Chris Kirksey, an Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) member in Washington, DC, is the president of Direction Inc., a Washington, DC-based digital marketing agency. Chris is also a Forbes Council member, US Army Veteran and mentor for US military service members transitioning into the civilian world. We asked Chris how he manages the stress inherent in an entrepreneurs' life. Here's what he shared.
If you're an entrepreneur, you've faced struggles--employee turnover, email overload, client complaints, cash flow issues--just to name a few. Thankfully though, you're also a problem-solver. The entrepreneurs I know are resilient, dedicated, passionate and persevering leaders.
But sometimes, no matter how many positive characteristics you exhibit, these struggles don't seem to go away at the end of the day or the close of the workweek. Are there ways to prevent the stress of running a company from overtaking you? How can you even find the energy to tackle stress?
Honestly, first and foremost, it takes a very unique, mentally resilient type of person to be an entrepreneur. However, resiliency is a practiced, learned skill, honed through understanding and mastering your mind, body and emotions.
There are specific methods that many entrepreneurs practice to keep their stress levels at bay. Below, I'll discuss five critical stress-busting methods which I've found work well for myself.
1. Separate work from home
I get it: Running a company is exciting and rewarding. When I first started my company, I didn't want to stop working. I thought people were insane for telling me to stop (and sometimes, I still do). When I started my business, like many entrepreneurs, I ran it out of my home. Once I separated work from home, I experienced a drop in my stress level that I didn't even know existed. It turns out, the business owners I knew weren't giving me that advice only to hear themselves talk. They were right all along--I just needed to calm my ego so I could listen.
2. Start with meditation
As entrepreneurs, we all have ideas, concerns and feelings constantly running through our minds. I've learned to start my days with meditation, which has helped me to find a new sense of clarity through serene, positive feelings and gratitude that provide a source of strength throughout my day. There are meditation courses you can attend, but considering our busy schedules, I recommend starting with an app called Headspace.
3. Leave work at work
Before I leave work for the day, I write down all work-related thoughts running through my mind. I also make it a point to plan the next day's schedule, including the current day's leftover to-do list. With all those stressful work worries dealt with, I can go home and spend time with the people I care about, and on myself. Which brings me to . . .
If your body is out of shape, your mind may be, too. Exercise is one of my favorite ways to keep both body and mind sharp.
Science tells us that exercise releases endorphins in the brain. These endorphins essentially work like a drug, one that relieves physical and emotional pain and improves mood and sleep patterns. This greatly reduces stress and can even improve cognitive function--so by exercising regularly, you can both feel better and become more productive.
5. Learn to say, "No"
We got where we are today by taking on tasks others wouldn't and solving problems others couldn't. Many of us have difficulty backing down from or refusing a challenge. While there's nothing inherently wrong with that--it's a big part of what makes us who we are--balance is key.
I quickly learned that taking on any and every client and handling every job personally can become a problem. Once I began saying "no" to clients who weren't a good fit for our agency and delegating my workload accordingly, I experienced personal and organizational growth at rewarding new levels.
Find your own way to manage stress
Unmanaged stress can bring you down in any number of ways. It can threaten not only your business but more importantly, your relationships with the people closest to you.
There are a plethora of additional techniques to manage stress, including attending a silent retreat or harnessing the power of sleep. By managing stress properly, you can minimize its potential to sabotage you and maximize your opportunity to enjoy running the company you started.