Friday, October 29, 2010 @ 6:25 AM

Managing Time and Stress

Doctors define stress as anything that disturbs your healthy mental or physical well being. Isolation, overwork and poor time management all breed stress. Having trouble getting motivated? Chances are you are stressed out. Or maybe you can’t handle setbacks? That’s stress! It could also be a looming deadline, a demanding client, delayed shipments and deliveries, or even the barrage of emails and phone calls that you receive. As an entrepreneur, the constant need to generate income and maintain the financial health of your business can create more stress than some people can take.

Sustained long-term stress can make you feel anxious and frustrated, resulting in a downslide of your work quality. It can also give you a feeling of a sense of failure, and your health may begin to suffer. You either have to live with stress, or learn to deal with it. Here are some guidelines to make it a little easier on yourself:

Effective time management.  Plan your time and establish priorities on a daily "to do" list. By preparing a daily list of things to do you’re ready to act when the time comes, with no need for further thought or preparation. You’re ready for action. Decide what your "prime time" is and do your most important or difficult tasks.  Get the tasks done the first time. Set "business hours," specific times when you are at work and times when you turn on the answering machine because you are "on duty but off call." You, your customers, and your family will appreciate knowing your set routine, even though you know that for special events or emergencies you can break that schedule.

Focus on the urgency of the task. Make a habit of completing every task you start without having to go back to it.  Efficiency, or doing things with as little waste motion as possible, is important to the success of every business venture.

Eliminate distractions.  Notice what your four or five big time-wasters are and learn techniques to eliminate them or compensate for them. Some common ones are: telephone interruptions, visitors, socializing, excessive paperwork, lack of policies and procedures, procrastination, failure to delegate, unclear objectives, poor scheduling, lack of self-discipline, and lack of skill in a needed area.

Stay in contact with people. Home alone with the job you love – it’s the new American dream. Unfortunately, it’s the alone part many must learn to handle. Even though you prefer to work at home, you should plan work-related or social activities that provide frequent contact with others. This will help your morale if you feel isolated. Even for home-based business owners who like feeling isolated, keeping up with business and professional contacts is a must.

Build a fitness program into your day. Many successful entrepreneurs exercise in order to think creatively. Exercise is a great way to relieve anxiety, stress, frustration, and daily pressure, as well as to recharge emotional batteries. Physical activity sends oxygen to the brain and helps the mind function better. Take time off to exercise or simply relax. Jog, do brisk walking, play with your dog, tinker in your garden, or join a structured program at the gym. Don’t consider the time wasted; it pays HUGE dividends.

Give your home business as much of a separate and distinct physical identity as possible. While a home and office may exist under one roof, remember that an office is not a home, and vice versa. Although you might save a few dollars by using the ironing board as a bookshelf and a cardboard box as a file cabinet, the stress and strain of operating without proper space and supplies will take its toll. Have a separate room or area for your business, with a separate entrance if customers or suppliers visit. Deliberately and consciously entering an area explicitly designated for work separates “being at home” from “being at the office.” One space must not be allowed to invade the other. (In addition to the psychological and physical comfort of having a separate office, the IRS requires it in order for you to make a legitimate claim for tax deductions.)

Take care of your major business asset: YOU. Being the boss can be exciting, fulfilling, and rewarding. It can also be lonely, stressful, and demanding. Learn to balance your professional and personal life. Make yourself a concerted effort to schedule periodic “rewards” into your daily and weekly routines for a job well done: lunches or dinners with friends, regular workouts at the health club, or a weekly massage. Your business
depends on you to be at your best.

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