“I would be interested in hearing how you have reduced the amount of headspace that your business consumes. I’m at the point where I am trying to transition my business to a place where I think about it less, so that I can be more present with those that I love; but I am completely bewildered as to how to make that happen. I am scaling back, reducing overhead, and taking on fewer projects, but it has been difficult to get to a place that feels safe. Any information that you can provide would be greatly appreciated.”
This is a great question that at times can be very difficult to answer. First off, you must understand that managing this complex situation is not entirely possible all the time. There will be periods of stress, difficulties, and hardships that are completely unavoidable. Just as you cannot expect to be happy all the time, you cannot expect for work to be stress-free. Now that that is out of the way, let’s talk about what helps me control the things that are actually within my control.
- Make sure that you are profitable and actually making money. I have learned one thing that stresses me out and consumes my mental energy more than anything else in life is money. If my business is making money, I worry less. Less energy is spent on my job if it is making me money (regardless of how smoothly it is going). If you are struggling financially with a specific project or your business in general you will be pummeled with anxiety, constantly stressing about how you are losing money, and never be able to relax or disconnect. Make sure that you are structured in a way that guarantees you are making money. Approach your job just as an employee would, and structure it in a way that you get paid for your hourly time invested. This will quell a lot of the voices in your head.
- Ensure that you have a comprehensive understanding of schedule. I find that understanding where I need to be on a project at any given time eases my anxiety and allows me to isolate myself from my business. If there are situations that interrupt my schedule or add time to a project, I can account for this by understanding the impact of these changes. Certain things are out of your control. Knowing how badly they impact my intended schedule helps me accept these things and adjust accordingly (even if there is nothing that can be done).
- Find a hobby outside of work. For years all of my hobbies and interests were work related. Even my social network was one-hundred percent work related. Every conversation and get-together was talking shop. There was no way to escape work. For the most part when things are going well, this is a non-issue, but when work is all-consuming you need an independent outlet to focus your time and energy. I started riding dirt bikes again a few years ago, and that has been great for me. I have a different set of friends, I have something to look forward to each weekend, I get outside in the woods, and I get some healthy exercise. When I am riding my dirtbike, work is the last thing on my mind. It has served as a healthy distraction from work.
- Work for people who appreciate you and what you do. For years, I forced my program and my agenda on customers. I sold them on things that were important to me, and not always what they wanted. While this helped me arrive where I am today, it was not the healthiest approach to business. I spent most of my time and energy over-delivering to provide value to people who did not value what I was doing. I should have focused my efforts and energy on finding the right customers rather than convincing the wrong customers. This created unnecessary stress and unwanted angst. It is like chasing the girl who is not interested in you, trying to convince her that you are the one.
- Do not depend on work or customers for your peace, happiness, or self worth. Find your happiness and worth in yourself. Depending on others’ approval for validation or to make you feel accomplished is a recipe for disaster. The only person who can truly be responsible for your happiness is you. Placing that in the hands or hearts of others can be a dangerous thing. For years, I killed myself to please my customers. Their happiness led to my happiness. That being said, when a job went south or a customer had expectations that differed from mine, my happiness was affected. I worked for their approval and when I did not receive their validation, I worked harder as a futile attempt to earn it. I have finally learned that some customers will be happy and some customers may not be happy. All that I can control is me. If I show up and do my best given each and every situation, there is nothing more that I can do. I have to find peace in the fact that I did my best. Some days may be better than others, but in totality I did my best, and that is more than enough.
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In conclusion, I have realized over the last 15 years that I am the one responsible for my happiness and my success. I control my destiny, my path, and my mental health. I cannot be married to my work, I cannot rely on my work to make me happy, and I cannot rely on customers for my self-worth. I must have relationships, hobbies, and life-goals outside of construction. I must approach my work in a manner in which I get paid for my time. If I can be cognizant of my time (whether I am ahead or behind is irrelevant), if I can ensure that I am profitable, and if I can find self-worth in something other than work, I can in turn shut it all off and detach. This does not work every hour of every day. There are days and times that I am stressed, and that work consumes me, but I understand that this is a season that will come to pass.
- Tyler Grace