If you run a small business you are probably more focused on growth and success (among 7,00 other things) than you are on self care. But as they saying goes "you can't pour from an empty cup" and the same is true as a business owner. It is so important to take intentional measures to ensure that you are not burnt out mentally, creatively and physically.
Here are six suggestions that can help you put yourself first so that you can pour your best self into your business.
1. Set Boundaries
2. Shift into Gratitude
3. Share and Connect
4. Spend Time with Hobbies
5. Get Creative with Connection
6. Rest without Guilt
This is one that I personally struggle with! In the first few years of my small business I felt the need to work 24/7. There is always a to-do list that needs to be done and then after that list there’s an even longer list. But setting boundaries is about being intentional in the time that you spend with your business. If you work from home it’s particularly important to create a separation of work and home time, instead of living in a blur of both at once. Give yourself set office hours and clock out when your day is done.
Setting boundaries goes beyond setting a work schedule, it also involves protecting your time and emotional energy when you are off the clock. For example by allowing work email notifications to pop up at any time you are leaving yourself vulnerable to be pulled into that work stress at any moment.
Imagine you are getting ready for bed, brushing your teeth and then you get an email from a dissatisfied customer that sends you into a stress spiral at 11pm. Even though maintaining a quick reply time is always a good thing for customer service experience, but it is less productive for you to respond during a time when you are not in the right headspace. By turning off your notifications during certain times you can focus more of your concentrated energy into these problems instead of spreading it thinly through all 24 hours.
Shift into Gratitude
It is very straining to sell, market and advertise ourselves as a small business and one way to alleviate that stress is to shift from self-promotion into gratitude. Giving back is it’s own form of warm & fuzzy self care, and as a small business the gratitude is usually genuine and runs deep. So let your people know it!
The easiest way to express thankfulness to your audiences is with a thank you note on your social media, email lists or other methods of communications you may have. Take a moment to really consider your audience and how they have been a part of your journey. This moment of reflection can help to write a better thank you note but it's also an important form of self care for small business owners. We often focus so hard on moving full steam ahead that we forget to be thankful and this quiet moment of gratitude can be so mentally refreshing.
You can take this gratitude a step further by giving back to your audiences and customers with a fun giveaway or exclusive discount codes/gifts for your email list or social platforms. Gratitude doesn't have to be in the form of saving (a thank you will do) but it can be a fun and refreshing way to engage with your audiences.
Share and Connect
Another way to relieve the pressure of the sales relationship that can build up with your followers, is to focus on creating personal connections with your audiences. Shift your content creation from selling to sharing and build some genuine connections before you push your next product/service/promotion.
Sharing some behind the scenes for your business is almost always a hit, people love to see how things work on the other end of a product or service. Even the parts of your business that you feel are boring and mundane can be really interesting to a customer who has never seen your everyday perspective before.
You can also get personal! Share more than behind the scenes in your business, open up your audience to small parts of your life, such as family traditions or other holiday fun. If you aren’t used to sharing your personal life, start small and build up to being more open. Let your audience get to know the humans behind the business, it gets easier the more you do it.
Spend Time with Hobbies
Small business self care isn’t just about managing work, it’s also about making the time outside of work to do the things that bring you joy. If you’re like me you’re probably overworked and hardly bothered about it, but I guarantee we are more exhausted than we even understand.
Make time to paint or read or build a model train or whatever it is that you love to do and don’t usually make time for. Gift yourself an enjoyable hobby this month and then actually carve out time each week or day to spend time with the things that make you happy.
Get Creative with Connection
Connection is so important and running a business can be a really isolating experience. Seek out small business groups on Facebook that align with your values, and reach out to those in your community and industry to build friendships with other business owners.
I spent a lot of time with my head down in the first few years of business, and it's not productive to do everything on your own. Having business buddies to bounce ideas off of is so important for idea development and business growth. You don't have to do it alone! And if you can't find a group that suits you, create one. Almost guaranteed there's other business owners like you that are looking for some kinship in this wild journey of small business.