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For Entrepreneurs, Taking Care Of Business Means Taking Care Of Yourself


Mike McMullen is the CEO of Prominence Homes and the author of Build. Rent. Sell. Repeat! 

Many people want to be their own boss, but few people understand the stress of self-employment like the self-employed.

Entrepreneurship often means starting from nothing, building something in the void and then selling that something to other people for money. In my experience, the whole process feels a bit like setting sail aboard a pile of scrap and hoping that by the time you reach port, you’ll have a boat. 

It can be well worth the sacrifice, but it definitely comes with its share of sleepless nights and coffee-fueled mornings. For this reason, entrepreneurs need to be proactive about combating stress in their lives.

If you are an entrepreneur, consider taking the following steps that have worked for me.

Streamline Your To-Do List

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Start off by getting your thoughts in order. You’ve probably got a lot going on, and your brain can’t close tabs until you know what you still need to do. Make a to-do list, but do it right.

According to Dr. Linda Walker in a video for the CADDAC Centre for ADHD Awareness, most people misunderstand the purpose of a to-do list. A to-do list is not a comprehensive catalog of all the things you haven’t completed in life; it is an actionable tool.

If your to-do list stresses you out, chances are it isn’t fulfilling its purpose. Don’t sit in stasis — cull the list. 

Some entrepreneurs prefer to limit themselves to three items a day. Others use a system called the 1-3-5 rule. Whatever method you choose, be sure to make your to-do list work for you, not the other way around.

Eschew A Packed Schedule

Another big cause of stress for entrepreneurs is a packed itinerary. Overbooking your schedule can lead to meeting fatigue, social exhaustion and cuts in productivity.

More urgently, giving your day over to others takes you out of the driver’s seat. This is bad news. Your ability to grow your business depends on elasticity — how you recover and roll with the punches. To be elastic, you need to have a firm hand on the reins of your day.

Instead of filling every spare minute with meetings and engagements, limit your availability to an hour or two each day. If someone can’t meet within the scheduled time, postpone until later.

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Obviously, you’ll have to break this rule every now and again, but then, that’s good. (Elasticity, remember?) The goal is to reclaim your day — make your own time your primary focus, and meetings with others secondary.

You’ll likely be surprised by the uptick in productivity.  

Take Time Off

You need to take time off. As a budding entrepreneur, you may find this advice to be the hardest to follow. You likely believe the inverse to be true — that if you just “get on top of your projects” your stress levels will decrease.

The problem with this line of thinking is that the work never ends. You aren’t a teacher, a surgeon or a lawyer. You aren’t in a profession that hands you a caseload from on high. You are a business owner, and as such, you create your own work. There is no end to the amount of work that you can do.

Don’t burn yourself out chasing a receding horizon; take consistent time off. Work smarter, not harder. Rest each week. Sleep. The crises and opportunities will still be there when you wake up.

Build Strong Boundaries

This is perhaps the most important thing of all: As an entrepreneur, you need to build strong boundaries.

This might seem cold and callous, but your employees and co-workers can drain your time and energy. Remember that the way you treat other people is the way they will expect to be treated. If you always answer emails in 15 minutes or less, people will come to expect that kind of response.

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Consider waiting 24 hours before responding to emails. It might seem counterproductive, but often it gives other people a chance to step up and take on some of the labor.

Also, if you are the kind of person who has trouble saying no to new projects and responsibilities, practice the following statement: “That sounds like an awesome idea! I’ll need to take a day and think about committing to it.” 

Remember that when you say yes to something, you inadvertently say no to something else.

Treat Yourself

Finally, make sure to treat yourself. You are self-employed, after all, and as such, you’ll be self-rewarded. Mark your successes with ample rewards. Doing so is a surefire way to cement success in your mind, focus on the positive aspects of your career and propel yourself forward to more success in the future. 

Remember, rewards can scale to match your means. Whatever your level of success, I recommend giving yourself and those under you material rewards. 

Whatever you do, make sure to deal with your stress. Keeping your nose perpetually to the grindstone might seem like a good idea at the moment, but other areas of your life may suffer. In the end, the thing your business needs above all else is for you to be clear-headed and ready for action — and for that to be possible, you must take care of your most important asset: yourself.


Forbes Business Council is the foremost growth and networking organization for business owners and leaders. Do I qualify?


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