Small business owners: King George III had nothing on you as a tyrant. When the colonists in America rebelled against that despotic (and crazy) English King, they were fighting to take charge of their own lives. They wanted to set the rules, not be dictated to. But as a small business owner, are you really allowing yourself to be free or are you enslaved by your business?

It’s time for a Small Business Declaration of Independence.

Here are the tell-tale signs that you’re enslaved by your own small business and what you tell yourself:  
  • You’re constantly looking at email. It’s the first thing you check in the morning and the last thing at night. But you need to make sure there are no emergencies—or even issues—needing your immediate attention, right?
  • You’re never fully present with family or friends. Your attention is always divided, whether at a child’s graduation, a spouse’s birthday party, a friend’s barbecue. But you’ve got to think about what needs doing at the office because there’s just not enough time in the week, right?
  • You never take a vacation. After all, your business depends on you, so if you leave, everything will fall apart, right?
  • You refuse to hire anyone. No one else can do it the way you want it, right?
  • You’re constantly posting to social media. After all, that’s how you get customers, right?
  • You’re at the mercy of one or two big customers and they’re tyrants. But they bring you the most money, so you have to do what they want, right?
  • You only have one or two suppliers. But they’re dependable and have the right prices, so you don’t need to look around, right?
  • You’re at the mercy of a mercurial President who suddenly slaps tariffs on products you import, export, or need. But, you vote for him because you think he’s better for small business, right?
  • You’re not contributing to your retirement. Instead, you’re plowing all your profits into your business. But some day you’ll be able to sell it, right?

Well, it’s time for your own Small Business Declaration of Independence. It’s time to decide that your business doesn’t own you—you own your business. That means taking back control of your life and your time. It means thinking strategically, not reacting emotionally. And it means taking care of your own health—physically, financially, socially.

How do you do that?
  1. Establish a schedule and stick to it. Give yourself business hours, so you know when to quit. And take a day off once a week.
  2. Start your day fresh. If the first thing you do every morning is check your phone for email it means your adrenaline is pumping and heart racing before you’re even out of bed. Take a few moments in the morning to read, say a prayer, think about your day, listen to music.
  3. Limit your screen time. Too much screen time isn’t just bad for children, it’s bad for you. Make sure you are spending a few hours each day NOT looking at any screen—not your computer, phone, TV. What will you do instead? How about talking to other people, exercising, cooking, reading, going for a walk? In other words, being a human being?
  4. Give yourself some family and friends time and some “me time.” Take care of your relationships and yourself, so you know what you’re working for.
  5. Take a vacation. Your business will not collapse if you’re gone for a week—or two. But your marriage might.
  6. Stop checking your phone. The average American checks their phone every 10 minutes. That’s just nuts. Limit yourself to no more than once an hour when you’re not at the office.
  7. Vote intelligently. Choose candidates who understand that their decisions (and their tweets) have implications for real people and real businesses.
  8. Save for retirement. Reality check: you may never be able to sell your business. So invest in your retirement. If you don’t have enough saved for retirement, you’ll be working the rest of your life.
  9. And hey, try to exercise and eat healthfully too.

Copyright Rhonda Abrams, 2019

This article originally ran in USA Today on July 3, 2019