The task of running a startup can be grueling. There is no balance between work and life, as most self-starters have just one thing in mind: building their business. We begin to live and breathe on tasks, meetings, strategies, and our targets. “How do I make my product stand out?” “What are my competitors doing?”
Self-management is one of the most valuable skill sets a solopreneur can have. You need to be able to deal with people, problems, and make tough decisions. This also includes the decisions you make on how to spend your time, how to set priorities, and when to cut your losses and run.
Before discussing specific skills for self-management, it is essential to look at the research on mental health and the entrepreneurial community as a whole.
Entrepreneurs and mental health
According to a study by the National Institute of Mental Health, 72% of entrepreneurs are directly or indirectly affected by mental health issues compared to just 48% of non-entrepreneurs. The study also showed that 49% of entrepreneurs deal with mental health issues directly or on a daily basis, while only 32% of others experienced them from time to time.
As a category, we as entrepreneurs are:
● Twice as likely to report symptoms of depression
● Six times more likely to suffer from ADHD
● Three times more likely to suffer from addiction or substance abuse
● Ten times more likely to be diagnosed with bipolar disorder
● Twice as likely to be hospitalized for psychiatric reasons
● Twice as likely to experience thoughts of suicide
So, what do you do? One of the most essential things to consider is that you’re not alone. Millions of entrepreneurs share similar battles with balancing responsibility and wellness.
With this in mind, it’s time to get proactive. Self-management skills, such as problem-solving, staying motivated, and decision making all contribute to your mental and emotional, as well as your business success.
Here are the essential skills for entrepreneurs to manage their mental and emotional well-being to help get you started.
Having a solutions oriented mindset is essential to being a successful entrepreneur. Identifying and solving problems is at the core of your job. So, it’s essential to stay flexible.
Being flexible means staying open-minded and open to new opportunities and change. While solving problems, not all the approaches you try will work. Some can waste your time and energy and leave you quite stressed. So, whether you identify as a natural problem solver or not, consider the following methods to stay flexible, open-minded, and improve your problem-solving abilities.
● Acknowledge a problem’s existence, then react accordingly. Problems are inevitable when you’re an entrepreneur. And while ignoring them or pretending they aren’t there may relieve stress in the short term; it doesn’t make them go away.
● Verbalize the problem to understand it fully and why it’s occurring. Or, write it down. It’s crucial to process your thinking patterns when you come across a problem. Getting the issue out of your mind will help you identify the root cause and avoid unnecessary stressors or emotional responses.
● Explore solutions, outcomes, and options calmly. When we’re stressed or emotional, our ability to think logically shuts down. So before you start analyzing potential solutions, take a breather first. When you’re thinking logically, you can then go on to outline your potential solutions.
● Don’t hesitate to compromise or negotiate. There’s rarely ever a perfect solution. Most of the problems you face require you to compromise-whether it’s between your time, cost, or return. Forget your perfectionist tendencies and consider what an acceptable solution would be.
● Resolve conflict, accept outcomes, and rebuild communications. Remember, just because you’re an independent entrepreneur, it’s essential not to take things personally all the time. Learn from the problems you face, accept outcomes for what they are, and look ahead.
Alongside staying flexible with your thinking, maintaining an optimistic perspective can be powerful. According to research from NCBI, “There is evidence that optimistic people present a higher quality of life compared to those with low levels of optimism or even pessimists.”
The next time you’re faced with a problem, consider both sides of the coin. Optimists believe that favorable situations are more stable and frequent than negative ones, so ultimately, their ability to cope with stressful situations is greater compared to pessimists.
As an entrepreneur, you spend a lot of time making decisions. Whether it’s how to plan your day or how to price your services, making decisions is an integral part of your work. However, making a lot of decisions also means that you’re subjecting yourself to a lot of uncertainty. Therefore, your ability to make good decisions is what separates effective entrepreneurs from those who waste a lot of time deciding.
According to the business community, one of the first things you need to do is assess your core values. Take a careful assessment of your personal values and ask yourself whether a particular decision aligns with those values. If you need help determining what your values are, consider taking this quiz. The quiz is separated into two stages. After completing it, you’ll get a rank order list of your top five values in life. The higher the position is on the list, the more of a priority it is.
For example, let’s say one of your core values is “family.” When a client asks you to double the amount of time you’re putting in daily, maybe it’d be worth considering whether you want to continue working with this client if it interferes with your family time.
Staying Motivated to Take Action
Success isn’t always determined by how motivated we are or how much willpower we have. If you think about it, willpower is like a muscle: we can strengthen it, but it also needs time to recover from its constant use.
James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, says that our focus should be on systems instead of results. Focusing on the results distracts you from implementing the systems you’ll use to get there which, are more important. Being results focused does not drive action, because concrete steps are not taken. This is where having a system and an action plan come in.
Goals are outcome-focused. Systems are about the process you use to get there.
Example: If you’re a musician, let’s say your goal is to play a new piece. Your system would be how you practice, how you break down each measure, and how you incorporate feedback from your instructor.
This isn’t to say goals aren’t useless; they’re great for setting a direction and can serve as a guide. Systems, on the other hand, are great for making consistent progress. When we focus only on the goal itself, we run into problems and setbacks.
Staying motivated also relies on you knowing your limits.
Work-life balance has always been a challenge for entrepreneurs. And when you bite off more than you can chew, you increase your stress. As a solo entrepreneur, it’s immensely important to set healthy limits to keep your energy high and ensure that projects remain relaxed and fun. This will ensure your work’s ultimate success.
One of the very best ways to set a boundary is to say the magic word: “No.”
It’s clean, simple and very effective.
Consider pausing for a moment the next time an opportunity presents itself. Think about whether you have the time, the right skills, or even the energy to take on another task. Or, write a list of things you prefer not to do. Get comfortable saying “no” and put yourself first. That way, you’ll have enough energy and time to reach back out to help other people.
Running a business is exciting, but it can also be a rollercoaster, even for the most seasoned entrepreneurs. Self-management is a suite of crucial skills that set you apart from the rest and is essential to your success. You will inevitably come up against many challenges. Therefore, it’s incredibly important to take time for yourself to recharge, refocus, and prioritize your wellbeing.