The Stress Doc builds upon a previous series of "Building Natural SPEED" for
small business owners. His new skills and strategies will help both the entrepreneur and
the individual juggle high demands, high performance and emotional endurance. So
collaborate, differentiate and selectively experiment!
More Small Business Owner's Tips for "Practicing Safe Stress"
Three Keys for Mastering Multiple Demands and the Entrepreneurial Catch-22
The most challenging task for a small business owner may well be juggling multiple
business responsibilities. The only thing more dangerous is too few workload balls. Over a
prolonged period, insufficient clients, contracts or sales and your grappling with
survival. As a small business owner contemplating a retreat back into the corporate
sector, implied: "It's the revenue stream, stupid." Clearly, for folks in the
small business trenches, when demands and deliverables exceed resources or reinforcements
feeling out of control, exhaustion, dropped balls and a damaged reputation are likely
consequences. The latter scenario can easily morph into that "Multiple &
Simultaneous Demand Situation" Monster. You are: a) responsible for an increasing
number of people and projects, b) frantically managing an ever expanding base of data,
markets and procedures and c) feel like a slave to deadlines or tied up by thieves of
time. If you are not careful, this Multiple & Simultaneous (or M & S) Demand
Situation can turn around and become an "S & M" experience: you end up a
"Servant" to too many "Masters."
Or, at the least, you are struggling with the "Entrepreneurial Catch-22":
when business growth exceeds operational mechanisms or resources for adequately responding
to changing venues and technologies, demands and responsibilities. But you can't not grow;
survival is on the line. Yet each step of expansionary opportunity brings two seemingly
regressive steps of adversity and exhaustion. And somehow, if you calculate and subdue
this approach-avoidance tempest (or is it temptress?) there's still the perennial
existential-temporal dilemma: can there be life after deadlines? (And honestly, aren't you
getting a bit old for all that late night high performance stuff?)
So how do you break out of this paradoxical, seemingly self-defeating cycle? How can
you grow with the multifaceted flow? By expanding and evolving while also establishing
viable boundaries. And you start with this bottom-line strategy, "The Stress Doc's
Basic Law of Safe Stress": Do know your limits and don't limit your "No"s!
Let me draw upon my netrepreneurial experience these past few years to illustrate three
key concepts for managing the cyberspace-real time continuum. More important, here's to
surviving and thriving at the small business battlefront!
1. Delegate and Collaborate. My first major cyber collaboration involved the birthing,
feeding and caring of an ever-expanding monster - a soon-to-be award-winning website. With
technophobic tendencies, there was no question about my working with a webmaven.
Initially, I would occasionally visit and mostly be awed by John's construction efforts.
It wasn't until column writing for a humor newsletter and Online Psych (AOL's major mental
health forum) started generating steady email questions and requests that I realized web
design and maintenance required genuine collaboration, not complete delegation. From
catchy and instructional copy to format and graphics, bringing the perspective of a novice
or "dummie" was vital. I often challenged John's assumptions as to what would be
obvious or user friendly to site visitors. The critical concept: even when delegating to
an expert, don't minimize the value of your/the lay consumer viewpoint.
Next, for promoting my site in both the online and offline worlds, I hired an internet
PR/marketing consultant for a specific and time-limited project. I could have done much of
this PR work, but it would have detracted from my primary mission: seeing therapy clients,
organizational training, consulting and speaking along with generating a self-syndicated
Stress Doc column. And would I have been as successful as Mary? Within six months of
conception, our fledgling site was featured as an USA Today Online "Hot Site"
Website! So while productive delegation and collaboration is an initial investment in
money, time and energy, ultimately, it's a an effective and efficient commitment to
diversification and business expansion.
Let me close with "The Delegator's Prayer":
Grant me the serenity to delegate when I can't
The courage to collaborate when I can
And the wisdom to motivate when I should
And to aggravate when I must!
(Of course, this is my spin on "The Serenity Prayer":
Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change
The courage to change the things I can
And the wisdom to know where to hide the bodies. ;-)
2. Urgent vs. Important. Two recent developments have made this distinctive issue
critical. First, a consultant project requiring travel to the western US was just
finalized. Then, in the same week, the online world erupted. My "Ask the Stress
Doc" work stress column developed in collaboration with AOL/Digital City - Washington
was featured in five Metro-DC regional web portals - from Netscape's Netcenter to AOL.COM:
Washington. Email started jumping off the screen. The self-proclaimed title, "The
Virtual Dear Abby of AOL," was no longer a merry moniker.
These two dramatic additions threw my modus- and cyberoperandi into turmoil. I've
prided myself on answering almost all email personally. Very quickly I had to make a
paradigm shift. Now, in response to a heartfelt note, I might send a brief personal
message; the bulk of my emailings was resource links and/or an article that hopefully
approximated the reader's concerns and expectations. While this operational shift may seem
obvious, it still raised some misgivings. I was sacrificing intimacy for efficiency and
hoping that quality service would prevail. (The next step is finding some other "Dear
Doc" ghosts or clones.)
Of course, face-to-face interaction only intensifies the need for setting priorities
and focusing energies. For example, customers and employees will frequently insist their
projects are vital, their needs are urgent. Remember, urgent gets done now; important gets
prioritized! For a priority system to work, key business players and partners often must
overcome territorial and turf instincts: "My task is most important," "No
mine is even more critical." The small business milieu can quickly take on the
manner, intensity, and conflicting loyalties of a family. And sometimes (before things get
too urgent) you need an outside consultant to help you and your staff: a) handle
"family" dysfunction and/or b) envision goals, establish consensus and become a
dynamic, "whole is greater than the sum of parts" team. (My motto - "Have
Stress? Will Travel: A Smart Mouth for Hire!")
3. Experiment and Select a Performance Curve. The third group of principals for
juggling multiple responsibilities relates to valuing experimentation and to
distinguishing what's staple and what's supplemental for business operations. One key is
developing "selective perfection." For example, into my original online and
offline psychohumor essays I pour time, passion, obsession and humor. I'm shooting for at
least an "A." (You know who's the true Type A Personality: the person who won't
settle for being anything less than a Type A+.) For workshops, interviewing the client,
some rehearsal and relaxed attention is usually sufficient to produce a top-notch job.
Years of experience and previous trial and error learning curves provide the high
performance foundation. Lastly, my twice weekly "Ask the Stress Doc" Q & A
calls for professionalism, problem-solving clarity and brevity, not my most imaginative
effort. B+ is good enough
Selective perfection in action!
And finally, there's that related corollary to experimentation and discrimination, one
that helps generate a robust growth curve: the capacity to both gently tolerate and
critically analyze (and sometimes agonize over) past errors, current shortcomings and
anticipated vulnerabilities. Having the strength to demand and take in "bad
news" is as vital as generating and sharing positive ideas and energy. So, strive
high and embrace failure. You'll rarely lose and will surely learn!
In summary, when a small business owner: 1) consistently and effectively delegates and
collaborates, 2) owns the distinction between urgent and important and 3) selects the path
of experimentation, feedback and learning curves, he or she is expanding the small
business repertoire -- from survival juggling to high performance flowing. So go with the
flow and, of course
Practice Safe Stress!
Mark Gorkin, LICSW, the Stress Doc, a psychotherapist and nationally recognized
speaker, trainer, consultant and author, is also known as AOL's and the internet's
"Online Psychohumorist" . Check out his USA Today Online "Hot
Site" website - www.stressdoc.com and his page on
AOL/Online Psych, Keyword: Stress Doc
** Join the Doc's "Shrink Rap and Group Chat" on
AOL/Digital City, Tuesdays, 9-10:30pm EDT (AOL Members Only) -- Dig City Promo - Stress
** The Stress Doc's Work Stress Q&A -- Ask the Stress Doc
is now featured on five Portals to the Web, including
- Netscape Netcenter
- Digital City
- AOL.COM Washington, DC - Home
All five portal links can be shared with and are operational for both users of AOL and
** For his free newsletter, Notes from the Online Psychohumorist or for info on
the Stress Doc's Online Coaching program, email Stress