SELF-MOTIVATION AND STRESS MANAGEMENT

WHY IT IS NEEDED

Every business begins with one’s dream and desire to change the world, disrupt the certain industry or become a recognized entrepreneur. Very often early stage startups have optimistic view and understanding of the everyday business processes. The beginning entrepreneurs have a strong passion in what they do and trust he/she will be able to reach the goal with no or minor setbacks. Management of unplanned/unexpected situations, implementation of daily tasks, startup team management, and even conflict management are basically the company’s everyday activities. It is important to stay focused and motivated when the things do not go as smoothly as planned. In order to help you to follow your dream and not to give up in the moment of setback, this chapter will introduce you with the key aspects of self-motivation and stress management.

1. Focus on what keeps you motivated

The beginning of every project usually is a happy moment for all the stakeholders. People are motivated, feel they can move the mountains and there is almost no fear to face the obstacles, as they believe they can and will overcome all the difficulties. These emotions are necessary when initiating the project, however, as time goes by, the struggles that occur in the process can very often overcome the initial determination to work hard, effectively and efficiently, and at the end of the day you start realizing that you need more to succeed with the startup. Being a founder of the new venture, you can ask yourself how to remain in such an inspirational mood or, in other words, how to stay motivated when the road gets bumpy. Motivation is a person’s ability to take and implement the necessary actions without any push from the other person. It means person is dedicated and can work consistently without giving up in order to get things done and eventually to succeed and reach the gaols that are set.

Founders of the startup have to take care of everything – how to attract investments, how to proceed with the product/service development and to do it on time, look for the new growth possibilities, think about paying the monthly wages for the employees and keep the motivated at the same time. The list does not stop here – it could be extended while including many more responsibilities and tasks of an entrepreneur. Motivation can help you stay focused, maintain your concentration and goal-focused behaviour. In order to stay motivated you need to work with yourself and know the ways of self-motivation. Let us discuss some approaches and techniques of self-motivation in more detail:

  • “Be hungry” – this is the first thing you should have when starting a new venture. Know what you want and go for it. You will not be able to succeed if you do not want it for real and are not be determined to do whatever it takes to get there. Motivation will not help if you think about your goal as something – “it would be nice to have”. The journey of the startup will be bumpy and there will be both successes and failures. Thus before deciding to take this road – work with your approach. It will be easier if you have a particular and clearly stated purpose (both tangible, like large bank account, trip to Bali, or intangible – to become well known entrepreneur) that makes you “hungry”.
  • Optimism – is key characteristic that helps to succeed in personal career or building new venture. Optimistic person always tries to find and see positive (rather than negative) things in a given situation. It does not mean optimistic person ignores or is unaware of problems, on the contrary – she/he is trying to believe in the bright and positive future. The rationale behind the life of a startup says: fail fast – learn from the mistakes fast – do better next time. It means that startup company will face a lot of challenges and most probably there will be situations when you fail to overcome some of them. An optimist will try to learn from the committed mistakes, whereas a pessimist will try to avoid dangerous situations or will make the same mistakes.

If you struggle with being optimistic and having positive thinking about the future first of all try to control your thoughts and especially try to challenge those negative ones while looking at the situation from the positive side. It is important that you imagine how you and your whole team would feel after the goals are successfully accomplished. If throughout the day you will feel the fluctuation of maintaining positive thinking – you can help yourself by repeating particular affirmations that will help you stay focused and take the necessary steps towards your goal.

  • Being self-confident also helps to boost self-motivation. When a person is self-confident, she/he believes in success as well as enjoys past achievements. As a result, such person enables the virtuous circle of positive motivation and reach the set goals. Self-confidence needs to be developed through certain aspects of one’s personality:
  1. build your self-efficacy, i.e. belief that you are able to succeed and achieve the goals you have set yourself. Self-efficacy has a great impact on how you set the goals and your strategy, choices while achieving those goals. If the person has this feature, he/she will think of the difficult goals as the challenges and put all his/her energy to win. Meanwhile if a person lacks self-efficacy he/she tends to see such goals as mission impossible and does not try to implement it;
  2. set yourself challenging goals that will help you to develop self-assurance. This will empower you to become more resilient in challenging and both setback situations that in the end of the day makes you stronger as entrepreneur in every aspect. You have to believe in yourself, otherwise you can find yourself saying “I said I cannot make it” instead of “this failure is not an end of the world – let’s move on!”

To develop these personal features, first identify all the achievements you have made so far in life (it does not need to be big), what are you strengths. Second, look at yourself with the eyes of other people – what do they see as your uniqueness, strengths and valuable skills. Then examine all the information and see it as something you can build upon. This analysis will enable you to see all the potential you have and will serve as a very strong motivation to take control in your arms and set the ambitious goals (rather than limiting yourself when lacking such self-motivation).

  • Goal setting is of crucial importance in order to stay self-motivated. When you set the goal, you both set the direction and give the promise for yourself. To set the right goals you can use 5 principles of the Locke and Latham. Based on this approach the goal should meet the following conditions:
    1. Clarity – when you set the goal that is specific, clear and at the same time measurable (for example, to increase sales by 5 percent), it will be easier both for you and your colleagues to understand what are you trying to achieve.
    2. Challenge – the goal should be interesting and challenging at the same time. This way, you will be able to keep motivation and will work hard to achieve it. It is always good and motivates when celebrating (small) wins that marks certain milestones towards the big goal. However, think carefully and analyse the goal before you set it, because if the goal that is too unreal to be achieved this can cause the opposite effect to motivation.
    3. Commitment – the folk wisdom “one man is nobody” is very suitable in this situation. The employees of the company have to believe in the goals they are asked to achieve. The best way to do it is to involve them in the goal setting process. If the employees feel the goals are relevant and see where they can contribute – they will be committed to put all the efforts towards the accomplishment of it.
    4. Feedback on how both you and the whole team of a startup are dealing with the accomplishment of the goals is as important as setting the right goal. If there is no constant discussions on the progress, one day you might find that people have lost their interest and motivation. It is better not to leave the team to work alone without monitoring and deadlines to be met. Regular meetings help to feel the pulse of the team and keep their motivation.
    5. Task complexity – it happens that entrepreneur gets so enthusiastic that she/he wants to take many activities of the startup under control. This results in a huge amount of responsibilities as well as a huge amount of complex daily work. If you find yourself in such situation, make sure you can manage it. Try to divide one large goal into smaller ones and set the reasonable deadlines to accomplish them.
  • Positive and motivating environment can provide you with the necessary external support to deliver your tasks and accomplish goals. Although the work from home is quite popular and might look appealing – beware that working alone, in the same environment that you sleep, with no live communication with other colleagues might cause the decrease of motivation. If possible – try to find the balance between working at the office and from home. Another moment worth to be mentioned – try to be surrounded by the people having positive attitude as they can contribute to and reinforce your motivation. Contemporary organizations (especially startups) organize most of the work in teams. This way team has its own partial independence, but at the same time, every member of the team depends on each other and must accomplish tasks on time in order to succeed as a team.
  • Control distractions – modern communication technologies can be a great joy and at the same time powerful stressors and time wasters. We are living in the world where the enormous amount of information is attacking us every minute. News portals, Facebook, Twitter, and other various applications consume a lot of your time. Thus it is of crucial importance for you to control your time spent on the internet surfing. Put your phone aside or turn on the silent mode, close the doors of the office as we all know that sometimes people love to come by and chat for a few minutes. You can also try using StayFocusd extension for your browser that will help you to cut down the time spent surfing on the internet and thus do the right things.
  • Don’t be too harsh on yourself after you stumble. As entrepreneur you will experience both happy and unfortunate moments and in case of failure do not criticise and beat yourself too much. Such behaviour can create a vicious circle of feeling less motivated and eventually you might even give up. Instead, put yourself on the track you were taking before and try to move on. A very good example can be Michael Jordan whom we know as one of the best basketball player of all times. His famous quote says – “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. Twenty six times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed”.

Taking breaks is necessary to maintain high level of concentration and daily motivation. Try to give yourself 15 minutes break every one – one and a half hour. It would be great if you could move away from the computer during this break. Have a cup of coffee, grab a snack, talk with the colleagues, have fresh air or even meditate and think about nice things that motivate you. You will notice your productivity level go up, you will be able to focus more and will get more work done with greater motivation.

2. Beware of what causes stress for most entrepreneurs

There are so many great examples of successful entrepreneurs, like Elon Musk (PayPal, SpaceX, Tesla Motors), Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Steve Jobs (Apple), Bill Gates (Microsoft), Richard Branson (Virgin Group) and many more. The idea of becoming an entrepreneur is so promoted (especially social media present it in a romantic way) that many people get this desire to become one of them, and to create a success story of their own. However, there is a dark side to this lifestyle that is rarely discussed. Entrepreneurship can cause high level of stress for anybody, especially for those in charge. If you are a founder of the startup, most likely you take care of all the processes related to startup development and try to manage them as smoothly as possible. Let’s discuss the situations that can cause stress.

The biggest headache of entrepreneurs is associated with demand of capital. It does not matter if it is a new venture or a company that is already a few years in the market, there is always a need for capital to achieve growth and development of a company. As a founder of the startup you will constantly have to look for the funding opportunities what requires both a lot of time and strong nerves.

Maintaining rich and prosperous sales channels is of crucial importance as they are key revenue streams “feeding” the startup. You have to work on the growth of your clients’ database. It can mean you will need to think about entering new markets (for example, conquer the segment of millennials) and new sales channels. If your startup is focused on a particular niche and has only a few big customers, you will need to give a lot of attention and address their evolving needs as your income depends on just these few sources.

As the managing entrepreneur you will communicate with and make promises to the investors, customers and other stakeholders, as well as shareholders. Your responsibility will be to make sure to keep them satisfied and deliver your promises on time. You can imagine how frustrating this can be especially having in mind that there is a big team behind and thus you will have to manage it and try to keep the most important employees in the company. It can be quite challenging, especially in the IT market where the demand for experienced programmers tends to exceed the supply, and these specialists can change companies they work for in an instant. It means you will have to take care of the motivational system (both financial and not financial) in the company, to provide interesting projects for employees, make sure they can grow as the professionals etc. It is a challenge you will have to deal every day because the success of the company very often depends on happy employees and low rates of employee turnover.

As you have already seen, there are so many decisions entrepreneur has to make every day. Some of them are easier and you can make them on spot, whereas other decisions can be quite complex and challenging to make. In such cases, you will have to take some time to analyse, weight all the cons and pros, to apply other decision-making techniques in order to make decision confidently. This daily process can cause enormous amount of stress that entrepreneur feels consciously and unconsciously even when having the days off.

Finally, you have to stay a calm and strong leader in the eyes of your startup team and act like you know and are not afraid of the unknown future. The employees have to see your confidence in the actions you take, the way you talk and behave and, most importantly, your team has to see and feel that you burn with the idea to make startup a successfully performing company. Leading by your example, you will make them want to contribute and stay motivated.

3. Implement strategies for stress management

We have to understand that stress is both normal and natural process of our lives. Temporal stress can even give you an impulse to accomplish the tasks and reach your goals. However, if it continues for prolonged periods it can harm both mental (inability to concentrate, decrease in motivation, mood swings, low self-esteem etc.) and physical health (for example, high blood pressure, heart problems, headaches etc.). Letting startup to control your life will not bring the desired plenitude of life. On the contrary, this will fill the life with permanent anxiety and uncontrollable stress. Eventually, if you do not take care of inner well-being, you will burnout and this will respectively and directly affect the future of the startup.

How does it happen that entrepreneurs fall into this vicious circle of stress? They get thrilled after successfully accomplishing the goals and want more; they are caught by the responsibilities, and the needs of growing business. Some of the entrepreneurs even are proud of having loads of meetings, no time to eat and messy office. However, as the examples of successful entrepreneurs show – in order to create and lead thriving business, first of all, you have to know how to nourish your inner self, balance emotions and control/reduce stress.

Let us discuss the stress management strategies, some practical steps that would help you overcome the mental stress and discover a balance in your personal and professional life:

  • Start with the identification of key stressors of the day – think about the tasks that you are trying to delay for as long as you can. Usually, they get you irritated after you remember they need to be done. Ask yourself – would I feel a considerable relief after accomplishing this task? The task is important if your answer is positive. In such case, do not procrastinate, pull yourself for a few hours that are necessary for accomplishing these tasks, and once they are done – forget them. If you perform such key stressors identification routine every day – you will find your anxiety diminish (or disappear), and you will end up feeling better about yourself.
  • Know you are not alone and trust your team. The problem is that many founders are afraid to delegate and thus end up overworked. The thing is that there will be more and more responsibilities over time and it is almost impossible to add every task on your “to do list”. If it is a matter of competence of your employees – solve this problem by investing into the competence building. If it is your own attitude that stops your from delegating – start working with it as soon as possible, otherwise you will not be able to disconnect at any time. Of course, delegating does not mean dropping the tasks. It means you analyse the task and choose the best person for it while at the same time monitor the progress of the task, advice and encourage when its needed and finally evaluating and rewarding the person(s) who completed the task.
  • Do not be afraid to learn to say “no”. This might be the most difficult thing for entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs are used to taking every opportunity and request that comes along as they think it can contribute to the prosperity of the startup. However, if you continue to do so, eventually the reality will hit and you will find yourself drowning in the never-ending workflow that will not necessarily have a positive impact on your startup. Sometimes you can win more by saying “no”, and thus not distracting yourself, concentrating on the tasks that give you the highest benefit.
  • Get used to the fact that nobody is perfect – your startup is no exception. Experienced entrepreneurs know it is mission impossible to develop a “perfect startup”. Instead of reaching for perfection that will most likely never come, and eventually will cause the burnout, focus on the progress to the right direction. Besides, get used to the fact that there will be ups and downs and failures during the lifetime of your startup. It is important to admit it, do not beat yourself, learn from the failure and take the next step towards your goal.
  • Change the environment and find at least 20-60 minutes to go out of the office and enjoy your lunch at the restaurant you love, have a sport or simply go meet a friend and have cup of coffee at the coffee shop. Changing the environment and at the same time giving yourself a break from the task you are occupied with, will give you the motivation to continue and will reduce the feeling of “getting trapped in the same day every day”.
  • Keeping the work place clean might look such irrelevant thing when trying to manage the stress. However, think about how you would feel in the morning when entering clean and tidy office and on the contrary – having to start your day in a place where:
    • things are all over the place,
    • inbox is full of the unread and unanswered emails,
    • piles of documents lie disorderly on the table and you need to find what you need in such a mess.

Most likely, you would choose the first option. Thus, before heading home after the day at the office, make sure you leave it in such condition that you would like to find it when starting your next day in a motivational and stress-free environment.

  • Respect and take care of your body – it means eat right, exercise and get enough time of sleep. The speed of life is extremely fast, especially when you have a business to manage. It is very easy to put your business first and forget about yourself. However, at this point try to remember that your body is your fortress and the way you feel will directly affect the prosperity of the startup.

It might be tempting to eat fast food and even skip the meals while thinking that this way you can save time you usually lack. However, such approach can get you into trouble, as you will end up with the weight gained or lost, reduced self-esteem and lower level of energy. Fast food is rich in salt, sugar and fats, and if you abuse such meals, you will end up with high or fluctuating levels of blood sugar (that will put you in a roller-coaster carousel of good and bad mood) and other health problems. Thus, eat a proper and healthy food that would help to maintain your body healthy and energized throughout the day.

There is no need to discuss on the benefits of sports. You do not need to sign for the Olympic team, it will be enough to have 30 minutes of sport to fell its advantages. Regular exercise helps to control stress and significantly improves:

  • mental health: you will have higher concentration, better memory, ability to learn and to do it faster, creativity, higher motivation and most importantly you will feel less stressed.
  • physical health: maintain healthy body weight, lower blood pressure, healthy heart etc.

Various scientific studies have proved that adult person needs to have 7 to 9 hours of sleep every day. Of course, there will be days when you will not be able to have the recommended hours of sleep. In such cases it would be great to have short break for a quick nap or as Spanish people say – siesta. This way you will be able to reboot energy level and continue with the high motivation and enthusiasm.

  • Entrepreneurs can feel extremely stressed for not being able to find proper balance between the family and work life. Having a startup very often means that you work life becomes your priority No. 1. The guilty of putting family aside gets stronger over time and eventually the person can find him/herself feeling depressed, with the lower self-esteem and decreased motivation. Family time – playing with your children, telling them bedtime stories, having picnic with the sisters/brother/parents and other joint activities are very important for maintaining optimism, positive attitude and feeling that nothing is really missing in your life.

All the steps we have discussed above should become the plan you need to stick to. The worst thing you can do is to say – I do not have time. People always find excuses to postpone unwanted tasks, skip the gym or forget the healthy eating habits. However, if all of the above mentioned ideas become a part of your daily routine, you will form the right habits, and will not imagine your day and life without them.

THE RESULTS

After completing this chapter, you have an understanding of:

  • the techniques of how to stay motivated, especially when the business does not go as smoothly as planned;
  • the main situations that cause stress for entrepreneur;
  • why it is important to manage stress;
  • stress management strategies you can apply in your daily life as entrepreneur

Creating a fulfilling and productive environment and surrounding yourself with positive thinking colleagues is even more important than adopting individual motivational mechanisms for each employee. Such environment will keep you all going in the moments when going seems to get tougher. At the same time, stress is not something to be avoided altogether. Too much stress is exhausting and damaging to your health and motivation. Too little stress means you have too few challenges and are not inspired to look for new solutions. Thus, you should always manage these extremes.