How to burn brighter without burning out.
Diana Conley used to stress out a lot at work. As owner of Advotek – a company that sells and services business computers and related products — problems with customer orders and cash flow issues put her in a funk for days, making her employees feel like they were walking on eggshells. Then a light bulb went on: “I realized being stressed out doesn’t accomplish anything,” she says. “When you’re stressed, you don’t think clearly and can’t really solve problems.”
Ms. Conley made a conscious decision to stop the behavior, and now she acknowledges the stress, determines if the problem can be solved and tries to let it go. She even created a more serene work environment, putting up paintings and streaming music in the background.
Today many business owners face tremendous stress. Balancing work with a demanding personal life is a challenge for anyone, but it’s achievable according to author Monique Hayward.
In her book, Divas Doing Business: What the Guidebooks Don’t Tell You About Being a Woman Entrepreneur, Ms. Hayward writes that one’s entrepreneurial journey is indeed a balancing act. She advises women to define balance for themselves, taking into account their lifestyle and protecting what she calls the “M” factors – money, marriage/motherhood, mortgage, motor vehicle and [peace of] mind.
Professional photographer Jennifer Girard achieved peace of mind by not having employees. She schedules her own appointments, performs her photo retouching and handles the financial aspects of the business. “I’ve paid my dues and now it’s paying off,” she explains. But when stress does rear its ugly head, Ms. Girard heads to the lakefront with her three dogs.
Karla Karina Echeverry-Estupinan says balance came when she stopped taking work home. “Once you bring work home, you’re breaching your space, and it can be a very nasty habit to break,” she admits, noting that ‘me-time’ is also important. “If you’re taking care of everyone else around you and neglecting yourself, you’ll burn out. When people are overwhelmed, the first thing they neglect is themselves and the second is their marriage.” For Ms. Echeverry-Estupinan, being organized and delegating as much as possible is key.
Some business owners rely on a form of meditation. Gemma Allen, a family law attorney and partner at Ladden & Allen, Chartered, considers reciting the first four lines of the Serenity Prayer and looking at the timeless presence of Lake Michigan from her condo as ways to put everything in perspective. And business/career coach Vickie Austin says, “When I get into a real ‘tizz,’ I stop what I’m doing and breathe deeply. I may close my eyes and say a short prayer. I sometimes take a walk, even if I’m in the middle of something and it seems like I can’t ‘afford’ to step away. It’s usually during those times, when the pressure’s really on, that we need to stop what we’re doing and hit the re-set button. A break and getting some perspective seems to help.”
Other women entrepreneurs cite life’s simple pleasures as a way to reduce stress. Vanessa Sanders, an adult home party organizer who owns Pink Kittee, reads a chapter in a racy novel or calls someone she’s been thinking about. Saundra D. Underwood, owner of Lady Alexandra Skincare Systems, sets sales goals, then rewards herself for attaining a goal “with flowers, a scented candle or sweet dark chocolate.”
Bobbye Cochran, president of Lincoln Bark, who balances an online business with a family, sums it up: “There will always be a long To-Do list, but the key is to find a balanced life so everyone is happier.”