Starting and running your own business can be an exciting, empowering act that has positive ramifications for your entire way of life. However, the responsibility that such an endeavor entails can often lead entrepreneurs to place themselves in situations where they are handling too much at one time, pushing themselves physically and mentally to the brink.
True, you may enjoy the work (in fact, if you've taken on the task of creating a startup, then I'm sure you do), but it can be a fine line between someone who works hard and someone who is over-worked.
Too much stress caused by mountains of looming deadlines and a lack of food/sleep/companionship can have real negative repercussions on your health, not to mention your business.
While it's unlikely that you will be able to completely avoid situations where you need to push yourself to complete the tasks you have set yourself, here are a few tips to help you avoid overloading yourself, and a few tips to help you make it through if you do:
Learn to Say No
It can be very hard to turn down work, especially when a business is first beginning, but before you accept a new client or job, take stock of what you already have on your plate and make sure you have time to tackle the new work with your full attention and without sacrificing vital parts of your life.
Don't cram an extra job into the spaces where you would normally be spending time with your family or getting rest. You might be able to squeeze it in if you do, but would you really be doing your best work? You should never do substandard work in the name of an extra paycheck.
Decline gracefully, explaining that you are fully booked at the moment, and would be happy to work with them if their time-frame would allow you to approach the project at a later date. You might actually make a good impression with the client, who will see that your services are in demand.
Efficiency Saves Time: Plan Ahead
No matter what you do, you'll probably end up in a situation where there is more work than time. When you find yourself there, don't start your days by jumping straight from bed to work.
Take time at the beginning of the day to map out your day, prioritizing the things that must be completed immediately, grouping similar tasks together according to type or geographical location, and excising anything that can be pushed back.
You'll be surprised how much more quickly you work when you know exactly what needs to be accomplished.
Do Just One Thing at a Time
As tempting as it is to multitask when you are extra busy, try to avoid it. You will actually complete each individual task faster by focusing your entire attention on it, and with a better final product.
You waste precious seconds by switching back and forth, and an interrupted chain of thought isn't good for productivity. Lists are a great tool: make them and cross them off, item by item.
Moderation in All Things
So you've turned down the jobs you could afford to, streamlined and mapped out your work process and are diligently tackling it one step at a time, but you're still bumping up against the boundaries of your day. The impetus here is to stay up all night, skip meals, forgo breaks, and go full steam ahead in work-mode until the job is complete, but DON'T DO IT!
Discuss your situation with your family, and make sure they understand that you may be a little less available, but also make sure that you schedule time to spend with them. Take small breaks every couple of hours, make time to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Go to bed at a reasonable hour. Late hours only mean rough mornings anyway, and sustained work over a period of time without any breaks and a lack of food and sleep leads to fuzzy thinking and poor decision making.
If you must, it is better to realistically communicate with your client (as much in advance as possible) about the need to push back a deadline, rather than kill yourself to meet it.
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