When you run your own business, it’s easy to get caught up in the work. You want to constantly hold the reins and take on every challenge to ensure that your personal thumbprint makes everything perfect. But this approach can quickly make life more challenging than it needs to be.
Excessive work hours quickly stack up, leading you to make bad decisions that eventually ruin your company. And this rising collection of stressors is a leading cause of burnout — especially among CEOs who don’t know how to let go.
With a calculated approach to your day, problems are proactively resolved before they even arise. It makes your company run smoother and put much less stress on everyone.
The Snowballing Effect of Stress
So what’s really causing leaders to break down, and what’s keeping them from taking a better approach? In truth, most of the top factors are there the moment you walk through the office door.
Distractions are certainly near the top of the list. While an open-door policy is always a worthy goal for startup leaders, the constant conflicting requests for your time can leave you feeling pulled in every direction. And it’s not just co-workers making these demands — even the nagging thought of picking up your kids after soccer practice can tick your stress levels up another notch.
Prioritization can be a major issue in the startup world, where your list of tasks is in the triple digits and there’s no clear through line showing what you need to accomplish first. In these circumstances, even the simple act of stepping back to look at the big picture seems daunting.
But the granddaddy of all stress factors is your inability to just say “no.” Sometimes, this is a matter of shooting for those pie-in-the-sky initiatives that don’t fit your core business model, but it’s more often about not delegating the things that need to be delegated. Coding, designing, or sales may be your expertise, but you simply don’t have the time to take on tasks you’ve already hired others to do.
You have to trust your teammates. You have to focus on managing. You have to let it go, or the stress will overload you — and you won’t be helpful to anyone.
Remodeling the Stress Away
Keeping yourself stress-free provides numerous benefits , both inside and outside the business environment, from better concentration and memory to a lowered risk of heart attack or stroke. But creating that environment requires a different approach — and a different mindset — than the one that got you into the stress mess in the first place.
1. Take a step back. For every task that seemingly demands your attention, ask yourself these questions: Is this task going to have a long-lasting effect on the business? What will raise company value the most? What will your board want to see? If this task doesn’t fit into these categories, it’s not your responsibility.
2. Be specific in your assigning. When a task doesn’t have a natural or obvious person to take it on, it can be easy to just send a request via email, asking for volunteers. Instead, really think about who can handle it and, more importantly, why there’s no one already at the helm. Could this just be an unimportant task that can be shelved for later?
3. Show your phone who ’ s boss. With all the distracting chatter already happening over email or text, a ringing phone can feel like a frivolous nuisance. There are platforms available that can help you screen unnecessary communication so only the most important calls get through. Kiss telemarketers goodbye so you can get back to the day’s work.
4. Try something new. If your current approach is leaving you and others dying to escape the office walls, it might be time for an entirely new approach. Try to have each team member commit to and sign off on no more than three tasks or projects for a particular time period. Perhaps the tasks that fall by the wayside were unnecessary, or maybe someone will rise up from a surprising area to pick up the slack.
5. Use the tools at your disposal. Technology is only as good as the person using it. That said, marketing automation and project collaboration tools (such as Asana, JIRA, or Slack) can help you not only manage your day, but also help your entire company run more smoothly.
We can’t control the world around us, but we can provide and maintain clarity for those around us. Even a new company, solo entrepreneur , or small team can manage and maintain stress to positively impact the brand, its customers, and the surrounding community.
Just keep everything in perspective to help lead the rest of your team to victory.
Ari Rabban is the CEO of Phone.com and a veteran of the IP communications industry. Phone.com’s virtual phone service builds on the digital VoIP industry experience of its founders to deliver a complete suite of enterprise-grade unified communication services at an SMB price. Ari was named among the Top 20 Most Influential People in VoIP 2012 and currently serves on several boards, including the New Jersey Tech Council. You can follow him on Twitter @arabban .