As a small business owner, you are most likely a Jack of All Trades and a Master of Most. Managing your business often implies that you multitask and cope with production crises, cashflow nightmares and so much stress that you never sleep properly. Well - this is National Work Life Week, and having been a small business owner myself, I understand why it is necessary to create a national campaign around Work/Life Balance - because SME owners are far too busy and stressed to notice it otherwise!
Here are some tried and true tips I have practiced - hopefully you'll find them useful too. Listen Up - it's time to take stock, #timetorebalance:
Remember why you started your company in the first place. You spend a large percentage of your life working - you go through stress and sacrificing many things for your SME to succeed. You need to remember the passion that lead you to getting it off the ground. Keep coming back to that. That is what will get you up in the morning.
Learn to delegate. You won't believe how liberated you'll feel when you hand that work that you hate doing and aren't very good at anyway to someone who specialises in it! Now you can concentrate on what you are best at, and this will be much more rewarding and enjoyable. By delegating, you will lower your stress levels. Use tools and apps to cut down on one's workload and money spent on travel and outsourcing significantly. Here is a range of some that may be useful:
- Cash management and accounting tools such as Xero, Freshbooks, Quickbooks, Sage are the most widely used, and all are excellent products, well worth investing in. (Have a look at our Akoni blog on Cashflow Tips for SMEs for some more on this subject).
- Try Skype, Google Hangouts, ClickMeeting for online meeting and webinars. These can be used to conduct webinars, teleconferencing, online meetings and presentations. No more travelling out of town or even across town - saving you money and time.
- Asana is a task and project management productivity tool for team collaboration and communication that eliminates the use of email. Free for up to 4 users. With Asana, you can set up projects, and tasks within projects. Add staff or clients to tasks and projects to keep everyone up to date.
- Apps like Producteev and Harvest let you see how you’re spending your time, what’s on target and what requires follow-up.
- Pocket - this allows you to store videos, articles or anything else you find of interest. It’s all in one place and ready to look at when you have time.
- Evernote - one of the most popular apps for managing a to-do list and keeping notes. It even has an app to make it faster to read blog posts and articles by showing them in a simple format.
- WorkflowMax: An end-to-end time tracking and invoicing solution, seamless integration with Xero Accounting software.
- Hootsuite for social media management
- For some more interesting tools, have a look at useful tools for SMEs
Learn to set boundaries. If you are open about realistic timings at the beginning of each project, explaining why you need that time to do a good job, your clients are far more likely to understand - because they need the best quality product you can deliver.Turning down work is hard, but is it worth taking on if you and the client are going to be dissatisfied with the result? Your reputation may suffer, which affects future work and client relationships.
Write things down. In this age of electronics it sounds archaic, but often the simple task of writing down ideas and thoughts or tasks that you think of suddenly will reduce your stress levels. Write a TO DO list before lights out. It clears your head, and facilitates sleep, knowing that you will have your list when you wake up. Same goes for those 2 am thoughts - write it down and there is a good chance you'll get to sleep again.
Activate your brain and body. Your body can't take stress for extended periods without it having often serious health consequences. Find something that you enjoy doing. The brain and body benefit far more if you practice an activity you prefer instead of dreading your training sessions. Yoga, running, lifting weights, walking - just get out and do something fun. Your brain needs blood flow to function at it's best, and different environments are stimulating.
Family is important. As a small business owner, speak to your employees about what they would suggest in terms of flexible hours and/or the option to work from home. Being flexible in one's approach will have benefits all round: happier employees, better quality work, you'll attract quality talent when recruiting and your clients will ultimately benefit from dealing with a motivated company. Have a look here for some more tips as an employer.
Remind yourself what success is. Ian Sanders, author of Juggle: Rethink Work, Reclaim Your Life and Mash Up says,"I recommend creating a personal dashboard where you set out the things you want in life and the reasons why you are doing them. You should write down all the things that are important to you, whether it is making money, creative stimulation, spending time with your kids or playing tennis. These are your definition of happiness and success. Then you can monitor this regularly to see how you are doing."
In this frenetically-paced age, it is important to keep your eye on what Really matters - your health, your happiness, your family and your goals in life. Enjoy what you do, otherwise change it. A frazzled, crabby and stressed business owner is not going to be any good to anyone. You owe it to your family, your staff and clients to be the Best Version of You possible. And that means gaining perspective by getting away from work every now and then - really make an effort to unplug from all those digital devices, look up at the sky and B-R-E-A-T-H-E deeply. Your life depends on it.
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