This is a quote from an email I received this week from a frustrated entrepreneur who asked to remain nameless.
“Tim, I never get ANYTHING done because I can’t stop worrying about EVERYTHING!!!!”
For the sake of wear and tear on my keyboard I left out a dozen or so exclamation points, but I think you get the message.
The sender went on to say that they worry about every detail of the business, no matter how small, and their fear is they will literally make themselves sick from worry.
Or go out of business due to lack of focus.
I’m betting on both.
Then they can worry about why their business failed.
My reply to this sweaty soul: Don’t waste time worrying about things in the past, things you have no control over, and especially, things that haven’t even happened yet.
I know, easier said than done, but resolving (or dismissing) issues rather than worrying about them is the best way of reducing the stress not only in your business, but in your life, as well.
As famed author Richard Carlson said, “Don’t sweat the small stuff. And it’s all small stuff.”
Okay, maybe there is some big stuff thrown in there, but the key to reducing worry and stress is to deal with things rather than let them fester, or become so big and ominous in your mind that they keep you awake at night and dominate your thoughts all day.
Perhaps you can relate.
Is the pressure of being in business getting to you?
Do you feel like you have the weight of the world on your shoulders?
Do you lie awake nights with a thousand points of worry flashing through your poor, tired brain?
As my mother would say, “Be careful what you wish for because you just might get it… then you have to worry about what to do with it.”
Welcome, my friend, to the wonderful world of entrepreneurship.
Come on now, you really didn’t think it was going to be that easy, did you?
Forget all those other reasons you’ve heard as to why businesses fail.
It’s often the overwhelming pressure of entrepreneurship that sends folks running back to the supposed security of a real job.
I’ve seen perfectly good businesses flushed down the tubes simply because the owner couldn’t handle the day-to-day pressure of keeping the doors open.
So I’ll ask again in case you were busy worrying and missed it the first time: is the pressure of being in business getting to you?
Is worrying about your business taking up so much of your time that there’s no time left to actually work on the business?
If so, take a deep breath and count to ten because there is hope.
Here’s how I went from being a chronic worrier to someone who barely sweats at all.
STEP 1: Make a list of everything that’s worrying you.
The first step to recovery (after admitting you have a problem, of course) is to get it all out in the open so you can face your demons head on.
You can do this exercise on your computer, but I’m a big believer in the old world tradition of actually “writing” things down.
To me, when pen touches paper, my thoughts seem to flow with greater clarity than when my fingers are resting on a keyboard. You do what’s right for you.
Write down everything that is worrying you, not just the business stuff, but the personal stuff as well.
Our business lives and personal lives often melt together, so write it all down.
- Are you worried that you made a mistake starting the business?
- Are you worried that you aren’t as busy as you’d like to be?
- Are you worried that you can’t meet payroll next month?
- Are you worried about losing a big customer or not winning a big contract?
- Is an employee giving you trouble?
- Is a big competitor opening up down the street?
- Is your spouse unhappy with the number of hours you’re away from home?
- Do you worry about your kids?
- The dog?
- The shine of your shoes…
Whatever is a point of worry for you, no matter how big or small, write it down.
Write it all down.
STEP 2: Divide what you’ve identified as worry topics into three categories:
- Past Worries (things that have already happened)
- Present Worries (things that are happening now)
- Future Worries (things that may or may not happen in the future).
Now put a big fat X through all of the Past Worries and Future Worries you’ve listed.
That’s right, mark through those things because they are not worthy of worry.
Stop worrying about the past…
There’s nothing you can do about it now.
Worrying about things that happened in the past is like a bald man pining over the hair he lost from worrying.
- If you owe someone an apology, apologize.
- If you owe someone a debt, make arrangements to pay it.
- If someone did you wrong either forgive or forget them.
The past is history. Forget about it and move on.
Stop worrying about the future…
Why kill hair follicles worrying about something that hasn’t even happened yet or may never happen, at all?
If there’s something looming on the horizon that is a valid point of worry you should have a plan to deal with it when it comes, not suffer in anticipation.
Worrying about tomorrow today will drive you nuts.
Forget the past and prepare for the future, but don’t waste time worrying about them.
STEP 3: Divide the Present Worries into two subcategories…
Divide Present Worries into (a) things you can do something about and (b) things you can’t do anything about.
Now put another big fat X through those things that you can’t do anything about.
Worrying about things you can’t control is wasted worrying.
- You’re worried that a proposal you submitted won’t get accepted.
- You’re worried that a vendor might go out of business.
- You’re worried that a giant meteor is going to strike earth and that your building will be dead center in the strike zone.
You can’t do anything about these things except prepare to handle them if they do occur.
In business you have enough legitimate things to worry about.
Stop driving yourself crazy worrying about things you can’t control.
STEP 4: Prioritize the list of things that you can actively do something about…
So, now you have your list of present worry points that are within your control.
Prioritize them from most urgent to simply bothersome and create a plan to deal with each point.
That’s right, instead of worrying about these things take a proactive stance and create a plan to do something about them.
Face the monster head on. Look for solutions, not roadblocks.
You’ll be surprised how much better you’ll sleep at night.
If you’re afraid you can’t meet payroll next month start looking for solutions today.
Don’t wait until the day before payday to address the problem.
- Can you get a line of credit to see you through the lean times?
- Can you get extended terms with vendors that will free up cash?
- Can you find an investor who will put in the money and let you pay him back over time?
Every problem has a solution. It may not be the solution you desire, but it will be a resolution that takes one thing off your list.
Work through each point of worry until you have a plan to deal with each one.
Then start dealing with them.
And if you can’t do anything about an item mark it out as something you can’t control.
This exercise will take some effort and discipline on your part, but trust me; you’ll immediately start sleeping better.
P.S. Don’t be a worry wart…
Some people are born worriers.
Some people live to worry.
Some people love to worry.
They bathe in worry like a warm bubble bath.
They share their worries like movie popcorn, even with people they don’t know.
They are only happy when they have something to worry about.
If that’s you, please add to your list of worries that you get on everyone’s nerves with your constant whining and dark moods.
And this one’s for you…
Here’s to your success!