Dealing with stress as an entrepreneur


Written by

Laura Bosco

The featured image for this blog post.

Under intense stress, we make some pretty bad decisions 😨

That's proven, but high pressure is part of being an entrepreneur. You're experiencing all the normal stresses of human life on top of starting and running a business. This delightful jackpot means you'll need to make some decisions under intense stress. That doesn't mean your decisions are guaranteed to be bad, though. Here's how you can keep it all on track.

Know how you react to pressure

Acute stress sharpens our mind. Major stress hinders decision-making, heightens our emotions, and strengthens our reliance on biases. On a personal level, stress will also affect your decisions in other, specific ways. For example, some CEOs default to analysis paralysis - decision zombie mode. Others become reckless, forgetting the risks and laser-focusing on the reward like a poker player staring down a jackpot. Most everyone has some stress-default. See if you can pinpoint yours. 🎯

Recognize when you're under pressure 🤕

It's obvious when you're strung out. It's less obvious when you're getting strung out. Be aware the physical cues that indicate you're in a pressure-cooker:

Know when you're under pressure and how you react to pressure. These two self-awareness insights will help you improve decision-making under pressure. 💯

Practice making good decisions under stress 🤔

Beyond introspection, you can practice good decision-making habits every day. This will equip you for inevitable stressful seasons in the future.

Practice bucketing decision 🛢

When you're faced with a decision, ask yourself what kind it is.

These questions can help you decide whether to delegate, delay or act. For example: Delegate small-reversible decisions. Consult your support system for big-irreversible decisions. Delay small-irreversible decisions where it's important to be correct.

Empower your team 💪

You don't want all the decisions resting on your shoulders. It's inefficient, draining, and incredibly annoying. Instead, empower your team to make meaningful decisions in their area. This does two excellent things:

  1. It reduces the number of decisions YOU make, which guards against decision fatigue.
  2. It helps employees develop their own decision-making skills. This enables them to support you when you need help making a decision. 🤝

Use frameworks to scaffold your thinking 🛠

When your brain's in a stress muddle, frameworks help you prop up good thought sequences. A shortlist of options:

A good framework helps you wrangle emotions, quell biases, and analyze the decision. It can really weird (I mean, martians? 👽) as long as it works for you.

Have a damn good support system 👫

If you really want to handle decisions well, build a support system inside and outside your operation.

Inside your operation, talk to trusted teammates or colleagues about how you make decisions under stress. Empower them to confront and balance you when they see your stress-default flaring up.

Outside of your business, have at least one mentor. That way, if your whole company is under stress, you still have a level-headed lifeline. 💁

Just for fun 🏄

Practicing high-stress decisions in video games or risky sports may help you make better business decisions. So go waterskiing or something this summer. Playing will, at the very least, reduce your current stress levels. 😊      

"Making good decisions is a crucial skill at every level." - Peter Drucker

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Laura Bosco is a writer and people person. She helps tech startups do tricky things, like explain who they are and what they're doing. Ping her on Twitter to say hi.