When I was in my twenties, I always looked forward to summer vacation when I would escape reality for weeks to backpack faraway places. This was in the days of the flip phone when it was much easier to unplug from the rest of the world. Back then, I simply found an internet shop and logged into Facebook to let my mother know I was alive.
Once I signed out of my account, I was unreachable and able to explore without a care in the world. There is nothing as freeing as knowing that you can exist entirely in the present without feeling obligated to check e-mail, respond to frequent text messages, or return voicemails. The pressure to be available to everyone at all times did not exist when it was not a possibility. But with the advent of the smart phone, unplugging and relaxing has become harder than ever.
So when I found myself in Hawaii and unable to disconnect last summer, I wanted to throw my phone into the ocean and be done with it. Instead, I found my way to a local coffee shop where my husband and I discussed our CrossFit gym. We loved our members, but being contacted by 12 different people while on vacation felt invasive. We needed to find another way.
The messages were innocuous enough- Addressing each member’s concern would only take a matter of minutes, but even a few minutes meant that we were focused on a business in New York rather than enjoying the beauty of Hawaii. It was a reminder of the stress we felt back home.
So it was in Hawaii when we realized that we had hit our breaking point. There was too much on our plates and if we didn’t act soon, it would destroy us. The old adage, “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life” is true, but passion aside, there is always stress involved when it comes to business.
Left unresolved, that stress will turn to burn out, which, take it from me, is not a pleasant experience.
Steps must be taken to avoid burnout and to reduce stress. There are many ways to do this, but I’ve complied a list of the things that have helped me and that I hope, will help others. Some of these are specific to box owners, but the principles can be applied to anything with a little bit of tweaking.
Set a Facebook “Away Message”- If you are a business owner, you probably have a Facebook business page that is separate from your personal page. You can set an away message that will let clients know that you are unavailable at the moment but will respond to them at a certain time or date. Of course, once potential clients become members, they might contact you on your personal Facebook accounts which don’t allow for true away messages. However, you can set your Facebook Messenger so that it only allows certain people to write to you. That way, if you want to see messages from your wife, you can, but others won’t be able to contact you via messenger.
Use an Auto-Reply for E-mail- Using auto-reply lets the person know that the email was received and that they can expect a response from you within 24 hours (or a few days later if you are on vacation). Setting the expectation for a client, or a potential client, is key. With clients e-mailing at all hours of the day and on weekends, it’s easy to get caught up in thinking that you need to respond instantaneously. However, most people understand that in addition to owning a business, you are a person with a life, so an auto-reply e-mail letting them know that you’ll get back to them within 24 hours is enough and it sets the right boundaries from the start.
Auto-Pilot What You Can- When we created a “sign up for a free class” widget for our webpage, potential members were able to register for our Tuesday night trial class on their own. Once they registered, they got an automated email from the gym that outlined what would happen at the class and what they should bring with them. At the end, it asked them to reply “Yes” to confirm that they were coming. This process demanded much less of me than when I had to individually e-mail each potential client and schedule a visit at their convince. Also, once potential clients knew they had one option for a trial class, they made it work and committed to the time. At first, I worried interested would wane, but in fact, membership picked up quickly after this addition to our webpage and all I had to do was “set it and forget it.” This is just one example, but re-evaluate the processes at the gym and adjust them so that they require the least amount of work on your part. Work smarter, not harder.
Designate a Phone-Free, Business Free Time Every Day- As box owners, many of us like to think of our own training as our opportunity to de-stress and focus on ourselves. However, you are still at work when you are training and that means you need to respond when someone drops in to ask about the gym, or the phone rings during business hours. Instead, make time away from the box and the pressures of business every day. This might mean putting phones away during dinner with the family and cutting out all business talk for that half-hour every day.
Give Your Mind an Opportunity to Rest- This is one reason why my husband and I love our RomWod routine. For 20 minutes every night, we honor our bodies and calm our minds while we practice our RomWod. When we RomWod, we are constantly being reminded to focus on our breath and that focus quiets the chatter in our minds. We like to RomWod before bed because it’s calming and it’s much easier to sleep when you aren’t thinking of the 10,000 things that happened during your day.
Be At Peace Knowing You Are Taking Care of Yourself- Box owners eat healthy foods and train, but their finances are not always in as good of shape as their bodies which can cause major stress. Being married to a financial advisor, I can’t help but stress the importance of keeping your finances in order. This can be as simple as making a few changes to your routine each day. For instance, looking over my credit card bill helped me realize that I was wasting a lot of money buying lunch each day and packing my own saved me a few hundred each month. Instead of buying coffee every morning, make it at home and put the money you would have spent into your savings account each week. These are simple changes, but overtime, they’ll make a big impact and that will keep your mind at ease.
Plan At Least One Date With Your Spouse or One Event with Non-Box Friends Each Week- We all love the box life, but life does not fit in a box. Nurture your relationships outside of the box as well. It’s easy to spend all your time with the people who you know from the gym because you see them day in and day out and they start to feel like family. But before you started the gym, you had a life and an entire other set of friends. Make a conscious effort to stay in touch with them and enjoy them. Having fun breaking out of your comfort zone every once in a while will lead to growth and give you a creative energy that would only be zapped by spending time at the box 24/7.
Plan a Vacation Every Year.– I firmly believe that everyone should budget for travel and that it is always possible. If money is tight, camp, CouchSurf, stay at a hostel. There’s always a way, and we owe it to ourselves to get out there and see the world. Going new places gives you a greater appreciation for what you have back home, reinvigorates the soul, and helps you to grow as a person. Members will survive if the box is closed one week per year and if you track your data, you can easily see when the least popular times of year are (think Christmas breaks and summertime) to plan your trips then. If you aren’t ready to commit to a week, plan a three day weekend and take a short road trip. If you want to be successful in the long haul, you have to respect that you only have so much to give and that you need to invest in yourself as much as you do your business to withstand the test of time.
And finally, always be honest with yourself about what you are capable of and when you might need to take a different direction. After our trip to Hawaii, my husband and I decided that we wanted to change our lives completely. We both quit our 9-5s and we sold our share of the CrossFit gym to our partner. This allowed us to follow our heart’s desire and now, I’m running The Barbell Press while he is running his own financial advising business. Perhaps running your box is exactly what you should be doing and all you need is an adjustment of your expectations of yourself, your behaviors, and your processes. Maybe, if you are being honest with yourself, you want to pursue something else with your life and that’s 100% okay too. No matter what you decide, taking steps to reduce stress is essential and will better your life as well as your training.