Strictly Business: Stressed? Take a Chill Pill
Posted May 6, 2009

As the saying goes, when you're keister-deep in alligators, it's sometimes difficult to remember that your initial objective was to drain the swamp.

Creating and promoting a new website, updating my existing site, producing new videos and columns—not to mention gallivanting around as a speaker and a musician—have all been very exciting and satisfying. But 8 or 9 months of 65-70-hour workweeks finally took their toll on me.

So what did I do?

I did the same thing you have to do, especially as the wedding and event seasons kick into gear.

Take a break.

I know it sounds counterintuitive to slow down just as your season starts, but none of us—not even the video business advisor himself—is Superman or Superwoman. Remember that your mind, your body, and your nerves need a rest.

All work and no play make us dull, and we're not dull people. We're video people-smart, funny, talented, creative, and alive-and we need to keep that good edge so that we can do the good work for which we're known.

So how do you take a break while juggling those projects-and keeping brides, graduates, and everyone else happy?

First, keep in mind that the secret to having enough energy to keep up a hectic schedule is to separate yourself from your business on a regular basis. Too many 12- or 16-hour days in a row will fry your brain cells.

So take a day off and do something special. Take the kids fishing. Go to a play or a concert. Do something totally unrelated to your business-something reasonably mindless that doesn't require a lot of heavy thought.

Next, do something physical. Pitch horseshoes, ride your bike, climb a tree-whatever. You should be getting in a minimum of three 25-30 minute periods of exercise this week (and every week). Swim. Walk. Jog. Do aerobics. Do something, or else you're surely headed for that big green dumpster full of burned-out video producers.

Third, keep learning. Schedule a half-hour or more each week to sharpen your skills. Don't be content to rest on your present knowledgebase. Things change far too quickly these days to be cavalier about what you know.

Buy an instructional DVD. Sit down and play with your camera for a half-hour and reacquaint yourself with all that it does. Maybe learn a few new tricks. Listen to a podcast or audiotape that teaches you a new skill; read a book. Talk to a friend in the business who can give you hints on how to work better, smarter, faster.

Check out trade magazines and blogs that pertain to your business or to related businesses. Print out a new article or two from the web and give it a good read.

In my last two columns, I talked about the various ways you can promote your business through online Social Media, including Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Ning. Since it's virtually impossible to keep up with all of them and still have time to sleep, this might be an excellent time to take a closer look at them-both collectively and individually-and choose one or two for your own social marketing efforts.

Watch out for time-suckers. Mental stress can be just as strenuous as physical exertion. I can drive myself crazy researching new and better ways to do things-spend hours drooling at the computer only to forget half of what I've read or realize that much of it is duplicate information. Better to set a time limit for how long you'll spend researching online. It's easy to get caught up in the chase and to keep gathering more and more (and more! and more!) information, even though you have enough material or the topic isn't worth the additional time you want to invest in it.

Last, but not least, renew your stuff. Take a few minutes every day to attend to the maintenance of your equipment and your support systems. Just 10 minutes and a dollar or two will probably do the trick.
Clean out your company car or van, and wash and wax it. Replace that broken switch on your soft-light cord. Find a nut and a bolt and fix that sagging tripod.

Go through your wireless mike batteries and recycle the dead ones. Clean off your desk. File your papers. Label those unmarked masters from your last big job and put them away. Clean off your power cords and coil 'em up. Water the plants. Clean the refrigerator. But just remember, the little stuff does add up. If you want to work efficiently and look good while you're doing it, your equipment and surroundings need to be shipshape.

We're all aching to get to the top-as quickly as possible. We can even envision what we'll do when we get there. But we have to get there first, right? So slow down!

If you study the profiles of successful people, if you talk to them and analyze their methods, you'll find that real success comes from taking little baby steps and taking them consistently. Slow but steady.

I guarantee that if you take the steps I just gave you-and take them regularly and faithfully and consistently-you'll be at the finish line before you know it. And you'll continue to enjoy your work each and every day.

Steve Yankee (syankee at has more than 35 years of video production and marketing experience and is the founder of The Video Business Advisor in East Lansing, Mich.