We’re always hearing about how being your own boss can make you happy. But going it alone can also be hugely stressful. A study from the University of California found that rates of mental illness in entrepreneurs are higher than those in the general population. So what’s the best way to be a happy entrepreneur?
Hour of power
Serial entrepreneur Jerry Brand, founder of the Brand Foundation, says a ‘power hour’ keeps your mind clear, fresh and awake. “It helps you manage your time more efficiently and makes for a happier entrepreneur, because as an entrepreneur you tend to have at least five to ten different things going on at once,” he points out. “Start early in the morning, around 5am to 6am if you can – before everyone else in the house is awake. Giving yourself that 'power hour' first thing, to plan and focus on the day ahead, is a great way to focus the mind and stay on target. It does mean that you need to sleep well at night, too, so give yourself space to switch off and relax in the evening, even if you do have an iPad by your bedside!”
Outsource, outsource, outsource
Outsource every possible task that could be done by someone else, advises Janet Murray, founder of Soulful PR – but make sure you give that person the tools to get the job done to your standards. “To really make it work, you have to be prepared to write detailed instructions, or make video or audio that outline every step you take to get a particular task done. It feels like a big-time investment upfront, and it's not the most enjoyable thing to do, but the payoff is so worth it. The feeling you get from handing something over that used to take you hours – and letting someone else get on with it – is a huge stress reliever.”
Get out of the office
Spend time on something completely unrelated to your business – it’ll make you a better entrepreneur, says Rune Sovndahl, co-founder and CEO of global domestic services provider Fantastic Services. His passion? Cave diving. “We need seemingly stressful situations – which are actually enjoyable – to relax, because our brains are so absorbed in work,” he says. “Doing a four-hour dive with limited oxygen is where I get my kicks. You have to be calm. There are no release buttons and no exit. It’s you who are in charge of your body and your breathing and the oxygen remaining in the tank.”
Learn from Sir Mo
“UK entrepreneurs could take a lesson or two from the Olympians’ books, and learn to pace themselves,” says Louise Boland, Managing Director at Opus Energy, which recently conducted research that found 74 per cent of small business owners believe their relationships have been impacted by working long hours. “Success at work requires a good level of dedication, but people also need to know when to draw a line in the sand for the day and go home. Taking on too much will negatively impact them and their team, so it’s best to pick the race they want to win and smash that, instead of stretching themselves too thin.”
Have positive energy
Who you work with is just as important as how you work. “Surround yourself with staff members who genuinely believe in the brand or product you are offering,” says Terry Koutsios, founder and MD of freelance marketplace fivesquid.com. “That way, a bad day will also be filled with solutions and pro-active buzz, so you never feel like you are solving issues alone."
Shared activities lead to a happier work environment all round. “We do a blind tasting when we’re under pressure,” says Richard Hardwick, co-founder of Halo Coffee, maker of the first compostable Nespresso-compatible coffee capsule. “We get several different rival coffees and our own and try to guess which each one is. It’s a great way of giving the brain a completely different task that relies on sensory experience and is fun too. We keep a score and there is a little prize. Using sensory experience to de-stress works really well for us. And, importantly, we’re all sat talking and drinking coffee, creating a natural break for everyone.”