Grueling schedules, little to no time off and the pressure of juggling a myriad tasks, details and responsibilities — the life of an entrepreneur is nothing short of challenging. And when launching or running a business becomes too much, entrepreneurs risk meeting an intimidating adversary: burnout.
The thing about burnout is that it affects entrepreneurs in different ways. Some entrepreneurs facing burnout simply need a few days to recharge. Other, more severe cases may make it difficult for entrepreneurs to continue with their businesses.
Burnout can strike at any time, but it’s most prevalent at the end of the year. You’ve worked your tail off the last 12 months, maybe even without a break. Plus, the pressure of a new year is looming: what will you accomplish? How will you grow? What’s the next step?
Here’s some good news: burnout can be avoided. The best way to minimize your risk of burnout is to take a step back and examine your schedule, your workload and your body’s natural rhythms. We’ll take you through five tips that can help you steer clear of burnout and get the downtime you need without compromising your business’s productivity.
Let’s go ahead and start a little self-care before we dive in. Grab your favorite beverage, settle in your comfiest chair, and, once you’re settled, continue reading. It’s time to banish burnout.
1. Take a day off.
Entrepreneurs are known for working long hours and crazy schedules, and for good reason — there’s always something to do when you’re running your business or preparing for launch!
Yet even when you’re feeling overwhelmed by your to-do list, you’ll get more done (and help protect your health) if you schedule time off. For example, if you regularly work seven days a week, can you give yourself at least one day a week to relax and recharge?
It’s also not a bad idea to look ahead and identify opportunities to take a longer break. Depending on the type of business you run, the holiday season is a prime time to take a few days off, since business in many industries tends to slow in the week between Christmas and New Year’s.
One more tip: try to schedule a day off after a particularly grueling busy period. Maybe you’ve spent weeks preparing to exhibit at a convention or tradeshow. Or you’re preparing to launch a new product or service. Or your business has a busy season, and you’ve done all you could to keep things running smoothly and efficiently. Once that milestone is complete, try to take at least one day to rest, spend time with friends and family or enjoy a favorite activity (more on that later in the post).
2. Create a support system.
Whether you work from home, your own office or a coworking space, there’s no denying that life as an entrepreneur can be lonely. That’s why building a support system of trusted friends and fellow entrepreneurs is important.
Sure, you can use members of this group as a sounding board when you’ve hit an obstacle or are developing a new idea. And if you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed by your business and approaching burnout, reach out to those in your support system to vent and clear your mind. You’ll likely find that the entrepreneurs you know have been in a similar situation and can throw you a much-needed life preserver when it feels like you’re drowning.
If you feel your enthusiasm for your business waning, it might also help to surround yourself with energetic entrepreneurs that can reinvigorate you and help you remember your “why.” Try looking for entrepreneurial meet-ups in your area, including 1 Million Cups, Creative Mornings or start-up showcases.
It’s not always easy to cede control of tasks to others, but part of running a successful long-term business is the ability to delegate.
Take a close look at your workload and how you’re spending your time. If you feel like you’re in perpetual catch-up mode or you can’t seem to get ahead of your business curve, it might be time to bring in some help. Not everyone can afford to add full-time employees to their business, especially in the early days.
Instead, look at the work you want to delegate, then examine your options. Maybe you need help with scheduling and administrative tasks. Consider a virtual assistant who could help you remotely and also allow for a smaller initial investment than, say, bringing on a full-time business manager.
Or maybe you need help with some finite tasks or projects. You could hire a contractor on an hourly or per project basis to complete the work. If you don’t have a candidate that’s top of mind, reach out to your network for recommendations or see if your city has a resource like Kansas City-based The Freelance Exchange, which helps pair clients with freelancers.
4. Treat yourself.
When you’re up to your eyeballs in work, taking care of yourself can easily slip to the bottom of your priorities. Yet giving yourself time for self-care — even if it’s just a few minutes a day or week — can go a long way in helping you feel relaxed, even re-energized for the work that lies ahead.
The beauty of self-care is that when it comes to treating yourself, the possibilities are nearly endless. First, think about what you enjoy: exercise? Meditation? A spa treatment or massage? Going to a movie? Reading a book? Crafting?
Then, you can make a plan to, as the kids say, #treatyoself. Schedule your favorite indulgent activity just like you would a meeting, then do everything you can to keep the appointment. And take a similar approach to self-care as you would your business. For instance, you don’t need to suddenly book yourself on a week-long meditation retreat in the mountains (but we can dream!). Instead, carve out a few minutes each day (or a few times a week) to meditate in a favorite peaceful spot.
One of the advantages of self-care is that it adds up quickly, and a little bit can go a long way, especially if it’s been awhile since you’ve done something nice for yourself. Making time for something you love is part of your investment in your overall mental and physical health, which, over time, can be one of your business’s biggest assets.
5. Know when you’re most productive.
If you routinely struggle to get work done, it’s worth reexamining your daily schedule and how you’re blocking off your time. Are you more productive in the morning? Do what you can to avoid meetings or calls during that time and, instead, focus on checking things off of your to-do list. If you find you’re more apt to get things done in the afternoon, then make that your more productive time.
Depending on your type of business and operating hours, you might even want to go so far as to slightly shift your schedule. Maybe you prefer getting a later start — say, 9 or 10 a.m. — and work until 6 or 7 p.m. Early birds could shift that schedule so that you start your day earlier.
That brings up another tip: do what you can to adhere to a schedule. As an entrepreneur, it’s easy to work throughout the day (and even night). But by setting boundaries, including a daily schedule, you’re more likely to stay focused but also give yourself the time away from work you need to relax and rest, which is one of the most effective ways to minimize your risk of burnout.
Here’s one last tip: ditch the guilt trip. It’s so easy for entrepreneurs to talk themselves out of downtime or self-care or delegating. But think of it like this: the goal for any entrepreneur is to work smarter, not harder. Any steps you can take to do just that — and make sure you’re taking care of yourself — will be some of the most effective ways to achieve both long-term professional success and personal fulfillment.