I'm pretty sure that when Def Leppard wrote the lyrics to, “Love Bites,” he really meant to say “stress.”
At least when you're in love, you get all sorts of feel good chemical effects. When you're stressed, all you get is a hearty dose of cortisol and an unsightly beer gut.
Unfortunately,as entrepreneurs and small business owners, stress sort of comes with the job description.
Position available. Must be willing to work weekends and countless hours of overtime that you won't be compensated for–at least not in the beginning, anyway. Job duties include wearing multiple hats at any given time–some with fruffy bows that look ridiculous–learning how to market and sell yourself effectively, and figuring out the most elegant way to handle getting “scope raped,” which is when your client keeps adding to the project scope without compensating you accordingly, and you have to act like a bad guy with slick backed hair.
Some minor health risks involved, including but not limited to mental insanity and extreme periods of stress, which may be accompanied by a decreased immune system and frequent bouts of phlegmy bronchitis that will not be attractive in the least, and will greatly annoy anyone sitting next to you, especially while on a plane. Unfortunately, you won't have any health insurance, so you'll just have to suffer through it for a year or two until things really take off.
In addition, besides losing your health, it's possible that you'll lose everything else, too, like your home and savings. However, for the right person, this is a very lucrative opportunity which has the potential to deliver a 6 figure salary, flexible time schedule, location independence, increased self-esteem, and the rare opportunity to have a job you actually give a shit about.
If interested, please apply at figureitoutyourself.com, and include a 500 word essay on why you think you have the balls to be successful in this role. Serious inquiries only. We are an equal opportunity employer.
What we do certainly isn't for the faint of heart, that's for sure. And there will be times when you'll want to throw in the towel, because that towel you've been carrying around is getting pretty rank from all of your sweat and tears. And that's to be expected because…running your own business is stressful, mon! And that's mon as in Jamaica mon. Not a typo.
But I've got news for you, babycakes.
You are not alone.
Every single one of your business idols goes through times of stress, self-doubt and worry, too–even when they seem totally at ease. Because pulling it off is part of the job description of an entrepreneur, too. And we tend to be very good at it. We do what it takes. We improvise. We find ways to make the impossible happen. And we don't take no for an answer. Even when we're so exhausted that all we want to do is sleep for seventeen months straight. (Oh stop it–you know exactly what I'm talking about!)
But in order for you to stay on top of your game, and NOT actually go sleep for a month and ruin all of the hard work you've put in so far, you've got to manage those stress levels, yo.
So I've gone ahead and put together the very unofficial Ambirge guide to dealing with overwhelm, which clearly comes with a try-at-your-own-risk disclaimer.
The Ambirge Guide to Dealing With Overwhelm So You Can Avoid Thoughts of Mass Murder (Which Isn't Technically a Guide at All, But More Like a List, Which Is Okay Because I Like Lists)
1. Go rent a hotel room for a night.
Leave your laptop at home. And indulge the **** out of yourself. It doesn't matter if the hotel is only two blocks away. This isn't about being practical–it's about giving yourself some much-needed white space, because until you're in a good place, your business sure as shit isn't going to be. There's just something about treating yourself to a night in a fancy hotel, where you can feel free to roll around in down comforters, have martinis hand-delivered to your door, watch old movies, and be as messy as you damn well please. Hotels are a great way to take a mini-escape. And once you regularly give yourself some time to relax and indulge (massage, anyone?), you'll resent your business–and the stress it's bringing–far less. Which will ultimately make you far more productive. And oily, probably, since you'll be all greased up from that massage. But, that's coo. And by coo, I mean cool. But you knew that.
2. Try making–and enforcing–set business hours for a week or two.
This can be particularly challenging for the small business owner, because being the type of person that pulls it off, as mentioned before, we're also the type of person to burn the midnight oil, which is a stupid phrase that has no context in present day but since it conveys what I mean to say, I'm going to leave it. And while I'm a big believer in getting off your ass and getting it done, taking no absolutely prisoners along the way, it's important to remember that you're human, too. It's okay to have a personal life. In fact, it's more than okay–it's necessary. This isn't about finding balance, because we all know that's bullshit. It's about gunning it when you're able, and giving yourself permission to slow ‘er on down when you need to. So, when you need to, enforce some working hours for a while to make sure that you're getting the downtime that you need, too. Don't forget that the reason you started this was to improve your quality of life–not drastically decrease it. You aren't a martyr. But if you do end up sacrificing your health in the name of getting ahead, and *do* end up dying? Will you please leave me the keys to your car? I could really use one right now as I visit the U.S. Thanks.
3. Tell 'em to just fuck off.
Okay, so don't *really* use those words. But force yourself to say no, thanks. In our world, we're constantly surrounded by opportunity. By requests. By inquiries. By demands on our time. And sometimes, it's really hard to say no. Not only do you not want to disappoint, but you also know that you might potentially be missing out on a good opportunity. And that's where we get caught up, because we want success so bad. And we feel guilty for saying no. But you've got to be brutally discerning, now more than ever, with your time. You've got to prioritize. You are not a factory. You can only do so much. And if you're not meeting your own goals, then you need to stop trying to help others reach theirs–at least temporarily, anyway. I know that sounds selfish, but if you want your biz to thrive, then you need to get on your own ball–and get off everyone else's. HANDS OFF THE BALLS. Yes, I'm being dirty, but it's the first time I've made a sexual reference in this whole post, so LET ME BE.
4. In keeping with that promise…
I'm simply going to link you to this article. Cough cough number three cough cough.
5. Sit down and take a hard look at each of your current projects, and the ROI they're producing.
Where do you need to cut the fat? How can you leverage your time best? For example, once upon a time I did hourly consulting. While certainly fun (I love working with individuals), I might have spent an hour preparing for a call, and then another hour on the call–or, to be more accurate, an hour and a half or two hours on a call, because I'm generous with my time and wanted to be sure that my clients left the call feeling as armed with info and insight as possible. So now we're talking 2-3 hours on one call, which might have earned me $100, say. And–newsflash–that means I was only averaging $33-50/hour. And not per hour, really. Per BILLABLE hour. Big difference. If I had kept working that way, I would have never gotten ahead. So I started looking at the other projects I was working on, and tried to see where I could best leverage my time to produce the greatest ROI. Thanks to the internet, you can scale in ways like never before. Take advantage of that.
6. Change up the scenery – stat.
For me, this often means hopping a plane to somewhere new, for inspiration. But obviously, for those of us with families and other obligations, that isn't always possible. So what about a day working from a park? From an exotic French cafe in town that you've been dying to try? Or from a spa, while you get your toenails painted? Sounds simple, but sometimes just being in a new environment can shake things up enough to shake you out of your slump.
7. Have a vodka.
8. Focus on making success happen.
Now-za. It's easy to become overwhelmed when you feel like you've got 30,000 projects going on at the same time, and a to-do list from here to Topeka, Kansas. (Exactly that long.) And sometimes, you'll feel like you're just spinning your Tonka wheels, which will only serve to exasperate the problem. My recommendation? Each day, focus on one and only one project at a time. That way, you'll be able to get in the zone and, as a result, make significant progress on something…which can help you feel like you're getting somewhere…and get some motivation back. Forget trying to do a little bit at a time, with 5 different projects. Batch that shit. You won't be sorry.
9. You're the boss. Act like it.
Let's not forget that you're running this business–not the other way around. At the end of the day, anything that you're obligated to do is a choice you made. Worst case scenario? Uncommit. Cancel. Refund. Get it off your plate. Anything that isn't a life or death matter is negotiable. Your mental health, on the other hand, isn't. THIS IS YOUR PERMISSION SLIP TO BACK OUT OF THE THINGS THAT YOU DON'T REALLY WANT TO BE DOING. It's okay. As long as you do so in a professional manner, you're going to be just fine.
I almost decided to put a number ten here, because it seems that lists need to be compiled of nice, round numbers. But you know what? Forget it. This is my list. And my blog. And if I decide that there should be nine, well then, there will be nine.
But what I'm really curious to know is what's going on in your head. What things are causing you overwhelm? And how the hell are you dealing with it?
For me, I've always been an over-committer. These days, I go out of my way to under-commit, so I can be sure that I'm dedicating all of my available energy to make the projects that I do commit to, rock. And by rock, I mean all-out, over-the-top, Michael Jackson-esque wildly wild, mind-blowing genius. Because those are the standards I hold myself to. And if that's the goal, then I've got to be selective. There's only 24 hours in a day. How are you spending yours?
Leverage your time.
Make brilliance the default.
And put your money where your mouth is, already.
You want this lifestyle?
It's go time.
Just be sure you know when it's also time to do a little brake check.
Even when everyone's honking at your slow ass.