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3 Simple Tips to Reduce Stress in Your Business and Your Life

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As entrepreneurs and business owners, our lives are pretty chaotic at times....well most of the time. Being an entrepreneur is insanely hard and only those who have attempted it know what I am talking about. Your business becomes a part of you and your life, and it becomes very difficult to turn off the chaos that both create. Life is pretty crazy, or as a friend of mine once put it “Life is just controlled chaos.” But for most entrepreneurs, you probably don't feel like you have any control over the chaos, it's controlling you.

We spend our days putting out fires, learning new software, dealing with customers (happy ones, mad ones, and ones that you have no idea where you stand), managing people, building processes, figuring out where the next check is going to come from to pay employees, securing financing, marketing plans, business plans, working on plans about plans, and on and on and on. Way too many hats to wear for one person.

Stressful right? It can be. But it really depends on how you look at things. Stress isn’t something that actually exists. You feel it alright, but you don’t necessarily have to feel it if you don’t want to. Getting rid of stress is a simple as just making a conscience choice to not let things bother you the way they are and applying some simple things in your life to get that negative energy out of your system. You can choose to look at the situations in your business and your life as stressful or not. Easier said than done, but that is how you need to start looking at it if you ever want to eliminate the stress. Wake up everyday and choose to have a great day and choose to conquer the world. That is the mentality we have to have to be successful while maintaining the passion in our lives.

Ghandi said it best:

Mahatma Gandhi

 “Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”
(courtesy of  Good Reads)

The only way to conquer the stress and chaos in your life is to start looking at everything in your life differently. You also need some tools to help you start gaining more control to be even have a chance at achieving the things you set out to do in your business and your life. If you apply the 3 Simple Tips below, you WILL feel better within 24-hours and you WILL start reducing the chaos and stress that has become a part of you for so many years.

1) Breathe

This may seem obvious, and you may have heard this before, but seriously stop right now and notice how you are breathing. I bet your breathing is shallow. We are naturally shallow breathers and do a terrible job introducing fresh oxygen into our bodies. Becoming a deep breather is going to take some practice no different than learning how to meditate, but before reading on, take a deep breath in through nose and exhale out through your mouth (pretend you have a straw in your mouth - that is how much space I want you to release the air out of your mouth from). Rinse and Repeat! This is how you should be breathing all day.

The next time you start to feel anxious and stressed out, notice your breathing. It becomes shallow and rapid and shallow breathers naturally have tense bodies which leads to stress. STOP. Get back to your breathing and get 10-15 good inhales and exhales out before continuing on with anything. Try and keep that breathing going throughout all of your tasks. Even when you are talking, you can continue to breathe in this fashion once you get use to it.

2) Stop Reacting in Real Time and Focus

While modern technology has played a big role in making us all more "connected", it has also created a society of reactors, distractors, and people who are insanely way too reactionary. There has never been a time in history where humans ahve ever been faced with this many ways to connect with each other instantly. With all of the different methods available (Email, Instant Messaging, Phone, Texting, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc) of getting in contact with people, most of us feel that we need to respond immediately to all of these requests. Study after study has concluded that not only does responding in real time lead to severe drops in productivity, it increases stress levels, and increasing the chaos in our lives. You need to disconnect, NOW!

Unless your job or business deals in saving people's lives, obviously this tip is not meant for you. But if you are like the rest of us we are not dealing with life or death situations. It may feel like that sometimes but it is not the case. So why are we acting and reacting as if we are? The fact that we have the ability to connect so easily does not mean we should be answering/responding/texting/Facebooking every time someone reaches out to you. Stop the madness and focus in on what you need to get done that day.

To improve productivity and reduce stress at work, I recommend you do the following and try it for 1 week and see how you feel. If you need permission from your boss or supervisor, explain to them that you want to try some things to improve your productivity and reduce distractions. If you are like me, you are the boss and you only have yourself to blame if you aren't controlling the chaos and stress.

  • Turn off your email notifications - do not respond to email as it comes in. Designate 2 times per day MAX where you check email and that's it. Remove email from your phone as well as it becomes too tempting when you are out of the office.
  • Designate some power hours - designate 2 blocks of time at 2 hours/per as a time to focus in and eliminate distractions. Tell your co-workers not to bother you between those hours. Turn off your cell phone, office phone, social media sites, etc. Your only job during these hours is to get work done.
  • 30 Minutes On, 5 Minutes Off - if you are starring at a computer screen (or whatever) for longer than 30 minutes at a time, you are probably doing yourself a disservice. Humans are not meant to stare at a computer screen all day, never mind 8-10 hours per day with little or no breaks. Set a timer, http://e.ggtimer.com/ is a great free timer online to try. Not taking small breaks throughout the day can cause stress and anxiety and leave you with the inability to focus and be productive. The same thing goes with physical labor, working hours at a time with no break does not make you more productive.
  • 4 Day Work Weeks - This one I get the most resistance from, typically because people cannot fathom that it is even possible.  Several studies have shown that working 4, 10 hour days, people are more productive, less stressed, and have higher job satisfaction then those that work 5, 8 hour days per week. 3-day weekends are great, now just imagine if you had that every week? There is no reason why you can't work less, have less stress, and make more money. Ask yourself if you can switch to a 4-Day work week to improve your productivity and give yourself a 3-Day weekend to relax and refocus.
  • No Multi-Tasking - If there was ever a surefire way to end up completely drained of your passion it's multi-tasking. I have learned this the hard way having gone through several periods of severe burn-out in my life. Each and every time I burned out the passion for what I was doing, it always came back to the same problem - trying to do way too many things all at the same time. I have to constantly remind myself that "Rome wasn't built in a day." I actually have this quote posted on my computer with a Post-It Note.

The hard part about stopping the multi-tasking is that you actually have what feels like a million things you need to get done. All of these tasks are important to move your business forward but you are only one person. Designate specific days for specific tasks. For instance, I designate Weds from 2-4 as my "Process Improvement" day. Friday 9-11 AM is my "Writing" day. I do nothing else during those time slots but work on those things. I have several other time slots like this for very specific tasks and that is all that I do during those times. And all of these tasks are what I consider $500/hour or more tasks that only I can do. Everything else, I give to someone else. It's the only way I can maintain my sanity, reduce stress, maintain my passion, and reduce my workload.

I would also highly recommend you read the following books to gain more clarity on your business and reducing the chaos:

Conquering the Chaos by Clate Mask
E-Myth by Micheal Gerber
4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss

3) Exercise

If you want to reduce stress at work, your overall health plays a huge role in this. Exercising 45-minutes, 3 times per week is crucial. While this might not be a huge secret to anyone, it might be a big reason why you might be stressed out. Get a membership at a local gym and I highly suggest that you hire a personal trainer for 8-weeks minimum to get you started. A personal trainer will keep you accountable and get you in shape much faster than doing this on your own. A lot of people say they can't afford a personal trainer, but most gyms offer discounted introductory rates or small group training that is affordable for just about any full time employee or small business owner.

If you can combine exercise with getting outside 3 times per week, even better! Getting outside and breathing some fresh air (preferably while you practice your breathing) will reduce your stress levels tremendously. Lunch break, coffee break, etc - get outside and breath in some fresh air.

Take time for yourself, for your family, and work on your health. Stress is a killer, literally, and if you don't get it under control, sooner or later it will catch up with you and the consequences are not pretty. Life is too short to live  being stressed out so start implementing the tips above and you will notice a big difference in your life.

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