I often hear entrepreneurs say things like, "I can't help but be stressed out, there's just too much going on." I see it differently. Why choose to be rendered helpless by stress when it only makes your burden heavier? High levels of stress depreciate productivity and clarity substantially. Simply put, you won't get a whole lot done if your mind is clouded and your energy drained by stress.
Stress is a natural response to danger, and it wasn't designed to make us ill or kill us. In fact, sometimes it offers the motivation you need to succeed, as it does for athletes. And, stress and adrenalin will keep you alive when you're in danger. However, since a saber-toothed tiger won't be chasing you anytime soon there's no need to let your stress get out of control. When you allow your stress to escalate it creates brain fog, blocks clarity, and lets your negative thinking get out of control. High levels of productivity are just not likely.
Understand the effects of stress.
Your brain does not serve you well when your thoughts are negative, neutral, or stressed out. These states put you into the fight or flight mode, which prohibits you from tapping into all of your mental resources. When you think positively and allow only an appropriate level of concern (a more grounded and objective choice) rather than excessive stress, your brain will move into that innovative, focused space that serves you so well.
Control only what you can.
Create a list of everything that's weighing on your mind. As each item comes to mind ask yourself how much control over it you have at this moment in time. You may be worried that an employee won't get a job done in time, or that a promising prospect may not come through. Ask yourself if, in this very moment, you have any control over the outcome. Then, separate your worries into two columns: One you can control and another that you cannot, not at this moment anyway. This will help you to see the reality of your situation and offer a clear picture of where to place your focus.
Stop the downward spiral.
What can you do to prevent more work from piling up? For instance, if you've got too many projects to do and you take on more, you'll never come to the end of your chaos. There are times when entrepreneurs are so eager for the business that they take anything that comes along and they do whatever they believe is necessary to please. Stop that. Accept only your ideal client and set clear expectations for deadlines instead. Most customers will be accepting of a distant deadline as long as they are aware of it and you come through on your promise.
Learn to compartmentalize.
A particularly annoying thing about stress is that it affects the ability to use true logic. You may feel like you have to do everything--all at once. Obviously, that's impossible. You try to focus on one thing at a time, but your stress just doesn't allow it. We need to organize the brain by directing it to compartmentalize things. It's like giving your brain permission to focus on one thing at a time and put everything else securely away for the time being.
When you feel overwhelmed it seems counter-intuitive to slow down, yet that's the best thing you can do. Once you take the time to breathe, reframe your negative thoughts, visualize, and compartmentalize, you will be far more effective at work and relaxed at home. Yes, you can choose to be a frenzied entrepreneur--or one who gets things done.
By Marla Tabaka @MarlaTabaka