23 February 2017
Setting up and running a business can be incredibly stressful. Managing time, having to be everything to everyone and juggling so many responsibilities is invariably going to take its toll. I’ve learned a few lessons over the years that help me remove stress from the equation these days.
Of course, I am still learning, but here are the lessons I’ve learned so far.
- Don’t take life too seriously. There is so much of life that is serious, and there is so much in the news that is really quite concerning. It is more important than ever when you are feeling a little stressed to remember to have a little fun. You will always find something silly in my office; a skateboard, remote-controlled car, a BB8 or, my current favourite, a drone. Taking this time reboots your brain. You switch your focus, you feel more relaxed and you have fun. You naturally feel less stressed.
- Focus is key when it comes to stress. I believe that you can never feel stress if you focus on being grateful. Ultimately you can only focus on one emotion at a time and you can choose what that emotion is. Really, it doesn’t matter how bad you feel that life is, it’s always possible to feel grateful for something. This is a lesson that I learned after my avalanche accident and in the early days of UKFast when we were living off Weetabix and porridge and my wife Gail and I were barely seeing each other. Focus on the positives, on the things that make you happy.
- Change your perspective. Sometimes it is hard to see the wood for the trees. Finding a positive to focus on isn’t always easy! It is easy, however, to become stressed when you feel like you’re not on track or if a goal is taking longer than you thought it would. But it is very difficult to let a small problem distract you if you have your goal written down. Instead of floundering, you can go back to your goals, look at the progress you’re making and where you’re stumbling, and see the bigger picture.
- A problem shared is a problem halved. I would say there’s a blend between delegating and being able to sit down and discuss a problem with someone. So, for example, having a really strong set of friends, or leaders or managers so that someone is able to act in your best interests and they are able to shoulder the burden of responsibility so you can carry on with your day-to-day roles.
- Be mindful that we can’t all do everything. I used to get very stressed trying to get my end of year accounts done and it was not something that I enjoyed. Gail is very organised – I’ve got a huge amount of respect for that – and she helped out to get the job done. Equally there are things that I do that would stress her out. Sharing responsibility is the best way to reduce stress. Additionally, we have a responsibility to spot when teammates want to take on a role and a duty of care to match skillsets with personalities, so that the right people are in the right roles. We’ve done psychometric testing as part of our recruitment for many years now because of this. We can see patterns in responses that show how people learn and process information and how they will fit in with the team. We’ve found this incredibly valuable.
Ultimately, if you’re feeling stressed, stop. Pause, take a breath. Go to the gym, go for a swim, a walk or sit with a hot drink. Change your scenery, chat with a colleague and soon your focus will shift.