Keeping your small business healthy when other parts of life intrude

Stress from life events  can put stress on your small business. Use these helpful ideas to make sure your business stays healthy while you deal with these outside stresses.

By Michelle von Schouwen

Seasoned small business owners know that running a company is both a marathon and a sprint. It’s a marathon because the work (and the need for continuous improvement) never ends, and it’s a sprint during busy times and periods of business crisis or opportunity.

But what happens when your busy time, crisis or even opportunity has nothing to do with the business?

Life intrudes, as the saying goes. But it’s important to remember that “life” itself is the point of living. Sometimes, you have to take time out – even from a company you love – to attend to real-life matters. Perhaps your children need more of your time, or you require time out for surgery and recovery. Or you are having a baby. Maybe an aging parent needs your assistance every day. Perhaps someone you love is ill. At all these times, it helps to have good coping tactics.

Years ago, my first husband, who was also my business partner, died unexpectedly. (I’ve written about this here before.) I was determined not to compound my tremendous personal loss with the loss or weakening of the company the two of us had worked so hard to develop. And yet, I was far from my best – certainly not suited for any sprint or marathon.

The tactics I used to cope with my business’ requirements during that very difficult time have come in handy under less dire conditions since then.

-Prioritize. What must you do? What can you skip or postpone? What can you delegate?

-Work when you can, as efficiently as you can. Then get out and do whatever else is required of you.

-Furthermore, compartmentalize. The concepts of mindfulness and living in the moment apply here. While you work, allow your mental focus to be on your work as much as possible. Give the same mindful approach to your personal time.

-Be accepting of compromise. You may not achieve your best sales year or launch your hottest product right now.

-Delegate, of course. Accept that others may handle a project somewhat differently that you would have. Delegate anyway.

-Organize diligently. Reduce time spent at meetings or traveling. Work at home sometimes if that helps. Keep lists and check off what you have done. Do not depend on yourself remembering what you need to do. You may be more scattered than usual, simply as a result of being overburdened. Check out 10 productivity tips in Enterpreneur.

-Learn and record your experience. Analyze how you deal with time pressures, emotional stress and whatever else is happening. Note what works best to keep you sane and on track. Consider keeping a journal (see this good Harvard Business Review article on the topic) because you can use it to revisit what you’ve learned when you next need to remind yourself to breathe, to allow yourself to do a B+ job where you once earned an A, or anything else you’ve discovered.

-Be thankful where you can, and express those thanks. Whether it’s your staff picking up some slack, a customer understanding a delay or friends checking in to see how you are holding up, it helps to acknowledge the positives.

-Remember that most situations continue to evolve. The pressures or problems you face today may not always be with you – or you may find new and improved ways to deal with them.

I wish you the best during the life and business challenges you face. Please know you are not alone.


Michelle van Schouwen is president of van Schouwen Associates, LLC (vSA), a B2B marketing company based in Longmeadow, MA. vSA is known for vSALaunch, its proprietary, modular and scalable system for B2B marketing launches, vSAConsult, its executive-level strategic planning capability, and for its expertise in integrated marketing for B2B. 

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