Running a business: how to stay sane

Bunny ears! Shades! The geologist look! Whaaaaaaat…?

Is that really how to stay sane?

Well, no. But it did help me get over the scary I’m-an-introvert-and-public-speaking-is-scary feeling when I gave a presentation the other week.

Want to know why these particular props? Then read on.

This post summarises my presentation…


It’s hard running a business. There’s so much to do, so little time to do it in, loads of information and advice to take on board, different people to deal with etc.

And in our world unless you’re busy and knackered you’re doing it wrong! Unless you’re always on the go you’re lazy and don’t deserve success! Hmmm… no wonder we’re all so stressed.

Do you really want to run a business like that?

I know I don’t, so here are three things you can do to stay sane…


1. Focus on one thing at once

This year I discovered an amazing book – ‘The One Thing’ by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan. And it’s helped me so much.

It starts with the Russian proverb:

“If you chase two rabbits you will not catch either one.”

That sums up society’s problem beautifully. We’re all trying to do too much at once.

And the fact is we only have so much time and energy. Do too much at the same time and you’ll be spread too thinly.

Multitasking well is a myth. It actually uses 40% more of your brain’s energy constantly switching between tasks. Hence overwhelm, burnout and illness.

So what’s the answer…?

Slow down and focus on one thing at once.

Based on practical advice in this book here’s how you can do it…


1. First ask the focusing question to determine your ‘one thing’:

“What’s the one thing I can do right now to make everything else easier or unnecessary?”

Perhaps you need to get some copywriting to your client by the end of the week. You could do one thing towards it each day to achieve your goal. It might look something like this: day 1 = research, day 2 = plan, day 3 = write first draft, day 4 = edit and write second draft, day 5 = proofread and send to client. I know if I started with writing (day 3) I’d probably need to rewrite after doing research and planning. And the process would take longer overall.


2. By asking the focusing question you’ll find you automatically live by priority and achieve more without the stress. You’ll get the most important thing done first so feel satisfied and more relaxed while doing the rest. Even if there’s loads to do, it won’t feel like that teetering mountain is just waiting to topple over and crush you. And you can use your spare energy, not wasted by stressing out, to be even more productive than normal. Bye-bye shuddering Snowdon…


3. But make sure you block out time to get your ‘one thing’ completed. You must plan for it and work where you won’t get distracted. Otherwise life will take over. I recommend switching off your phone, closing all unnecessary computer tabs and muting email notifications. Locking the chocolate cupboard wouldn’t go amiss either!


2. Get some deliberate rest


According to Alex Pang ‘deliberate rest’ (i.e. when you take time out to stop working) boosts productivity and creativity.

Here’s why:

  • You only need to do four hours of ‘deliberate work’ a day (i.e. when you’re really thinking, and writing in the copywriter’s case) interspersed with ‘deliberate rest’ and sleep to be really productive.
  • Science tells us our brains are still active during ‘rest’, where our wandering minds continue to deal with problems but in a looser, freer way. While we’re resting we’re still doing important work and this could be the secret of creativity.
  • So work and rest should be treated as equals.
  • When practiced well rest can make us more productive and creative.

(For more detail check out Pang’s book: “Rest: Why you get more done when you work less”)


So it’s good to rest. It’s now an essential part of my work day…

When I lay down, doing nothing, in the quiet, my mind wanders. Thoughts drift into being while I’m relaxed, consolidate the hard work I’ve already done and often lead to new insights and ideas (like wearing bunny ears for a presentation!) It happens with no deliberate thought as my subconscious takes over and my brain’s alpha waves get going.

Then when I get up I’m alert, concentrate well and can record any new ideas creatively and efficiently.

I fit more into the day and produce better copy by doing less ‘deliberate work’.

And you can do this too.


3. Get outside

What a great way to get some deliberate rest…

You probably already know I love the outdoors. I’ve walked the Pennine Way, worked at a Forest School, travelled the globe digging up fossils and trained as an outdoor activities instructor.

But getting outside is also good for you. I’ve experienced how nature and the great outdoors heal. Mountain walking helped me recover from depression and I still enjoy getting outside every day to maintain positive wellbeing.

And there’s loads of scientific research on it.

I’m using trees as today’s example!

Trees produce an organic compound called phytoncide to protect themselves from germs and insects. And it hangs about in the air around them. These essential oils don’t just smell wonderful – think of a fresh pine forest – but they also make our immune systems function better when inhaled. Even helping our bodies fight off serious diseases like cancer!

And it doesn’t stop there…

Forests also help you feel more rested and less inclined to stress. Being around trees lowers levels of the stress hormone cortisol and decreases pulse rates and blood pressure. Put simply trees soothe your spirit.

Even brief exposure improves our immune system function and wellbeing. Especially if done regularly.

Forest bathing is becoming popular across the globe…

Also called Shinrin-Yoku, it is simply ‘being in the presence of trees.’ You walk in a relaxed way taking in the forest atmosphere to calm, rejuvenate and restore. It’s not about doing or achieving. Don’t take photos, don’t count your steps or monitor your speed. Instead sit, meander and relax.

And if there are no woods near you, any park with a few trees will do. As long as you’re near them, can breathe and go slow you’re sorted.


So remind me – how do I stay sane in business?

  1. Focus on one thing at once. If you chase two rabbits you won’t catch either one (hence the bunny ears…)
  2. Build rest into your working day to increase your productivity and you’ll feel more chilled out (shades…)
  3. Get outside and you’ll feel good (err… I like rocks and you find them outside…)

Do these things and you’ll be more productive without stress and burnout. You’ll enjoy running your business and be far more successful as a result.

Already losing your marbles? Contact me for copywriting help.

By | 2020-07-02T08:39:03+01:00 December 6th, 2018|Mental health and wellbeing, Workplace wellbeing|0 Comments

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