6 Ways to Stop Thinking About Your Business and Take Back Your Mental Space
Confession: Even though I only work 15 hours a week, I usually feel like I'm working 24/7.
My mind is always racing with thoughts about the business: How can I scale in a way that's sustainable? Do I have room for one more client next month? I should email so-and-so about fixing such-and-such. Is that opportunity right for me? Will I hit my financial goals this quarter?
I've spent years being unable to turn off these endless thoughts. My mind no longer belonged to me. I was always working overtime, spending my mental energy on thoughts that never paid off. They led to stress and worry and fear. They very rarely helped me take action on a good idea or make a positive change.
My husband may think it's crazy that my brain works like this, but I know I'm not the only business owner who has this struggle.
I've spent the past few months taking small steps to reclaim my headspace and free my mind from the constant pressures of business. These are my best tips to help you do the same.
1. Create set business hours
This is a tough one, especially for those of us who work in the nooks and crannies of our day because of kids or a 9-5 job. But just because your work doesn't operate on standard business hours doesn't mean you can't set healthy boundaries around when you will and won't work.
We all like to think of being solopreneurs as a blend between business and life. But in reality, that can be messy. Without boundaries, your business can take over every aspect of your life.
This tip is all about finding a healthy work schedule that makes sense for your life. If you have times that are dedicated solely to your business, you can go hard at your work with focus and high mental energy. (Mamas, I know this is hard. My saving grace has been naptime, bedtime, and the occasional babysitter.) And when the clock says it's time to stop, you can take a step away from your business without feeling guilty because you know you put in a solid effort already.
2. Put your phone away
We've heard it a million times before, but I'll say it again anyway: your phone is contributing to your mental overload. Your phone distracts you even if you're not using it. Even the temptation of trying to ignore it can drain your willpower, leading you to make less wise decisions as the day goes on.
I'm a big fan of the typical suggestions to move tempting apps off your home screen, delete your email from your phone, and turn off notifications. But I like to take it a step further: Put your phone somewhere totally out of the way and just ignore it.
I leave mine on a high shelf in my office or on my bedroom dresser with the volume turned up in case I get a call (which rarely happens). I do check for texts every few hours, but I try not to look too often since this usually leads me to a rabbit hole of email.
3. Read fiction
Books were my first love in life. I used to read all the time, sometimes even finishing a book a day (this is probably because I was a very introverted, socially awkward child with no siblings and few friends). Even though I've gotten better at interacting with people over the years, I'm glad I've always had books to keep me company, especially now that every other thought is about work.
Reading fiction is my favorite way to turn off my work brain and escape to another world. I still leave room to read nonfiction (yes, even business books), but I make sure I always have at least one novel in the mix so I can get carried away with characters' adventures instead of constantly fielding thoughts about work.
(Looking for great book recommendations? Check out my podcast, Chasing Creative! My cohost Abbie and I talk books with our guests at the end of every episode.)
4. Stop listening to podcasts
I know I JUST invited you to listen to Chasing Creative, and I truly do love podcasts---but sometimes you just need to sit in the silence and let your thoughts wander. Business podcasts were especially tough for me to listen to. I would hear from people with different business models and different business goals, and I would feel like I had to make my business look like theirs.
Should I be going to that conference? I need to sign up for that tool! Maybe I'm making a mistake by not doing XYZ. Business podcasts can be a fantastic resource. Unfortunately, I had to cut them out once they made it too hard for me to be intentional about my own business.
Spending time in silence or listening to music really does help lower your mental stress. If you really need something to listen to, try fiction audiobooks or podcasts that are unrelated to work. My favorites are the Lazy Genius podcast, Stuff You Should Know, the Coffee + Crumbs podcast, and Straight and Curly.
Prayer is a simple way to refocus your mind when your thoughts won't settle down. I get distracted easily while I pray, so one of my favorite tricks is to read a devotional and then do more of a written prayer. My thoughts are less likely to stray to business concerns if I'm actually putting them down on paper.
If you're not the praying type, you can substitute meditation or just simple quiet time. I know "real" meditation focuses on stillness, but I find it helpful to have something physical to do while I clear my mind. Stretching or doing simple yoga poses can help with this.
6. Fix nagging problems in your business
99 percent of my business stress come from unresolved issues. Maybe I have a big deadline coming up and I'm not sure if I'll get the project done on time, or I've fallen behind in my business bookkeeping and I'm feeling financially unstable. Lately, my biggest concern has been that I'm booked out for months---a good problem to have, but one that's left me exhausted and thinking about changing my business model.
Rather than letting these worries stew in your brain for weeks and months, take action to actually FIX those problems! Block off extra time to work on that big project. Email your client to resolve the miscommunication you had with them. Hire a specialist who can help you fix that website glitch.
Fix nagging business problems now, and save hours of stress and worry later.
Take back your headspace, take back your life
Reclaiming your headspace is a process, one that we'll probably be in the midst of for as long as we're business owners. Start with these tips to escape the everyday frenzy of thoughts, then change your mindset over the long haul by establishing these 4 Essential Habits for Intentional Creativepreneurs.