By Kyle Hotchkiss

Over the course of my work history I have had the privilege of working for a few small businesses and one thing became very clear to me very quickly: operating a small business is emotionally taxing for both the owners who run them and their project managers who are responsible for cultivating the success of that business. It doesn’t take saying that this stress is amplified by the uncertainty and financial pressures under the new economic climate amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Recently, I’ve been taking inventory on how I manage my own stress and work flow and I couldn’t help but think about all the business owners and managers out there and the amount of responsibility and obligations you may be burdened with lately. So, I decided to investigate some stress management techniques and compile them in hopes that some of you would find these tips useful or may be able to use them as a daily reminder.

SLOW DOWN, de-stress for your mental health

It all starts with a daily practice of stress management tools:

1. Meditate

Many large corporations have designated meditation times for their employees, teaching them mindfulness techniques, and allowing them to take a moment to separate themselves from their heavy workload in order to take a moment to detach and re-center themselves. Some prominent CEOs have expressed the usefulness of mindfulness meditation, even Steve Jobs was known as an avid promoter of meditation.

The practice of meditation has been claimed to reduce stress, strengthen the mind and improve emotional health. It doesn’t take much. Just take 1-5 minutes to sit with yourself, taking deep breaths, saying “one” on the inhale and “two” on the exhale. Let your breath return to a natural state and focus on the breath while allowing thoughts to enter and leave your mind without judgement, constantly redirecting your focus back to the breath. It will be uncomfortable at first but after some time you will find it extremely effective and will become a more productive manager.

2. Go outside, exercise

You don’t need to become the next fitness freak but a little exercise to boost overall wellness wouldn’t hurt. If you have ever worked in a business district, you will often find office workers taking walks on their lunch break. Don’t let working from home stop you. If you can, with reason and following local regulations, take a moment to go outside and take a walk in the fresh air to de-stress. Your mind will appreciate it and your body will too as you boost your cardiovascular wellness.

3. Hobby

Either before work, during your lunch break, or after you finish your workday, take 20 minutes to participate in an “extracurricular activity.” Play an instrument, write, read, exercise, or maybe cook something from a new recipe you have never tried. Do whatever you would like and would distract you from “reality” for a brief moment to recharge and distract from the stress of work and personal life. Research has found that people who participate in hobbies “are less likely to suffer from stress, low mood and depression.

ORGANIZE for the sake of your workflow and those around you

Now that we have set a foundation for success with the coping skills and practices mentioned, we are now empowered to make big moves at work to increase productivity and improve workflow.

4. Notify others and communicate

It’s time to communicate with those we work with and keep them updated on your work and schedule. As a business owner or manager, you may have many tasks you need to complete in any given day and you simply don’t have the time to be there for every call and need your organization demands of you. This is the time to let your workers and partners know how busy you are and what you need to get done. This way they know why you won’t be available at every beck and call.

Don’t forget to delegate tasks that can be done by your team so you can focus on the more important tasks that only you can perform. No person is an island and you don’t need to pull all the weight. Also, check in with your team to see how they are doing, if you are delegating tasks that are not being completed you may find that some of your team members are also backed up with projects and tasks but are too embarrassed to admit that they have too much on their plate.

Communicate, communicate, communicate…

5. Make lists

Personally, I love lists. I have lists for budgets, personal goals, personal errands, work goals and work “to-do” items. So many times, we forget to do things when we are overwhelmed, and business owners and managers are no strangers to this. To avoid this, you should create daily lists, weekly lists and monthly lists. Update them frequently. This will help you keep track of what needs to be done and empower you with confidence when you get to cross things off those lists. Having lists that have things crossed off shows proof of your efforts and progress.

6. Prioritize those lists

Let’s face it, all those things on that list you just made may not have to be done right this minute. Ask yourself if any item can be done tomorrow, in three days or a week. If the answer is “yes,” then it is not today’s priority. Take that item off the list and schedule it for another day or another week.

7. Schedule those lists

Now that we have organized those lists by day, week, and month it is time to schedule our daily list. Let’s say you have 8 items on that list and you work eight hours today, simply divide the number of tasks you have by the amount of time you will work today and you will be able to understand how much time you have to finish each task, in this scenario one hour. Hopefully each task doesn’t an hour to complete!

If you find that you have so many tasks that your time to complete each one is 15 minutes but half of them will certainly take more than an hour to complete, guess what? You’re trying to do way too much! It’s time to communicate with your team again and find out where you can delegate some of these tasks if they are time sensitive.

8. Focus on the task in front of you without distraction

This one might be a hard one, especially for business owners and managers who have so many people who depend on them to do things, but this is the most important one. Once you find your first task, focus on it until completion without allowing other tasks to distract you. Don’t touch your email. Don’t check your text messages. Just focus on that task and that task alone. If someone needs something, they can call you, that is, if it is an urgent matter. If you find a colleague or client abusing that privilege, you can just let them know you will be unavailable for the next hour or two and let them know when they can call you.

9. Take inventory of your day, plan for the next

This is where we see the magic happen. Take inventory of today’s completed tasks and those you couldn’t complete. Acknowledge your defeats but identify your victories. At this point you will see what you actually got done as you cross things off your list and you’ll be able to identify what you can do tomorrow that you missed today and more importantly: what you can do better tomorrow.

10. “Treat yo-self”

Was it a “high volume” sort of day? Did you meet those really important deadlines? Is it Friday or the weekend? Congratulations, you did it! You deserve to treat yourself to a pizza delivery or that delicious quart of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. Breath in that beautiful air and soak in that sunset. You made it through another day…

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