Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Preserving sanity as a small business owner

Picture from my ribbon cutting in August, 2013!
Don't leave for later things that take less than one minute to complete. Our brains are too full of to-dos to let them become cluttered with tiny tasks.

Take staycations. You may not be able to afford your dream vacation while pouring your resources into the beginnings of your small business, but you still deserve a break. I have been taking staycations with two other small business owners once a quarter and have really benefited from this time to relax and recharge. 

Be kind to yourself. The last thing you need is to feed any feelings of self doubt. Remember that we are only human, not super heroes!  It takes guts to start a small business and guts to keep going. You have a really different stress level than those working a reliable 9-5 job with benefits and a consistent pay check.

Ask for some advice, but don't take all of it. You're not the first small business owner. It is likely that there is a lot to be garnered from other folks in business. But, don't follow advice that isn't supporting your vision. Friends and family mean well, but don't necessarily know what is best for you.

Say no. You can't do everything and you shouldn't want to. Don't let yourself get spread too thinly. Just because something helps pay the bills doesn't mean that it is the right fit for your business; keep your work opportunities focused on what your business really is.

Make decisions. The more you struggle with decisions and have "analysis by paralysis", the less you're getting done and moving forward. Everyone makes mistakes, but don't let fear paralyze your progress.  You have a good gut: trust it and keep marching forward.

Contribute to your retirement. While it is my hope that you are developing your best job ever, you probably don't want to keep doing it until you are 90. Even if it is just a tiny amount, every penny you add to a retirement account is growing in interest as well as lowering your tax liability come April 15th. I love my account with Capital One 360; each week  money moves automatically from my everyday checking account to the online savings account and then once in a while I chuck it into my Roth IRA. Easy breezy!

Simplify. There is so much to do to support, manage and grow your business that it can seem like you're doing everything except for what you set out to do. Whenever there is the opportunity to simplify - jump on it! One resource that is helpful for me is Freshbooks; I use it to automatically track and categorize business expenses (it is linked to my business bank account) as well as send and receive payments on invoices. At the end of the year, it is simple to print out the reports my tax lady needs.

Count your blessings. Every once in a while, write down the things you are grateful for and what is awesome about your life as a small business owner.

Close the office at the end of the day. There may not be physical distance between your home life and your work life, so embrace whatever distance you can to help your brain turn off when the day is done. Turn off the computer, shut the door to the office if you have one and congratulate yourself on another day completed as a small business owner. If your brain is busy with the endless to-dos, take a minute to write them down so you don't forget, but wait to tackle them until the next day. Small business ownership can be 24/7 if you let it, but you'll run yourself ragged if you do.

Network and brainstorm. Each week I meet with two other local small business owners over cocktails. We discuss what has gone well with each of our businesses and set goals for the next week. If anyone hasn't completed their goals from the previous week, they are responsible for the tab.

Remember that it is going to be hard. Striking out on your own is not for the faint of heart. Having times when everything happens at once and is overwhelming is normal - it has no reflection on you as a person or your skills as a leader and entrepreneur. Chin up, call a friend and get crackin' on your to-do list.
What are your best tips for maintaining sanity? I'd love to hear them :)

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