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
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
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
- Legal responsibilities we "have" to do (GST/BAS) to be in
- Frustration of having less time to for the technical work
- Running the house – washing, cooking, shopping and often a family as
- 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
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:
- You (smaller triangle) are the core of your business.
- A triangle, therefore you and your business, should have a strong
- The outside environment affects the business which in turn puts pressure
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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
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