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Start-Ups

Five Ways to Relieve Entrepreneurial Stress

By Garrett Spence   |    October 16, 2015   |    10:30 AM

You may think you’re stressed. We’re all subject to the pressures of the bland tragedy of life. But it’s even worse for time-strapped, overly ambitious, overworked entrepreneurs. Whether it’s creating a slide deck for that big presentation to the venture capitalists, making changes to an already popular product, finding new customers or managing the day-to-day mechanics of running a business, the experience of living the life of an entrepreneur can be maddening.

It’s even worse today. People were already a bit distracted when they were using the first computers with email back in the 1980s. Now we live in an information-saturated society where email, social media—even something as simple as facing a blank Google search page—can be overwhelming. It’s seriously affecting the health of even the most vibrant of entrepreneurs. Here are some steps that busy entrepreneurs can take to reduce stress, relieve pain, and improve productivity.

Exercise and Diet

It sounds like a cliché but the fact remains that if people (even you, entrepreneurs) take care of themselves, they feel better. Working out at the gym is a huge source of stress relief for many entrepreneurs. In fact, many people find that their brain is most active when they’re working out. It’s a bit like sleep in that exercise allows the mind time to uncoil, get out of the reactive mode that drives many entrepreneurs during their day-to-day activities, and solve problems. Many entrepreneurs also come up with great ideas while they’re on the treadmill. But exercising isn’t just good for stimulating the busy brains of entrepreneurs. It also keeps them physically and mentally healthy, allowing them to recharge their creative energies and apply them towards improving their businesses. A good, healthy diet will also let entrepreneurs think more clearly and quickly as well as helping them avoid downtime due to sickness.

Learning to Say “No”

This step is a tough one for entrepreneurs. They are biologically inclined to believe they can accomplish anything they set their mind to doing. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that they should pursue every single activity or idea that they invent or that is presented to them in the course of their entrepreneurial career. When entrepreneurs take on 10 percent more than they can reasonably be expected to accomplish, it really feels like they’ve taken on 50 percent more because they’re working too hard to meet an unrealistic goal. By not taking on a workload that is more than they can reasonably handle, entrepreneurs create more time for thoughtful, meaningful activity instead of just generating more opportunities for stress.

Hit the “Unsubscribe” Button More

Many entrepreneurs use their email as a to-do list. Unfortunately, that means that generic informative emails from employees or investors, spam emails or corporate bulletins often make it past an entrepreneur’s spam filter. For many entrepreneurs, any item that makes it into their heads instantly becomes a to-do item, which elevates their stress. One of the first steps that an overworked entrepreneur can do to alleviate stress is to dedicate a block of time every week to unsubscribe from email lists that aren’t critical or useful. After about a week of unsubscribing to all the random lists an entrepreneur has accumulated over the years, they are usually surprised to find that their inbox is much cleaner, more manageable, and less accessible to aggressive marketing emails.

Tracking Time

Willie Nelson didn’t know how right he was when he sang, “Ain’t It Funny How Time Slips Away.” Entrepreneurs are naturally busy people but they may not realize where all their times goes. Ninety percent of time management is simply tracking how much time an entrepreneur is spending on any given task. Once an entrepreneur realizes what activities are burning up all their time, it becomes easy for them to make better decisions about what activities take priority and which ones can be eliminated or delegated.

Setting a Standard Quitting Time

There is an unhealthy attitude towards work hours developing in this country. Much of the debate started when Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer pulled the plug on telecommuting at the tech giant, saying it stifles innovation. Part of this unhealthy attitude also came during the boom years in technology, when monoliths started competing for employees with perks like free soda, food, leisure activities and massages—all delivered in-house so employees didn’t go outside and discover things like a work-life balance or, you know, the sun. Now tech companies are routinely requiring ten-hour days of employees during crunch periods and belittling critics by claiming that their fantastic “work culture” means employees don’t really want to leave. This is nonsense. Not only are these attitudes deeply unhealthy for even the average employees but it can kill entrepreneurs by burning out their already frayed nervous systems. That’s why it’s important for entrepreneurs to set a quitting time that will allow them to more efficiently manage their business, rather than constantly working on improving their companies.