When people who’ve started a business tell you that it’s like jumping off a cliff and building the plane on the way down, they’re not kidding you. I wish it was just some over-used cliché but I have yet to meet a startup entrepreneur who hasn’t felt like they are often in over their head and figuring it all out as they go along.
Fortunately, most people who go into business thrive on facing a challenge and get off on a bit of adrenaline. I know I do.
When I joined a young startup in London 5 years ago, I quickly embraced the daily challenge, rolling up my sleeves and getting stuck in no matter what the task. Not to mention the increased hours and a long commute. At first, I felt like I was making a difference. It was so exciting… until the demanding day job and constant adrenalin release turned into stress in my body and started taking its toll.
Then when I launched my own business I felt like I had upgraded the adrenaline ride from the rapids to an 11-loop rollercoaster. It was a whole other level – one that was wildly exciting but put even more strain on me mentally and physically.
I’m not alone.
Most of my peers running their own businesses have at some point felt the strain and according to a study by Gallup-Healthways, 45% of entrepreneurs reported that they were currently stressed.
Whilst I think startup stress is unavoidable, I do think it’s manageable. You need to make a conscious effort to manage the stress and adopt the strategies that work best for you.
What approaches work best? Here are 8 winning strategies to overcome startup stress tried and tested by yours truly and my fellow adrenalin-junkie entrepreneurs.
1. Be Ruthless With Your To-Do List
“You can do anything but not everything” – anon
If it’s your business we’re talking about here – you’ll be wearing many hats and likely have a to-do list as long as your arm that never seems to get done. If that’s the case, it’s time to get really ruthless with it.
Brain dump everything that you know you need to do and then go back through and mark each task as either:
A. Important & Urgent
B. Important & Not Urgent
C. Not Important & Urgent
D. Not Important & Not Urgent
Tasks that you mark A are for you to prioritise. ‘B’ tasks can happen once A tasks are complete, so schedule them into your diary. C tasks can be delegated or outsourced depending on your available resources. Finally, D tasks can be delegated, automated or completely scratched from your list altogether.
More reading: How can I make the most of my time?
2. Get Support
Startups are often lean in so much as you don’t have the resources – staffing or budgets to outsource or delegate tasks and every single penny needs to be used wisely. Saying that, getting support is vital to reduce stress during the early phases of your business.
Support could come in the form of a mentor or coach, a team and staff or maybe a virtual assistant or PA. It could just be that you hire someone to write copy for you, run your social media or manage your inbox.
Alongside this practical support is emotional support. Build a network of people who can help you talk through the stresses of the business or take your mind off it. This could be a partner, friends, family or even peers and other business owners who will acutely understand what you’re going through.
You don’t have to do it alone.
More reading: 10 Business Support Services To Help You Succeed
3. Acknowledge What You’ve Achieved
One of the worst triggers for startup stress is feeling like you’ve never done enough. You know there’s so much potential and you’re well aware of the gap between where you are and where you want to be. Especially if you’re looking to your friends, peers and competitors and comparing yourself to their progress.
When you’re in this frame of mind, you’re focused on lack – what you haven’t achieved yet. And yes, while it is highly likely there’s more you could do, if you don’t stop and acknowledge what you have done, you’ll never feel a sense of satisfaction that makes the stress worthwhile.
Stop and take stock. Write down all you’ve achieved. Put visual reminders up in your workspace. Schedule time to reflect and take stock of what’s working and your successes.
More reading: How do I measure success and growth?
4. Avoid Comparison
Startups often network and are connected to other startups and entrepreneurs and whilst this can give you an amazing support network, it can also cause ‘comparisonitis’
“the compulsion to compare one’s accomplishments to another’s to determine relative importance”
Comparing yourself to the progress of your peers or competitors is the fastest route to low-self esteem and heightened anxiety and stress.
Whilst some keeping tabs on the competition is healthy, try to avoid comparing your progress to anyone else’s. Remind yourself that everyone shares their successes and highlight reel online and that you will not know what’s truly going on behind the scenes.
More reading: Researching your competitors