Operating at your peak performance as a small business owner

Operating at your peak performance as a small business owner

Phillippa Hurrell

Phillippa Hurrell
12th January 2021

As business owners, we can be busy, really busy. We can feel under huge pressure and face the risk of burnout – which isn’t good news for our health, families or companies. In fact, a survey by The UK Domain found 71% of small business owners experienced stress in the workplace in the last year*.

What is good news is that we can take small simple steps that make a transformative difference to our mental and physical health and help us avoid that dreaded burnout.

In this article, I’ll introduce you to a number of useful tips that can help you to operate at your best. 

Let’s talk about the importance of a strong counterforce 

What are the things that bring stress and pressure into your life? Money, customers, technology, family issues, moving house, Brexit… you get the picture. There’s always a level of pressure in our lives. According to the research by The UK Domain, 26% of small business owners say that their stress is caused by juggling work and personal commitments*.

We do need some pressure to drive us. But past a point, the more pressure we have the more it reduces our performance. Interestingly it seems the more the pressure goes up, the more we stop doing the very things that make us feel good. The more stress you have, the bigger your counterforce needs to be.

In other words, the things we stop doing when the pressure is on, are the very things we need to keep us operating at our best.

Counterforce graph illustration

How much pressure do you have in your life right now? Where do you feel you currently are on the performance curve? How big does your counterforce need to be?

An example…

It’s another busy time in your business, you’ve had technology issues and a big deadline is looming, so you decide to stay late. This is only the third time this week, that’s not so bad is it? If you can just get this work done, you can relax.

You’ve had no time for lunch today and you’ve not exercised in months – but really, how could you have time for that?

When you do get home it’s a pizza and a few beers to relax (it just helps you numb the day and turn your mind off), brainlessly you scroll through your phone then crash into bed just past midnight. You’re desperate for sleep but your mind races over the issues from another full day.

Before you know it, your alarm goes off, you snooze and snooze it and find yourself behind before the day has begun.

Does this sound familiar? 

All day, every day we make small choices. These choices either help us operate at our best or hinder us. There is not one big thing but little marginal gains or losses.

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Creating the right counterforce

It sounds too easy, make the right small choices every day and you will feel significantly better. And that’s true. It does come down to choices and we are all in control of the choices we make. But there are some things that can make it harder for us. If any of these resonate with you it will be harder for you to create the right counterforce:

Protecting the asset feels selfish: Focusing on others all the time has become a habit and you’re convinced that you can’t possibly take time for yourself. This is just a story you have got into the habit of telling.

You’re highly demanding of yourself: “I must be perfect, I must be strong, I must get this right.” Your ego is heavily based on perceived work success.

You’ve lost perspective: You have tunnel-vision and are catastophising. You may believe that you can’t possibly find the time to look after yourself, that the business will crumble if you don’t work all hours.

You’re procrastinating and energy saving: We are creatures of habit and our brain hasn’t changed that much in the last 100,000 years. We are procrastinators, we save energy, we tend to focus on the immediate things that bring us pleasure or stop us experiencing pain.

If any of these resonate with you, here is what you can do:

Spot the blockers: What is your mindset default? What is the impact? What is the story you tell yourself?

Rewrite this: Who do you want to be, what do you want to believe? New Year’s resolutions only tend to stick when they happen at the self-identity level. Your self-identity is what you think of yourself, for example, if you think you’re a fit and healthy person you will find it a lot easier to exercise than if you think you’re an unfit person that needs to exercise. We are not born with an ‘identity’, we create it over time and once created we can change it.

Aim for progress not perfection: Try some small experiments and aim for progress each day.

The more pressure you have in your life, the greater your counterforce needs to be:

Counterforce graph illustration

Your counterforce, what keeps you feeling and operating at your peak, is made up of three distinct areas:

  1. Your thoughts and beliefs (90% of our long-term happiness is predicted by the way our brains process the world)
  2. Operating in line with a strong purpose
  3. The six healthy habits.

The six healthy habits which can make an immediate difference to how you feel, your mood and your level of stress are:  

Exercise: Exercise gives our unconscious brain a chance to kick in and helps to solve problems, see things clearly and with greater perspective.

Sleep: Sleep is critical and high-quality sleep is so important.

Relaxation: If you build rest and relaxation into your life, your body will naturally restore itself.

Relationships and social life: Numerous studies show just how important quality social support is to our physical and psychological wellbeing.

Diet: The way we fuel ourselves has a big impact on keeping us at our optimum.

Alcohol intake: Reducing alcohol intake can help you feel better and more in control.

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Every day we made small choices which either help us operate at our best or hinder us. What choices have the biggest benefit to you and your business? What can you change today to help you operate at your best?

To understand more about the six healthy habits and how they’re currently impacting your performance and wellbeing, download this interactive workbook complete with a handy scoring system and tips to help you improve your peak performance.

*2019/2020 UK Domain research. Percentages calculated from total respondents for each individual question.