6 tips for small business owners to manage stress and improve wellbeing

Ask any small business owner or start up founder why they chose to leave traditional employment, there will be a common answer: freedom.

Self- employed life is the ultimate freedom. You get to choose everything, from your products or services, to your prices, your working hours, and your future. There’s no more dealing with a difficult boss, or late meetings on Fridays, or calling in sick, or requesting time off. You decide what you do and when.

But there is a downside to all this freedom. Business owners have to run their business by themselves. There’s a huge amount of pressure to do everything, even if you get to the point of having some employees. The responsibilities on your shoulders probably include admin, sales, marketing, legal, customer service, recruitment, and more.

Sure, you get to choose your working hours, but if you’re not careful this can translate into working early in the morning and late into the evening. Stress and overwhelm can pile up, and soon routines in your business can start to slip.

Your worst-case scenario is experiencing burn out, disappointing customers, and temporarily or permanently closing your business.

Looking after your mental health and wellbeing simply must be your number one priority. With these six tips, you’ll have yourself back on track in no time.

Small business wellbeing tip 1: review and assess current working practices

Making strategic improvements to your wellbeing starts by getting a clear understanding of what is going well and what is going badly. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, it can be tempting to jump straight in with changes, but these might not be the most effective. Quick fixes are not necessarily going to lead to long- term solutions, and you could end up in the same overwhelmed place in just a few months.

Here are some ways to objectively assess your current working practices, and work out what’s going wrong:

  1. If you have staff members, ask them for their thoughts on what processes are going well and what could be improved. For example, invite them to an informal chat or conduct an anonymous questionnaire.
  2. Look at your testimonials or reviews from recent customers or clients, what do they say has gone well? Have they indicated something they weren’t so happy with? If you haven’t had any feedback from customers, send an email with an incentive to recent clients requesting information. Perhaps offer them 10% off their next order to encourage more answers.
  3. Make a list of what you actually enjoy doing in your business, and what you find stressful or overwhelming. For example, do you love to review the accounts, but hate giving presentations to prospective clients? Or do you love to create the marketing materials but hate packing orders? These are indications of tasks to carry on doing, and tasks to delegate.
  4. Use a time tracker to see how long each task takes you and see where you waste time and energy. For example, if all your time is spent dealing with admin and not finding new business, this is something which needs to change with a new employee, redistributing duties, or working with a Virtual Assistant.
  5. Consult your business plan and see if/ how you can redirect your energy. This might look like delaying the launch of a new product, dropping an underperforming service, or switching your services from projects to retainers.

Small business wellbeing tip 2: streamline processes

Once you’ve reviewed the existing processes in your business, you can start to adapt them to reduce your stress and improve your wellbeing.

If, for example, you are a service- based business owner, and you have discovery calls, you don’t need to meet every enquirer. Save your time and energy by sending a fact- gathering questionnaire to your prospective customer before arranging a discovery call. By learning what they need, what their budget is, and what their deadline is in advance, you’ll know if you can help them before investing your precious time. You could also work with a VA to vet your clients before you meet with them. When you do decide to have a discovery call, using innovative software such as the Bookings add on will keep things simple and organised. Easily schedule meetings, allow customers to choose a time slot straight from your calendar, and immediately send links to video calls to both you and your client.

Likewise, you can use Site to display your portfolio and highlight your services clearly, so your clients know exactly what you do and how you do it.

As a product- based business owner, you might find yourself spending time duplicating copy on your website product descriptions, social media captions, and other marketing platforms. Using Store, you can publish your products directly to your linked social media accounts, saving you valuable time.

Keeping everything streamlined will have long- lasting benefits in your business. Choosing a straightforward, easy- to- use website means you can manage your website yourself without having to work with a website developer.

Whatever your challenges in your business are, if you can systematically streamline them, you’ll decrease stress and improve your wellbeing.

Small business wellbeing tip 3: automate actions

Many small business processes can be completely automated, literally removing tasks from your to-do list and reducing overwhelm.

For example, you might currently be creating and sending each individual invoice, and then checking they’ve been paid, and then sending reminders. This is a huge drain on your time and energy. Using software such as Bookings will manage customer payments for you, and will integrate with your business bank account to know when a customer has paid or not.

If you are currently involved with every step of the customer journey, there will be many opportunities to add in some automation. With Store, all of your customers’ details will be automatically collated, there are 15 different payment methods, and you get all store analytic data in one helpful report.

Packing orders are much easier with shipping information automatically turned into package labels, and confirmation emails being automatically sent.

There’s a range of small business automations which could be suitable for your business, and automating what you can means your business is working with you, not against you. And, you’ll improve your wellbeing as a small business owner.

Small business wellbeing tip 4: delegate tasks

Delegation can sometimes feel difficult for a small business owner. Handing over tasks in your business can feel a bit like you’re letting go of some control, and that’s uncomfortable. But, the simple truth is: no one can do it all and do it well. You cannot be on top of every detail in your business and have a healthy work/ life balance. At some point, you need a team of people to help you run your business. So, that means, delegating.

Reflecting on the tip 1 above, identifying the tasks you enjoy doing and the ones you don’t enjoy is a good place to start in working out what to delegate. Likewise, the time tracker task will tell you which of your duties are the best use of your time, and which ones drain your time. You’ll soon have a list of tasks to pass on to an employee or a freelancer, freeing you up to focus on the tasks you want to do.

Here are some tasks a business owner could delegate to an employee, or a VA if you aren’t yet in a position to formally hire an employee:

  • Hire someone to pack the orders, or to help you, especially at busy times of the year
  • Use couriers that collect packages from your workplace, rather than you taking time to deliver them to the post office
  • Hire an assistant to manage your admin such as emails, meeting scheduling, travel arrangements, dealing with suppliers, or holding discovery calls
  • Delegate the management of social media accounts and email newsletters, both the creation and posting
  • Appoint professional copywriters, designers, and photographers to create your marketing materials
  • Work with an accountant and a bookkeeper to manage your financial information

Small business wellbeing tip 5: create routines and regular working hours

This is another opportunity for some honest self- reflection of how you work, so you can deliberately plan your tasks for times when you are most productive.

Make note of when you are most energised and when you have the most motivation to work. Perhaps you love to wake up early in the morning and you get most of your work done by noon- great! You can schedule your tasks in the morning, and hold meetings and presentations in the afternoons, when the tasks are more collaborative.

Alternatively, if you’re a night owl and you prefer to work into the evening, you have the freedom to start your day at 11am.

You might want to block your time weekly or monthly. So, do admin on a Monday, have Tuesdays as your meetings days, and you do your deep work on Wednesday and Thursday. Block out days in your month for tasks such as accounts, scheduling social media posts, and for sending newsletters.

Remember that freedom that was mentioned at the start of the blog- you can work whatever hours you like. If you’d rather work a 4-day week, you can immediately implement this. Simply communicate this with your customers and staff, update your working hours on your website, and enjoy your extra day off every week.

To help you stick to your routines and to stop your working hours creeping up, use reminder software like Trello or Monday to keep track of your tasks. If something crops up at 5pm on a Friday, add it to Monday’s to- do list, don’t do it in your down time.

You deserve a break, and your business will be more sustainable if you manage your wellbeing.

Small business wellbeing tip 6: prioritise healthy choices
Sleep, nutrition, and exercise are non- negotiables for a healthy life, and overall happiness. Unfortunately, these are often the first things business owners skip when the stress piles on.

Busy, overwhelmed people naturally reach for shortcuts when everything is hard to manage. So, that means opting for snacks instead of full meals, or choosing a takeaway instead of cooking at home. It’s easy to stay up late into the evening, missing valuable hours of sleep, to catch up on deadlines or to try to ‘get ahead’ of next week’s tasks. Finding time to go to the gym or join a yoga class is difficult if work is taking up every spare hour.

All of this is incredibly dangerous to your mental health, physical health, and overall wellbeing. Here are some easy strategies to look after yourself.

  1. Sleep
  2. Set a regular bedtime alarm for yourself to help remind you to go to bed at the best time for you. Spend some time making your bedroom a restful space. Use black out curtains, never work in your room, use low lighting, read for a few minutes before bed, keep your room technology free, and drink some sleepy tea before bed. Use a gentle alarm clock which replicates a sunrise to help to wake up slowly. Sleep experts explain that a lack of sleep is a key indicator to poor overall health, so it’s important for everyone to prioritise it.
  3. Nutrition
    Eating a range of healthy foods is essential to get all nutrients your body needs to perform. However, shopping for ingredients, making a meal plan, and cooking every day can be difficult to manage, even if you do want to keep healthy. To overcome this, you could use subscription recipe boxes for quick evening meals, take some time to batch cook on the weekends, and use your freezer to make lots of tasty healthy meals in advance.

    Try to sneak in nuts, fruits, and veggies with snacks at your desk, and drink lots of smoothies. Take high- quality supplements and vitamins each day to keep your body healthy.

  4. Exercise
    Make exercise work for your body and energy levels so it fits easily into your life. This could look like a relaxing, remote yoga class at lunchtime, or having a walking pad at your desk to keep gently active throughout the day. You might be the sort of person who enjoys a relaxing evening run, so make sure you give yourself that time. If running isn’t your thing, perhaps some cold-water swimming at the weekend is more your style. Sneaking exercise into your hobbies is a surefire way to keep you active. Try a hobby like sailing, ice skating, or karate.

Ultimately, your business is you. So, your business can only be productive or healthy if you are productive and healthy. Keeping yourself in the best condition means your business will be too.

Small business next steps

Following the tips which best apply to your business means you’ll have a sustainable business now and in the future. Explore how Bookings, Site, and Store can help you manage your business, and request a demo right here.

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