasks which are stepping stones to your goals. (If you haven’t set goals make this a top priority!)
  • Question your stress. We create a lot of our stress artificially. Separate you from the results; your identity from the behaviour or outcome. A client rejects your product or proposal not you. Focus on the positives of what you have done and what you will achieve. Place your attention on events and activities within your control or influence.
  • Budget your money. Under-estimate income (especially seasonlly) and over-estimate expenses. Be sure to allow for day to day running costs and large expenses (insurance, licences and fees) and one off expenses like trade marks and contracts. Avoid the temptation to spend what you have.
  • Create a supportive environment. Physically by having ergonomic desk/computer setup, natural light, space and fresh air. Emotionally by having a time routine and clear priorities as well as a clutter free office.

MEDIUM and LONG TERM strategies – what can you do to minimise the impact of the unexpected things from the environment.

  • (Medium term) invest time to develop and implement supporting systems. Color coded filing systems mean you spend less time looking for resources when it counts. Have set routines to support the business which give it room to expand. Start now with batching banking, invoicing and chasing debtors.
  • Pre-empt surprises in the market. What are the competition doing? What are market trends? What opportunities exist and how can you make the most of them?
  • Be legal. Are you sure you are complying with ALL the permits you need? Do you have council permission to work from home? What requirements does the Department of Fair Trading have for your industry or job role? Is your intellectual property protected? Do you have trade marks in ALL your classes? (Business name registration is not enough).
  • Insurance – at the very least you need professional indemnity and public liability. Investigate life insurance, business income protection and intellectual property.
  • Backup your computers and hard copies of your work, artwork, tax documents and anything else that is difficult to replace.
  • Have a clear vision and strategies for your business. How big to you want it to be and by when? How will you get there?
  • Write a business plan and keep it up to date. Banks need business plans to consider loans or leases, but a business plan is also useful to keep you on track.

DEALING WITH THE ENVIRONMENT.

The environment which affects our business affects us. This may be in the form of opportunities which can include client proposals or interest, changing or expanding product lines or dealerships – which suddenly mean we have more work to do or changes to deal with. Threats and changes in the environment can be external pressures and demands like the introduction of GST or changes in the market such as a new competitor or the end of a monopoly. These environmental factors affect our business and often we need to devote time, energy and resources in response.

Once you have a strong foundation and take care of yourself (and your business), it is easier to deal with the changes in the environment. That is you are less likely to "react" and are more likely to have time and financial resources to make use of opportunities.

If you found this article useful, please consider life coaching with Kaizen Coaching.

About the author:

Joanne Mansell is the head coach for Kaizen Coaching, based in Sydney. Primarily in life and business coaching she promotes "Mind, Body and Life Fitness" through telephone and face to face coaching. For more information, or a free half hour coaching session call 0416 181 654 (be sure to quote "working from home magazine") or visit www.kaizencoaching.com.au

 

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