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Summary:

It’s a strange thing, but in times like these, when prospective clients have fewer dollars to spend and when there’s more competition in the marketplace due to higher unemployment rates, instinctive responses have a tendency to take over our business decisions.

It’s easy to get trapped in a cycle of instinctive “fight or flight” response, so how do we break that cycle?

roller coasterIt’s a strange thing, but in times like these, when prospective clients have fewer dollars to spend and when there’s more competition in the marketplace due to higher unemployment rates, instinctive responses have a tendency to take over our business decisions.

Recently, it’s been much easier to work from a place of desperation, taking every opportunity that comes our way and doing every marketing tactic imaginable to maintain a contracting sales pipeline. Suddenly, the “fight or flight” reaction becomes almost routine, an up and down roller coaster ride that started as an attempt to keep our businesses afloat during these tough times.

The Fight Response

When times get tough, we take a “no holds barred” approach to marketing and promoting our businesses. The goal is finding ways to stay open and survive when it’s getting harder and harder to secure new business. We create elaborate and ambitious marketing plans with the intention of doing all that we can to keep things going. We get up early. We stay up late. We work at a furious pace trying to keep up with it all until…

The Flight Response

…we burn out. All the running and pushing and fighting has caught up with us. We’re tired. More than tired, we’re exhausted and spent. We’re frustrated with the lackluster results from what seemed (at the time) like very promising plans and the best of intentions. At this point, we just need a break. It takes every bit of effort to muster up enough energy to complete the bare minimum of “must be done” tasks, let alone keep up with the ambitious marketing plan.

We take a few days to rest, and then we decide to regroup. Where do you think we go? Back to the fight response, and the whole thing starts over.

How do we end the cycle of this instinctive response? We have to recognize it and stop it before it starts. Here’s how.

Step 1 — Acknowledge that you’ve been running the “fight or flight” circle.

It may take a while to even realize that you’re doing this to yourself. After all, for many of us, this is perhaps the first time we’ve ever had to try this hard to keep our businesses afloat, so this is all very new to us.

Step 2 — Find a good accountability partner to help you keep things in check.

Let your accountability partner know what you’re trying to accomplish and agree on ways that he or she can keep you on track. Have monthly (at a minimum) phone calls or in-person meetings to discuss your progress and setbacks, as well as ways to improve your efforts going forward. With each call, agree on next actions/steps to move you forward in some way.

Step 3 — Be realistic.

When you’re not stressed or thinking about the problems you are facing, sit down and formulate a realistic plan for keeping your business afloat. Determine the goals you want to reach for your business in the coming months, as well as the marketing tactics you will use to help you achieve them. Your plans should include small but consistent steps that you can take on a daily basis to achieve your goals. Remember that this is a marathon, not a sprint. Plan accordingly.

Step 4 — Plan for time off.

This is probably going to be the toughest part, but you must regularly take time away from your business to do things that restore your energy and enthusiasm. Rest is just as important for your success as the work itself. It’s important to plan for it, and (if necessary) force yourself to do it, and don’t just stay at home watching television. Get out. Get outside. Be with other people. This is especially important for web workers.

The fight or flight response is only natural. We’re finding ourselves under increasing levels of stress, and our instincts are telling us to protect ourselves. We can, but not exactly the way Mother Nature intended. By recognizing that we’re falling into this trap, we can learn to avoid it and improve our results going forward.

Have you noticed the “fight or flight” response affecting your actions in recent months? How are you learning to cope with the increased levels of stress, while still keeping your business afloat?

Image from Flickr by kevindooley

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