Being an entrepreneur can often be equal parts exhilarating and stressful. The exhilaration is easy to understand: you’re in control, charting a new course, master of your own destiny.
But then those little doubt monkeys start chattering in your head. Yeah, you know what we’re talking about: those little beasts that fill you with self-doubt, question every move you make, and make you so fearful that you get nothing accomplished.
Here are some common mind games that most entrepreneurs face from time to time…and strategies for overcoming them.
1. Glossophobia. Say what? That’s the fancy, official term for something most of us are familiar with: the fear of public speaking. As an entrepreneur, you’ll need to talk in front of people: networking groups, angel investors, staff/employees, media, keynote events. Most people get butterflies when speaking before large groups, and the extra shot of adrenaline is actually helpful since it boosts your energy. But sometimes the fear can go deeper than that.
Strategies for overcoming this obstacle. First, accept—even embrace—your anxiety. One of the reasons you’re anxious is probably because you’re concerned about doing a good job. So use this anxiety as motivation. This leads to our second point: don’t procrastinate—prepare your talk or speech well in advance of the deadline. This gives you time to get super comfortable by practicing it. Use breathing techniques (much like the ones used in meditation) to help center you, and visualize your success. Visualization is something you’re likely used to doing with all other aspects of your venture, so apply it to public speaking as well. Consider taking a course in public speaking and/or joining an organization like Toastmasters to help you gain confidence.
2. Tech aversion. If you feel the technology landscape changes daily, you’re right. Every day, new apps are being released, new recommendations for web marketing and SEO come out, and new social media sites—or changes to the ones we’ve just grown comfortable with—pop up. It can be overwhelming, even for the geeks among us who love technology. Don’t let technology—or your lack of experience with certain software, hardware, or platforms—stifle your entrepreneurial spirit.
Strategies for overcoming this obstacle. Expect change, and learn to embrace it. OK, that’s easier said than done. So what else can you do? Learn the technology you need to know—remember, Google is your friend—and surround yourself with smart people who know tech stuff inside and out. Take courses—either online or through adult education centers—that can give you the foundation you need. Find someone who can teach you personally: a friend, a family member, or an employee. Some companies use what’s called “reverse mentoring” where they pair Millennial-generation workers (who tend to be more tech savvy) with older generation workers who want to learn about new technology or social media.
3. Information overload. As an entrepreneur, you probably devour things like newspapers, books, magazines, blogs. And that’s a good thing. But at times, the amount of information you feel you need to read can get overwhelming. Other times, it can get in the way of getting work done (who hasn’t gotten lost in “research” mode?).
Strategies for overcoming this obstacle. Establish routines—and then follow them. For example, perhaps every morning, you dedicate an hour to scanning blogs you follow, reading top news, and checking social media. Perhaps you allow for 30 minutes after lunch to read a business book or magazine. In the evening, you allow yourself another hour. The key is establishing a routine that YOU can follow.
Take advantage of tools that help you streamline the process, such as RSS readers like Feedly, social media lists, email filters, and other tools that can help you quickly digest information. If you’re really struggling with this piece on your own, consider using a time management consultant or coach to provide guidance and hold you accountable until your routine truly feels like a routine you can do on your own. This up-front investment could save you time and money moving forward.
4. Where-to-begin paralysis. There’s the business plan, the research, the meeting with investors, the web team interviews, the research, the employee reviews, the legal stuff, the research, the marketing plan and budget, the sales meetings, the product specs, the distribution issues…
Where should you begin? Where should you put your focus today, tomorrow, this week?
Unfortunately, sometimes the list is so large and so unwieldy that it can cause temporary paralysis, which means at the end of the day, nothing has gotten done, except for your high expectations getting crushed.
Strategies for overcoming this obstacle. Talk to a fiction writer, and he or she has probably heard of a book called Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott. In this book, Lamott talks about how daunting it can be for writers when they sit down at a blank screen, thinking of everything that lies ahead. She recounts an incident from her childhood when her brother had waited until the last minute to do a report on birds for school, and as he sat down and stared at the blank piece of paper and mountain of research that awaited him, he wondered out loud how he’d ever get it all done. Lamott’s father, also a writer, simply said to take it “bird by bird” and focus on one bird at a time. Entrepreneurs would be smart to follow this advice. You know how much work is ahead, but tackle it “bird by bird.”
On a practical level, create a list of achievable short-term goals. Instead of creating a list of twenty things you want to get done this week, choose three items that you’re positive you can complete and the other items will be gravy if you get them done. Start approaching every week like that, and after two months, see how much you’ll have accomplished.
Have you ever been afflicted by doubt monkeys? How do you combat the entrepreneurial mind games that they play? Share your strategies in the comments.