10 ways to stay sane when running a business

Finding the perfect work life balance when running a business is almost an oxymoron. Sometimes running a business can feel like the last few hours on the Titanic, but for those who are willing to sit down in front of a diary and plan their expectations as well as their calendars, there are ways to stay sane when running a business.


1. Be a smart boss

There can be a lot of pressure from society to work yourself into the ground as a new business owner. Advertising is permeated by messages promoting the idea of perseverance and struggle in life, which is fantastic as long as it doesn’t get confused with working for the sake of working.

If you run yourself into the ground by working into the night and forgetting all the other aspects that compose a fulfilling life, then you risk losing the business altogether. Working when your exhausted often results in mistakes being made, which leads to greater demands on your time. Find solutions to the demands of a new business by finding ways to save time and energy while still producing the same result in your work.

2. Schedule regular breaks

Intent may be one thing, but implementing your intent is another. Organise your days so that you have clear times set aside for breaks. This could be as little as 15 minutes to sit in your chair and practice breathing techniques associated with mindfulness training, walking outside or calling a loved one or friend for a chat that has no relation to your work. Anything that gives your brain a rest will help the connection of neural pathways and the formation of new ideas/solutions to your workplace challenges.

3. Share the load

Small business ownership often means taking on multiple roles to save money. Staying sane when running a business means learning to share these demands, even if it costs you money in the short term. While wasteful overheads can break a new business, especially in hospitality, a business simply cannot grow if no one else is given the chance to help develop it. A single owner or manager simply cannot grow the business beyond their own capabilities, making the timeline of your business growth much longer than necessary (placing strain on you as an owner).

4. Prepare yourself for times where you will be crazy busy

In the end there are always periods as a business owner where you will be as busy as you have ever been in your life. What helps is to identify patterns in your business so that you can estimate when these periods occur. For some, it can be much easier to foresee these periods (such as seasonal businesses). Plan well ahead for these, scheduling breaks before or after and making sure you are in the best position to lighten the load for when these periods come.

5. Create clear routines

This is the only way of maintaining your sanity when running a business. Only genius artists function on no sleep and cigarettes, and they don’t live particularly happy lives. When you sleep, your brain is literally washed clean of neurotoxins that build up and block neural pathways in your brain. It is believed that this is one of the core reasons why we sleep, despite it placing us in danger to predators back when we were living in caves, and a lack of sleep is also believed to possibly be linked with the formation of alzheimer’s disease later in life. Create clear routines so that you get enough sleep and form clear and easy-to-follow routines. There are some great morning routines that can set you up for success throughout the day.


6. Exercise!

This is a big one and almost seems too obvious to include in the list. In fact, the obvious studies that associate exercise with mental health probably don’t need to be cited here; it’s just common sense! Include exercise in your routines and be aware that most of the time you simply won’t want to exercise. You will immediately recognise feelings and thoughts that try to put you off exercising from the moment you wake up. As long as you know that you will almost always feel that slight sense of laziness or dread before a run or a swim or the gym, know that everybody has these feelings and don’t give yourself the option. You will exercise regardless of whether you want to or not.

7. Eat well

Find meals that give you the energy to work throughout the day. Avoid meals that are high in processed sugars and carbohydrates, as these draw on your energy reserves for them to be metabolised in your body, while excess sugars eventually turn into fat. Again, eating healthy often comes down to good planning.

8. Talk about your business

Staying sane when you are under pump at work can often mean just having someone to chat to about the challenges you are facing. That is what your family and friends are for: to support you through your life. However, be aware of the effect your mood has on others, and the nature of the conversations you choose to have with your loved ones. It can be easy to fall into a cycle of actually deriving energy for yourself through negativity. For instance, an employee or business partner that is driving you crazy may be a great conversation topic in your mind, but if you are driving energy by complaining about them, you are also doing this at the expense of your family’s happiness. Nobody wants to be on the other end of a negatively-charged conversation, no matter how much they love you.

9. Mark down your business goals

Avoid the feeling of running on an everlasting treadmill at work by writing down goals for your business. When starting with a business plan, you need to have clear goals (even knowing when to sell your business before you have begun building it). Writing down micro goals, such as monthly targets, will help give you something to work towards and provide the opportunity to set aside time for the final thing that will help keep you sane when running a business…

10. Make time for family

They are all that really matters in the end. Everybody knows it, some of us forget it momentarily, but by the end of our careers the lesson very quickly comes back to us. The success of your business and of your mental well being relies on those around you, so nurture them with as much attention as you do your business, and ignore anyone who says it’s one or the other.

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