Burnout affects most small business owners at some point or another. Even when stress comes from good sources like strong growth and a heavy workload, running your own show can take a physical toll on you. Between the stress of keeping up with finances, managing employees, and having a personal stake in the outcome, a lot of people hit the wall.
One way to avoid burnout is to maintain reasonable expectations for what you can handle. But how can you do that and still get everything done at the end of the day? Working smarter with your employees and contractors combined with managing your own time more efficiently will help you not only stay afloat, it’ll help you really enjoy the freedom that comes with working for yourself. Where to get started?
#1 – Delegate roles to others. When you start to feel like the only oarman on the boat, hand someone else a paddle. Giving everyone something to do goes beyond simply hiring people for specific tasks: it is about both maintaining flexibility while including your staff in the process. This keeps their role from getting stale and makes them feel like they are integral to the functioning of your business. Having a feeling of importance builds team community and drives your people to do their work better.
#2 – Use tools to help manage your time better. There are dozens of easy to use free apps available to help you track your time, your finances, even the number of steps you’re taking daily (ie. your passive exercise). Finding the right assortment of time management can do wonders for making more of your schedule, which frees up more time to do what you care the most about.
#3 – Keep up with things that you value. Personal growth is as important than the growth of your business (in many instances, it’s more important!) Your day to day operations will take up a lot of time, but it’s supremely important that you don’t lose track of what matters in your life. Take time to engage with your other interests, whether they be reading, sports, hiking, fishing, family time, et cetera. When business puts your other passions on the back burner, you quickly risk losing touch with what makes you happy.
#4 – Work life balance isn’t secondary. If you’re lucky enough, you are making your way in the world following your passions. That will make keeping your values in balance much easier to manage. However, you don’t want to allow the business side of things to overtake your passion. This is one of the biggest factors that leads to burnout—off the top of my head, I can think of three former small business owners who burned themselves by allowing the stress of the job to burn out their love for the craft. Take time to do some self care: go home and see your family, meet up with friends for a drink, and try to get adequate rest at the end of the night. You’d be amazed what a short vacation or weekend away from the shop can do for reenergizing your drive.
#5 – Don’t try to DIY everything. Learning new skills is great, but sometimes it’s just better to hire an expert. When doing specialized tasks like web design, UX, or high-level fulfillment strategies, spending hours trying to approximate what you’re looking to achieve may not be the best investment of your time. Know your strengths, but be ready to hire a pro when it comes down to some important things. Websites like Upwork and other freelance-oriented marketplaces will give you all the tools you need to fill in your staff for special projects.
#6 – Exercise! Nearly all experts from mental health professionals to your family doctor stress the importance of staying fit and healthy. Staying in shape can be tough when you’re busy though! Set aside small amounts of time to get started, ten or fifteen minutes to do a workout set designed to get your heartrate up and promote flexibility. Establishing time during your morning routine or during a lunch break, for example, will help you get into the type of good habits that remind you that exercise makes you feel better.
#7 – Plan for the unexpected. You’re gonna have to change, no matter how great your plan may be. This goes beyond market changes or new tech and touches the heart of your business. If something stops working for you, be open and amenable to change when it comes along. It may come in the form of a new employee who is versed in different ways of doing things. It may come from reading a great article! *cough* No matter, be aware that the unexpected will happen, and being flexible will help you manage your future stress better.
#8 – Separate your identity from the business. People are invested in the success of their businesses. While it’s normal and healthy to want to do well, it’s important to remember that hard times aren’t the result of moral failings. The most important time to check your success and keep your sense of self separate from your business: when you’re doing unexpectedly well. It’s hard not to start thinking you’re a genius when things go well. But if things slow down, you’re building the fluctuations of the market into your personality, which isn’t healthy. Don’t make it personal!
#9 – Speed kills. Don’t rush into making big decisions. In the fast paced world of modern business, a lot of people try to take the Wall Street trading floor approach to decision making. Most people don’t work in securities trading and therefore can greatly benefit from stepping away to make big, difficult decisions regarding their company. Taking some time to talk to an expert or read up on unfamiliar topics will decrease your stress (and make it more likely you end up making the right choice!)
#10 – Be realistic. Set reasonable and attainable goals for yourself and your company. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have big dreams and lofty ambitions. What it means is establishing realistic objectives that you can achieve regularly, structured in such a way that you are constantly tracking with milestones. Rather than saying “I want to make a million dollars by Christmas,” cut your year into smaller projects that you can tackle. It takes a lot of stress away from you and gives you small rewards for consistency. Your goal setting should track with your larger objectives, but also lend enough flexibility to the unknown.
Taking care of yourself is part of taking care of your business. Avoiding burnout should be on your mind when you’re setting out plans and establishing roles in your company. Ensuring you get the type of “you time” needed to stay mentally and emotionally sharp requires planning, but it’s planning well worth the time. The more conscientious you are about managing your time for balance and efficiency, the stronger your prospects for being a successful businessperson for years to come.