Running your own business can be an unforgiving experience. Up at the crack of dawn, working solidly all day then finishing work in the wee small hours. Repeat seven days a week for the next couple of years, or possibly even longer ...
If you're feeling overwhelmed and depressed then you need to make some changes right away before your mind or body breaks!
So how will you keep doing that month after month, year after year, without feeling overwhelmed and depressed? The short answer is that you can't keep working that hard and not start feeling that way.
"Something has to give and it's either going to be your mind or your body!"
I found this out to my horror in 2012 when I nearly died thanks to a ready to explode Aneurysm in my brain that had been developing during an incredibly stressful period of my life.
It wasn't a pleasant realisation to know that all the hard work and effort I'd put in since starting my company could have gone to waste in the blink of an eye. Thank goodness for loyal clients, great friends and, of course, some very skilful surgeons.
I lived to fight another day and bounced back stronger than ever! But the experience taught me a valuable lesson about taking time for myself and not working too hard. One of the reasons we're in business is for the freedom right? So why work all the time? What's freeing about that? Sounds worse than a job to me!
So here are my top 10 ways to ensure your head doesn't explode like mine very nearly did:
Get enough sleep!
I can't stress this highly enough. Your body needs time to recuperate and your mind needs time to process the events of the day. If you only have a couple of hours sleep in a night, then you're not getting anywhere near enough. I need 7 hours but some people need more and some people need less. You know how much you should be getting, don't you?
Get up at the same time each morning
When I used to network at breakfast, I would get up in time, but on days that I didn't I would get up a few hours later. This is pretty confusing for your body which needs a solid routine. Getting up at the same time each day means you're less tired once you settle into the routine.
Structure your diary and give yourself plenty of breaks
A structured diary means you know what to expect throughout the day. My productivity leapt when I started to do this and I allocate specific tasks to different parts of the day. I always make sure I take plenty of breaks throughout the day with a long break early afternoon that may involve networking, coffee at Costa or, sometimes, even a nap!
Use No Time rather than watching the clock
Remove all the clocks from your field of vision then set an alarm on your mobile and turn it over so you won't see it. You are safe in the knowledge that your alarm will sound when you need to be doing something else, so watch how quickly you forget what time it is. I bet you'll get a lot further in your project than you would have if you were stressing about the time!
Set a fixed time to finish in the evenings and relax
If you're working really hard then it's like the wheels on a bike; your brain needs to gradually slow down. Watching TV is ok, but how about doing something completely different? A nice bath or read a book? Something completely different to what you were doing.
Keep your workspace tidy at all times
A tidy desk is the sign of a deranged mind? Or is it the other way around? I'm not sure. All I know is that my desk is always very tidy and it means I know where everything is. I find it a comfort; a messy desk just imbalances me and makes me feel stressed. Keep your workspace tidy and see a difference.
Don't take on too much work
Seriously, if you're working 6am until midnight, seven days a week, you've got too much work on! Start saying no to people or put your prices up so you get fewer leads, but at a higher value. We are not immortal and if you're working full-pelt all the time something will go bang after a while.
If you can't do something, get someone else to do it
If you're not very good at something (accounts maybe?) then hire a professional to do it. Why wallow around for four hours when the pro can do it in a quarter of that time? Admin, telesales, blogging even ... if you're not very good at it then someone else doing it will a) save you money in the long run and b) save your sanity too! Maybe it'll give you that extra hour at night you need to wind down so you can get a proper night's sleep?
Don't use drugs to keep going
It's tempting to hit the ProPlus and the Red Bull to keep going but these put massive amounts of caffeine into your system and if you take some late at night, just to get that last bit of a project finished then you're going to have a terrible night's sleep. Even more so if you're taking anything illegal! Just don't do it as you'll spiral further and further down into feeling overwhelmed and depressed and be doing yourself a lot of damage at the same time. I had a run in with ProPlus years ago and it really messed up my sleep patterns but I really did think it would help. It actually made things worse.
Surround yourself with other positive people
You're going to be stressed if you have negative people around you! "You're not doing very well are you?" and "why are you flogging your guts out all hours of the day or night" or even "shouldn't you go get a job?" These are all things that people who 'think' they care for you will say. However, this drains your energy, doesn't it? Wouldn't it be better to surround yourself with business friends who support and encourage you? It may give you the energy boost you need to think a little more clearly and find a way out of your overwhelm? We've all been there - trust me, I know!
It is very easy to overwork yourself and most of the time you won't even realise it. I suggest all of these things during conversations with my business friends and they take away as many, or as few of these points as they need. I just ask that they implement some changes, right now, so they don't pay for it later on like I nearly did!
If I had to insist on a couple of the above points to implement right away, they would be these: get enough sleep (point 1) and have a structured diary (point 3).
Through my recovery in 2012, I ensured that I did both of these things and was able to get back up to full strength much quicker than if I just threw myself at that huge pile of work I had to do when I came out of hospital.
If you're feeling overwhelmed and depressed right now and are swirling around the plug hole not knowing what to do first, then give yourself a break and do this instead:
STOP! Right now!
Take the rest of the day off and just relax,
Tomorrow, prioritise your workload and create a structured diary,
Then relax some more,
Then the day after, start doing it,
Tweak your diary until you get the balance right.
Feeling overwhelmed is one of the least productive places you can be; it is highly stressful and raises blood pressure until eventually you slide into depression or end up needing urgent medical intervention.
The longer you spend feeling overwhelmed and depressed, the more chance you have of getting ill and then where will you be?
We started our own businesses to have more freedom to do the things we've always wanted to do, didn't we? If you're feeling overwhelmed and depressed, then what sort of freedom is that?