Why Small Business Owners Need To Disconnect Bethany Parker
Bethany Parker, forbes.com
In our deeply connected, internet-driven economy, many small business owners are proud of the fact that they are always “on.” They work around the clock, take customer calls whenever they come in, and sacrifice their own personal life for the sake of the business.
But, sometimes, the best thing a small business owner can do it to shut off their smartphone, forget about work, take a deep breath and recharge.
That’s because running a business is an all-consuming and stressful effort. According to a recent study from Bank of America, 41% of small business owners say that managing their business is the most stressful thing in their life, higher than managing personal finances (18%), maintaining a relationship with a spouse or partner (13%) or raising children (9%).
That’s why I'm pleased to bring you my top five tricks for disconnecting – and at least temporarily escaping the job stress.
1. Make the business case.
Taking time to recharge isn’t just good for your mental and physical health -- it’s the smart thing to do for your business. Studies have shown that increased stress leads to reduced productivity, while decreased stress levels lead to increased productivity. So, it’s essential that you give yourself, and your team, license to shut down. Make sure that everyone agrees to the same rules: no weekend work, no emails, no “emergency” calls (unless it’s really an emergency). And, if you’re the boss, it’s even more important that you model this behavior. Don’t tell everyone to take the weekend off and then sneak in a few hours of work yourself. It will leave the team feeling guilty when they check back in on Monday.
2. Disconnect holistically.
Don’t just disconnect from your work; take a break from the broader and ever-present digital world. Research shows that 26% of American adults admit to being online “almost constantly,” while another 43% are online “several times a day.” Whether it’s for work or for fun, this near-constant digital barrage takes a toll. There are concrete things you can do, like instituting a “no device” policy or limiting your usage to one charge for a given time period, to ensure you stick to this focus. This is particularly important during any time when you have an opportunity to reconnect on a uniquely human level with those nearest and dearest to you, such as during the holidays.
3. Make your downtime meaningful.
Even if your break only lasts a few days, it’s a great opportunity to kick-start a hobby or personal passion project that you can continue to work on all year long. It doesn’t matter what it is -- woodworking, bird watching, Lego tower building, etc. -- studies show that having a creative hobby outside of work translates into more creative problem-solving at work. And meaningful hobbies outside of work are also tied to lower blood pressure, lower body mass index and better overall health.
4. Get active.
Granted, this may be tough during your busiest times of the year, but eating well and exercising in order to achieve good physical health have a direct link to your mental abilities. Study findings reported by the American Psychological Association showed that “the exercise-mental health connection is becoming impossible to ignore,” and argued that “clinicians should consider adding exercise to the treatment plans for their depressed patients.” So make an effort to get outside during your time away from work. Hike, skate or simply enjoy a walk around your neighborhood.
When you do return from work, take advantage of your fresh, recharged mind to re-prioritize your work. You’ll often find that you really can achieve a whole lot more by doing less. You may even find that much of the busywork that once seemed important is, in reality, little more than a distraction from the core drivers of your business. This could even mean saying goodbye to customers who never seem to be satisfied and spending more time with those who are grateful for the work you do.
Forbes Finance Council is an invitation-only organization for executives in successful accounting, financial planning and wealth management firms.