Considering that entrepreneurs are in the midst of a mental health crisis, it’s unhealthy to idolize those who are only known for their businesses. To be clear, I’m not talking about aligning a personal brand with a company — think Richard Branson and Virgin. I’m talking about the founders whose entire existence is their business, like Elon Musk. Entrepreneurs spend hours, and some have lost their identity. In short, ask yourself if you run your business, or does your business run you?
How can you tell if you’re in the situation of being run by your company? Well, just take a minute and check-in with yourself. Are you stressed, anxious, and burnt to a crisp? How’s your physical health? Do you even have a life outside of work?
Other warning signs, according to Lewis Howes in a previous Entrepreneur article, would be:
- You’re no longer celebrating short-term wins.
- You’re connecting more with others online instead of real life.
- You are more focused on tomorrow than today.
- You start feeling more disconnected from other people’s emotions.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. That’s just the price to pay when starting a business. There is some truth to that. But, that doesn’t mean that you should be at beck and call. Instead, you need to strike a balance so that you can successfully run your business and not the other way around.
Prioritize your time.
Will time management prevent your business from completely invading your life? Not exactly. But, will you master the art of time management, it can help you accomplish more in less time. Many entrepreneurs today don’t understand that if you prioritize and manage your time — you won’t get burned out as quickly. As a result, you’ll have more free time to do things that don’t involve your business.
How you decide to prioritize your time is up to you. After all, what strategies may work for me may cause you to be less productive. But, here are some options that you should consider trying out:
- Set goals and follow through with them. Personally, SMART goals are the way to go.
- Create a master list. Add your goals and everything else that you need to get done into one hulking list.
- Trim your list down. Go through your master list. What is important and urgent are the only things you should focus on. Everything else can be scheduled for later, delegated, or removed.
- Workaround energy levels. Track your time and find out when you’re most productive. Then schedule your most challenging or important tasks when you’re at peak productivity. As for your lulls, that’s when you should take a break or work on something that requires less energy.
- Create theme days. As opposed to switching hats and tasks back and forth all day — establish theme days. For example, reserve Mondays for marketing, Tuesdays are when you’re in meetings, and dedicate Wednesdays to improving processes.
Work only with people you trust.
When choosing co-founders and team members, you certainly want to look for people who aren’t just talented, but who can also remove some of those hats you’ve been wearing. For example, when starting out, one of your responsibilities would be administrative tasks. As your business grows, administrative tasks can be handed over to your partner or virtual assistant so that you can focus on improving your product or service.
When you surround yourself with people you trust, you’re less likely to micromanage or worry about them. They’ve proven that they’re reliable and will always come through for you.
Best of all, you can rest assured that your baby is in good hands when you’re not available. That means that if you’re on a vacation, business trip, or just relaxing after work, others can pick up the reins in your absence.
I like what Angelica Ventrice (CEO of Fit for Life) says, “Go for progress over perfection.” It’s easier to progress if you are working with people you trust.
Put your business on autopilot.
There are a couple of ways to put your business on autopilot. The first is working to grow a company that can function without you.
It’s possible to be on autopilot when you surround yourself with the right people. Do you surround yourself with a team that knows exactly what to do, whether you’re there or not? Will your team dive into work, whether you are there or not? One key is to communicate your expectations and document your processes. Clear expectations and information to back up the work is an effective way to see what’s working and what needs to be improved.
The second part of this is embracing automation. When you were documenting your processes, were there any recurring and tedious tasks? If so, you may be able to stop doing these manually and using productivity software to do this for you.
Don’t be an “opportunity junkie.”
Entrepreneur Dorcas Cheng-Tozun writes in Foundr Magazine, that many entrepreneurs are seen as “opportunity junkies. They are driven by the fear of missing out and, as a result, feel the need to pursue every possibility that comes their way, no matter the risk or cost.” Eventually, “they become addicted to the chase itself rather than rationally evaluating each opportunity as it comes. All their time and energy is taken up with racing after potential breaks.”
“Saying no to business opportunities gives you the chance to practice exercising power over your startup, rather than having it be the other way around,” adds Dorcas. “It also creates space in your life to focus on the highest potential work opportunities and to pursue personal priorities outside of the company.”
I loved the article on Entrepreneur.com by Mohammad Ali Vakil, where he gives the reasons why saying “no” is the new “yes” for entrepreneurs. Vakil uses a clever title and gives good advice.
If you’re uncertain about which opportunities to pursue, work with a mentor or coach, and seek feedback from those who trust most. You will rarely go wrong when you listen to your gut and align the opportunity with your priorities.
Address your mindset.
“The difference between you running your business and your business running, you might be the boundaries you set for yourself,” writes Jodie Cook over at Forbes. Are you leaving work at a reasonable time? Do you unplug when you’re working? Are you enjoying your downtime?
“Remind yourself that you have chosen to run a business. No one forced you to do it,” adds Jodie. “If you’re running a successful and growing company with happy clients and a dream team of colleagues, but you still feel like your business runs your life, the problem might exist solely in your mind.”
“Develop other interests, give yourself space, and don’t be so hard on yourself,” suggests Jodie. “If you’re actually in a cushy situation, but you’re telling yourself it’s a chore, recognize that you could, instead, choose to chill out and be grateful.”
I do this through daily reflection, journaling, and committing to having a life outside of work. The most effective way to do this, for me at least, is to use my calendar and schedule downtime. Just like any work priority, I block out chunks of time for non-work activities like spending time with my family, reading, or picking up a new hobby.
Also, make sure that you fuse balance into your week. “If you spend Saturday morning responding to emails, spend Wednesday afternoon taking a walk,” suggests Jodie.
“The reason you started a business in the first place was to operate on your own terms, right?” asks Jodie. “So don’t take the worst parts of self-employment without allowing yourself the perks. Businesses that run like clockwork without the owner being frazzled do exist, and yours can be one of them.”
When working on your mindset, study the actions, behaviors, and advice from people whom you admire as being mentally strong. Here is “12 Things Mentally Strong People Do That Nobody Else Does.” Start small — do like Ben Franklin did and work on one habit every month — for the whole month. You can’t do everything, but becoming mentally strong is worth the struggle.
Editor-in-Chief at Calendar. Former Editor-in-Chief and writer at Startup Grind. Freelance editor at Entrepreneur.com. Deanna loves to help build startups, and guide them to discover the business value of their online content and social media marketing.