Running a Business Is Mental!
Today (14th May) marks the start of Mental Health Awareness Week. The focus for 2018 is STRESS and how we're coping with it.
Mental Health is something I never really thought about until I started working with Kate Badger of Academy of FUN!.
Academy of FUN! is a social enterprise focussed on delivering fun and engaging activities for children aged 4-11, promoting a lifestyle proven to reduce the risk of developing a mental health condition. Their focus is on fun and engagement rather than competitive activities.
It was through my time working with Kate that I began to think more about my own experiences with mental health: the choices I've made about work and how I now balance the challenges of running my own business with family life.
I quit a job 5 years ago. I was wound up to the max and beyond thinking rationally. I was stressed. With no sense of what was coming next, I gave my employer 3 months notice and gave myself breathing space. It was a difficult decision but ironically one that was made with surprising ease. Instant relief.
Then it was time to think about my next move. That move was into freelance life.
The easiest of all work choices: plenty of time to lie in bed, working in your pyjamas, lazy lunches and afternoon naps; all while the only just pours into your bank account.
Ok so maybe that's not exactly true but there are lots of positives about running your own business:
- freedom to fit work around home life
- answering only to yourself and your clients
- the excitement of taking responsibility for your company's success
- escaping the pressure of commuting
- working on a multitude of projects, meeting lots f new people and working with a wide range of organisation (my personal favourite!)
But with all those positives comes a need to balance some of the challenges so as we get into Mental Health Awareness Week, here are my thoughts on the best way to manage life as a small business owner:
REMEMBER THE REASONS WHY
Think about the reasons you decided to go it alone and set up your business. For me, that was family life and a better balance. I have photos of family on my desk and around the walls so although my head is focussed on work, I have reminders all around me of why I made the choice to go it alone.
DEFINE THE BOUNDARIES
If you work from home, I think this is essential! Finding a way to keep work separate from home life is key. I don't mean a state of the art, fully-kitted-out home office in the garden (as lovely as that would be!), but just being able to close the door on the business when you need to (physically or metaphorically!).
For me, that means a new studio space at home; a new desk, a new more focussed approach to how I run my business. An exciting time!
MAKE TIME TO TALK
Instead of talking with clients over e-mail, see if you can take the conversation offline. Arrange for coffee dates or lunch meetings where you can not only communicate your ideas more effectively, but you also have a moment of interaction with another human! How many conversations do you have with the dog? Or is that just me?
Think about arranging a work date with other freelancer friends – working on your own projects, but in the same space for some company.
Structured co-working spaces can be a great way to engage with people too. They're a great opportunity to meet up with like-minded folk, share ideas and just get a glimpse of what's going on in other people's worlds! You might even meet potential new clients too!
SCHEDULE SOCIAL MEDIA TIME
Don't fall down the rabbit hole! Limit your social media usage and schedule specific times to check it. Simple but effective.
STOP TRYING TO DO EVERYTHING
So many business owners I know and work with talk about feeling overwhelmed. Whether they work alone or have a large team of staff, it can be all too easy to try and squeeze too much into too little time.
Be realistic about what you can achieve. Put processes in place to help you manage your time more effectively. Consider outsourcing or recruiting if you're in demand. Or be brave enough to say "I'm too busy". It's not a negative!
Mental Wellbeing is not a buzz phrase. It's about being able to cope with the good and bad that life throws at you. You've made the bravest choice in setting up your business, the rest is just a matter of balance.
Let me know the tips and tricks you have for keeping the balance in your small business!