Owning your own business is like going on a new adventure every day, without knowing where it will take you, what dangers you’ll face along the way, or even whether you’ll make it out alive. That last part depends mostly on the business you’re in, but hey, it can certainly feel like your small business is going to kill you, or at least get the better of you on any given day.

A very close friend of mine, who happens to own his own apparel company, came to me recently, shaken, unshaven, and obviously stressed. He began telling me how he was missing meetings, losing track of time, neglecting personal relationships, and generally forming more bad habits than he could keep up with, on account of his business was taking over his life.

I definitely related to his situation, and then started thinking about ways to help him (and other small business owner like him, myself included).

Here’s what I came up with:

Know How (and When) to Say No: Small business owners should have four legs, we scramble so much.  And while the world appreciates our hustle, we often agree very hastily to much more than we can actually take on, in the hopes that we can cut a better deal here, or get more funding there.

Much of this hustle is necessary, but much of it is not.  Yes, it is important to make contacts, to pitch your product, and to get funding, but missing meetings because you have too much on your plate is much more damaging to your reputation than saying no ahead of time.  If you are feeling like your business is running you instead of the other way around, than examine your current commitments to see which are essential, acknowledge to yourself that it is OK to say no, and then, in the future, say no to the things that aren’t.

Plan Every Second of Your Life: No, I’m not exaggerating.  What kills many small business owners is ambiguity in their schedules.  Don’t allow this to happen.  Get a planner, a journal, a piece of notebook paper, or a napkin — whatever it takes — and write down exactly what you have to do that week, and when you will be doing it.  Zero in as microscopically as possible, to the point that you include such details as “eating ham sandwich alone at 12:05,” or “meeting with (x) investor at Starbucks on 1234 Main at 1:39pm.”  Specificity in activity and time count.  Don’t leave any “wiggle room”; free time is time that is unaccounted for, unless, that is, you schedule it in.  See how that works?  You can’t feel guilty about free time if you knew you were taking it.

This should go without saying, but often we small business owners need to hear what goes without saying, so: DO NOT VARY FROM THE SCHEDULE.  Once it is written, DO IT.

Take Free Time: This is extremely important.  There’s a reason the normal work week is only Monday to Friday: Neither the human body nor the human mind were designed to work 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.  With that in mind, plan some free time, and even some vacation time, into your week.  You will be able to focus better, and will feel more in control of your life if you do things outside of running your business, and, best of all, you will be able to run your business better when you are refreshed and thinking clearly.

By the way, after I presented my friend with these strategies, he adopted them, and while I can’t vouch for his business, I can vouch for his health and happiness, and I can say that after following my advice for a few weeks, he looked like a million dollars, and felt like it, too.  And you can’t run a business if you feel like anything less.

This is a guest post by Eliza Morgan who is a full time blogger.  She specializes in writing about business credit cards. You can reach her at: elizamorgan856 [at]gmail [dot] com.

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