How to stay sane when running a business with a day job


It was a sweltering August bank-holiday weekend in Bournemouth. Everyone I knew was either tanning on the beach, or wetting their whistles in a beer garden.

I however, was hunched over my desk in the corner of my room, frantically drawing sausage dogs, with Beethoven blaring out of my speakers... having a panic attack. 

Working weekends (whilst everyone and their Aunt is frolicking in the sunshine) is a sacrifice business owners accept. Throw a 9-5 in the mix and those daytime-drinking days are over. For a number of years I've been running a business alongside a day-job in Marketing. I'm so grateful that both roles are creative and offer mental stimulation, but they both demand a considerable amount of brain power.

With so much information, responsibility and angst whirling in one's mind, how can one go about life in a calm and collected fashion? I've picked up a few tricks along the way to prevent my head from exploding...

So how do you avoid the stress when you run a business with a day job?

1. Keep two notebooks

Two jobs: two sets of ideas, worries and to-do lists. 

These thoughts often strike at the most inconvenient moments, so having a place to jot them down is really bloody useful. I carry both notebooks at all times to record any unsolicited spouts of inspiration and keep brain space at a manageable level. Which leads me to my next tip...

2. Steal from your day-job

Now I'm not just talking biros (..they do come in handy..), but learn from your day-job. Think about how you can apply the skills you are exercising at work in your own business, and vice versa. 

I have learnt so much from my role in a Music Education Agency. If I had never worked there, I wouldn't have known about the importance of record keeping or how to convey a professional-but-personable email manner. I wouldn't have been able to create a spreadsheet, successfully co-ordinate an event and I definitely wouldn't have made the contacts I have. 

If you dislike your 9-5 and can't bare the thought of spending another day staring at the most depressing breezeblock wall, just remember: without the experiences it has offered, you may not be equipped to run a business.

3. Write a schedule

Your time is precious. I like to plan my day by forecasting how long each task may take, then allocating specific hours to each. This is a great way to break down a chunk of work and manage your time efficiently.

4. Sleep

We need sleep not only to rejuvenate, but it improves memory and helps us to retain information. Plus, it FEELS SO GOOD. So go to bed you crazed workaholic, you'll do better tomorrow. Which leads me smoothly to my next tip (again! It's almost as if I wrote it)...

5. Wake up early

Early bird catches the worm.

There's nothing like that smug sensation you get when when you've emptied your inbox, solved a couple of problems and found a new supplier all before 8am (and anyone else in you house has emerged). The extra time to complete tasks on the to-do list is great, but the psychological advantage is better.

6. Delegate

If you're a control-freak like me, you might find this one tricky. Are there tasks you can ask others to help you with? Why not send your Mum to the post office, get your housemate to pack orders or your boyfriend to transcribe emails whilst you make. I'm sure loved ones would be happy to help to ease your stress. Repay them with food.

7. Keep fit, eat well

Exercise makes me really happy. There, I've said it. I'm one of those wanky self-righteous runners. I do the food-shop in my active wear. 

But it really does get those happy juices flowing. For me, a fitness routine is a form of therapy. It clears the mind and gives me so much more energy to get stuff done. Throw in some veggies and I'm ready to conquer the world and sprinkle you with smugness.

(Don't drink espressos if you're anxious)

8. Schedule some down-time

Re-charge those batteries and don't feel guilty about it. It's important to try to switch off at some point during the week. Go for that lunch with a friend, make that risotto, have a bloody good nap. These activities re-boot your brain and you'll work so much more efficiently after a rest.

9. Spend time with people you like

A lovely little chat with someone you love works wonders for your state of mind.

Flashback to that sweaty bank-holiday weekend: if it wasn't for my housemate seeing the state I was in and then insisting I go outside, I would have crashed and burned. You may feel as though you haven't a minute to spare, but it's so important to make time for the people you love, for your own sake as well as theirs. Keep both of those feet firmly on the ground.

Simples! So just get these 8 areas sorted and you'll be a super zen green-juice-drinking boss forever more. But in all seriousness, it is near enough impossible to hold it all down, let alone be totally chill... Lets not beat ourselves up, we're only human. 


About the Author

Helen Penny is a gap-toothed illustrator, designer-maker & pug owner from Bournemouth, UK

She is interested in petting a lot of dogs & exploring the impact they have on society

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