It's no secret that running a business takes a lot time and dedication. You're in charge of executing the day-to-day tasks, the long-term strategic planning and everything in between — and if you don't have the budget for help, you may feel like you're running a one-person circus.
Succumbing to stress and burning out might seem inevitable when you're responsible for so many business and personal obligations. But allowing yourself to get caught up in the stress can take its toll on your physical, mental and emotional health.
"I've become increasingly aware of the relationship between stress and health," said Lisa Vallee-Smith, CEO and founder of marketing and PR firm Airfoil. "One source tells me that 80 percent of sickness can be traced to stress and its close cousin, anxiety. Because stress is also tied to irrational behavior and poor decision making, the potential negative impact of stress on a business owner's employees and customers cannot be overestimated."
With the right time-management strategies, you can create room on your to-do list for well-deserved rest and relaxation. Small business owners and startup leaders shared their best tips for finding "you" time (and a refreshed perspective) as an entrepreneur. [See Related Story: 3 Steps to Eliminate Workplace Stress]
Take care of yourself first.
"Whether it is a massage, a morning run or a walk around the block, it is imperative as an entrepreneur that you take care of your body. Stress can do quite a number on you physically and the more you can deal with it upfront, the more productive your work day will be. Have a tool or routine that specifically addresses physical stress. Keep your body comfortable as your day progresses, regardless of how 'stressed' you might feel." – Lillo Furca, founder, MyoBuddy
Build a great team.
"Entrepreneurs work longer and harder hours than anyone else, but if your heart isn't in it, then trying to make your business a success is going to burn you out. Are you spending time on the aspects you love or are you finding yourself stuck crunching numbers or micromanaging others? Hiring the right people and building the right systems will help others carry your vision, so you can focus on what you love in and outside of the business." – Eric Casaburi, CEO and founder, Retro Fitness
Treat your time like a financial budget.
"Be fiscally responsible. Budget free time first, much like you would put money into a savings account. Then build a monthly budget around the remainder of your expenses or time spent working. By sticking to your budget, you're forced to allocate the expenses you can afford and cut unnecessary expenses. For example, you can decline meetings you don't need to attend, or delegate client questions to team members who are more than capable of handling them on their own. Challenge yourself each day to unplug outside the office and hold yourself accountable to your time budget." – Yuri Sagalov, co-founder and CEO, AeroFS
Pause and take a breath.
"I have learned to separate the urgent from the important; the crisis from the unexpected negative surprise. There are truly very few true disasters in life; most are temporary annoyances and distractions that require our attention, but don't require our negative emotion. Intentional breathing that begins in the belly and fills the chest … provides your brain and your body with oxygen and a sense of renewal that can have an immediate positive impact on performance, not to mention blood pressure and pulse!" – Lisa Vallee-Smith (Airfoil)
Play as hard as you work.
"You have to find the one thing that makes you happiest and do it, and for me, that's golf. I play when I am home at least four times a week, because I can still do business on the course. I apply the same passion in my work as my play, and they both give me the same thrill and challenges." – Dan Brinton, CEO, Fractured Prune Doughnuts
"Stress is in the mind and is a natural byproduct of growing a business and juggling the day to day tasks of an entrepreneur. Stepping away for a few minutes each day to mindfully breathe can help you create some mental space and mellow out a bit. Mindfulness In Plain English is a great book on the topic of meditation and mindfulness and has served as a great resource for managing my day to day stress." – Evan Mendelsohn, co-founder and co-CEO, TipsyElves
"Using a diffuser in your office for aromatherapy is a great stress reliever. You can find great ones on Amazon, and they’re an inexpensive way to make a huge difference in your hectic work environment. The subtle scent of Lavender or Jasmine throughout the day centers me back to my zen mode." – Ehsan Alipour, founder and CEO, Oliso
Cut through the chaos with music.
"This might be a bit different than the way most people bust stress, but when I feel pressure, I like listening to deafeningly loud, wild and crazy music. Just put on headphones and you’ll find that there's something peaceful in chaos." – Chris Vaughn, co-founder and CEO, Saucey
Stick to your routine, no matter what.
"My business requires so much traveling, so I try hard to stay grounded and healthy no matter where I am. I keep my routine and eat as well as I can to take care of myself. Every day, I try to meditate in the morning, and I do yoga at the end of the day as often as I can. I have very challenging and exhausting days, but when you do what you love, it's easy to get re-energized and start in again the next day." – Jennifer Adams, CEO, Jennifer Adams Home
Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.