The past few years have been a bit of a roller coaster for me.
I’ve been doing e-commerce since I was in college, putting together multiple streams of income through the internet before most people have even found the first job in their career path. Work has been a constant companion, and along with it comes the constant corollary of that work: stress.
I’ve dealt with some long nights, some rough days, and some heavy burdens when dealing with a failure or an issue. Through it all, there’ve been a few thing that I’ve learned about how to deal with and minimize the stress that comes with building an e-commerce empire the size of the one I currently manage.
This point’s first because it’s usually the very first thing to go, and it’s one of the most important points. Sleep is absolutely essential to you making good decisions—in fact, according to the American Psychological Association, even light sleep deprivation can affect memory, judgment and mood.
Most people would benefit from getting a little more sleep—but as a founder, owner-operator or chief executive, it’s even more imperative for you. I know from experience that it’s easy to skimp on sleep to try and get more work done.
Don’t do that; instead, try to use the hours that you have more effectively. When you’re well-rested, you’re more productive and less stressed.
If you’re not stepping away from your desk to reset your mind, you’re letting the stress build up and making yourself less productive. Taking breaks during the work day will help you refocus your mind and attack problems from a different angle, and it’ll help you stop banging your head against the wall if there’s a problem you’re having difficulty with.
In addition, you need to have something over the long term that you can do to step away from the office and clear your mind. Syed Balkhi, cofounder of OptinMonster, notes that you need to love your work but still have hobbies and other interests that you can step away with for even an hour or two a week.
Meg Whitman, recently-retired CEO of Hewlett Packard, makes time for a fly fishing trip about six times a year. Whatever your hobby is, take some time to de-stress with it.
This is absolutely key, and especially if you’re running a company it’s another easy thing to let slip.
If you never set a boundary between your work and your personal life, sooner or later your work will take over everything, and you’ll not only be spending all your waking hours in stress-producing activity, you’ll be shorting yourself on time that you could be using to center yourself away from stress.
When I first started working in e-commerce, I was still in college, and I was having some trouble keeping up with everything. One of the first things that I did when things started to get over my head was talk to my brother, Evan Tan.
He was instrumental in both helping me get my business off the ground and managing the stress that came with running everything on a daily basis. I was able to pass some of the burden off to him.
When I mentioned I was writing this article, Evan had some thoughts.
“No one can do it all by themselves,” he said.
“If you’re taking on everything—every aspect of the business, every aspect of the marketing, every aspect of the selling, all the back end—you’re going to burn out. There’s no shame in reaching out for help, and I think that both of us working together helped us both manage the stress that came with the business and create something that neither he or I alone could have done.”
I’d agree with that. It’s important to reach out to trusted friends or family or people that you know can help with the business. Make sure you’re using the support that you have so the stress doesn’t overwhelm you.
One of the biggest things that creates extra stress is not dealing with problems when they appear. If you leave a problem be and don’t take action on it, even if it doesn’t grow, it’s one more stressor in the back of your mind, just waiting to trip you up.
Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos, handles this simply: by taking care of things when they come up instead of putting them off. “I find as soon as I identify it and … address that situation—even if it’s not solved—the mere fact that we’re addressing it dramatically reduces any stress that comes from it,” he said in an interview.
Learn from Bezos.
Face things immediately and head-on. It’s worked for me, and it’ll work for you, too. You’ll be surprised how much it lessens your stress.
A lot of the other things I’ve noted here are really symptoms—symptoms of a balanced life. If you want to be successful without being stressed, balance in all things is key.
Good health, good relationships, the ability to step away and recenter yourself: all of those are things that are part of living a truly balanced life. I’m not there yet, but I’m working on it, and the better I do, the less stressed and the more productive I am.
If you’re running a company or business like I am and feeling like stress is running you over, try implementing these tips. They’ve helped me, and they’ll help you.
Get rid of stress and be the leader that you were meant to be.