Most people I know are stressed. Even if they're not actually doing much, they're stressed about their inactivity and their lack of direction. The problem with stress is that, usually, it's the thing that's stopping you from moving forward. It stops you from seeing clearly, from making rational decisions, from having ideas and more importantly, from enjoying what you're doing. It's like building a huge brick wall in the middle of your head.
In business, stress is often expected. People are confused if you're not stressed, so you end up making yourself stressed as a way of reassuring yourself that you're actually doing something, that you're important and constantly busy. The real skill though is in defeating that temptation, in keeping your cool when everyone else is screaming.
TalentSmart conducted a survey with more than a million people, and found that 90% of top performers are skilled at managing their emotions in times of stress in order to remain calm and in control. Besides from dangerously increasing your risk of heart disease, depression and obesity, stress does damage to your cognitive performance and productivity. In other words, you're more likely to be successful if you're stress free.
In the modern world of connectivity, that might seem impossible. But it doesn't have to be. First and foremost, it's a frame of mind. Thinking positive thoughts is one of the most effective ways of dissolving stress. Remind yourself of what you've achieved and overcome in the past. There's no point in tackling a problem with negativity because all you'll see are the potential failures. It often helps if you physically remove yourself from the problematic environment and focus your attention on something completely different like surfing, running, playing with your kids, anything that gives your mind space to breathe.
Schedule in your time off. It might seem unnecessary, but it gives you something to look forward to in your day and means that you'll actually take it. My days are divided into 30 minute slots with intermittent breaks to help me disconnect and view my downtime with the same importance as work. Some of my best ideas have come to me when I'm wandering along the beach.
Organisation is also key. It stops your head from getting tangled and your office from descending into chaos. The problem is, of course, that organising takes time. It's the reason I believe a personal assistant should be the first hire for any entrepreneur. Hiring a PA, even if they're just part-time, is like extending your own capabilities. They take care of the administration side of things whilst you concentrate on growing your business, making partnerships and other exciting things. It's also a good way to learn prioritisation, as you need to work out what to delegate to your PA and what to focus your own time on. I use a scale of one to three (one being the top priority). It helps me to keep sight of what I'm trying to achieve and to work productively.
It's also important to make use of your network when you're struggling. There will be a point, no matter how successful you end up being, when you need someone's advice or opinion. It took me until now to realise the benefit of joining business networks, like the Entrepreneur's Organisation through which you can meet like minded people. It's an entrepreneur's curse to believe that you can do everything by yourself, but to be truly productive, you need to be able to recognise your weaknesses and ask for help when you need it. Discussing problems with a mentor, friend or business partner, provides an outlet for anxiety and supplies you with new perspectives. I've recently brought in a business partner for my company for AVirtual for exactly that reason. My strengths are in motivation and sales, but I needed help with analytics; together we make an excellent team.
By Richard Walton, Founder AVirtual, a company that supplies high quality virtual PAs to busy people in the UK.