12 Tips for Preserving Your Sanity as a Small Business Owner

Becoming a registered dietitian was the easy choice — I declared my college major during the application process and never changed, much to the envy of my friends who changed majors several times during college.

However, my soul-searching has come later, in deciding what way to be an RD. I was seeking variety, autonomy and a big challenge, so I started my own business. And boy, have I found a challenge! While we are never done learning as RDs in small business, here are some lessons I've learned that may help others along the way.

Don't Leave for Later What You Can Do in a Minute

Our brains are too full of to-dos to let them become cluttered with tiny tasks.

Take "Staycations"

You may not be able to afford your dream vacation while pouring your resources into the beginnings of your small business, but you still deserve a break. I have been taking quarterly staycations with two other small business owners, and have really benefited from this time to relax and recharge.

Be Kind to Yourself

The last thing you need is to feed any feelings of self-doubt. Remember that we are only human, not superheroes! It takes guts to start a small business and guts to keep going. You have a really different stress level than those working a reliable 9-to-5 job with benefits and a consistent paycheck.

Ask for Advice — but Don't Take All of It

You're not the first small business owner. It is likely that there is a lot to be garnered from other folks in business. But don't follow advice that doesn't support your vision. Friends and family mean well, but they don't necessarily know what is best for you.

Say No

You can't do everything and you shouldn't want to. Don't let yourself get spread too thin. Just because something helps pay the bills doesn't mean that it is the right fit for your business; keep your work opportunities focused on what your business really is.

Make Decisions

The more you struggle with decisions and have "analysis by paralysis," the less you're getting done and moving forward. Everyone makes mistakes, but don't let fear paralyze your progress. You have a good gut; trust it and keep marching forward.

Contribute to Your Retirement

While it is my hope that you are developing your best job ever, you probably don't want to keep doing it until you are 90. Even if it is just a tiny amount, every penny you add to a retirement account will grow in interest — as well as lower your tax liability come April 15.


There is so much to do to support, manage and grow your business that it can seem like you're doing everything except what you set out to do. Whenever there is the opportunity to simplify, jump on it.

Count Your Blessings

Every once in a while, write down the things you are grateful for and what is awesome about your life as a small business owner.

Close the Office at the End of the Day

There may not be physical distance between your home life and your work life, so embrace whatever distance you can to help your brain turn off when the day is done. Turn off the computer, shut the door to the office (if you have one) and congratulate yourself on another day completed as a small business owner. If your brain is busy with the endless to-dos, take a minute to write them down so you don't forget … but wait to tackle them until tomorrow. Small business ownership can be 24/7 if you let it, but you'll run yourself ragged if you do.

Network and Brainstorm

Each week I meet with two other local small business owners over cocktails. We discuss what has gone well with each of our businesses and set goals for the next week. Whoever hasn't completed their goals from the previous week is responsible for the tab.

Remember that It Is Going to Be Hard

Striking out on your own is not for the faint of heart. Having times when everything happens at once and becomes overwhelming is normal — it has no reflection on you as a person or your skills as a leader and entrepreneur. Chin up, call a friend and get cracking on your to-do list.

Holly Larson on Twitter
Holly Larson
Holly Larson, RD, is a registered dietitian in Oxford, Ohio. Read her blog and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.