Small business owners too often forget to do this one, incredibly important thing – take a break.
The same 24/7, always on culture that propels us into success and fuels us to perform at our maximum day after day, also pushes us into extreme exhaustion and eventually into the depths of a small business owner’s kryptonite – burnout.
Burnout results in decreased productivity, a halt in momentum, and often a dip in company morale (because when the leader is falling down the black hole, certain aspects of the business can’t help but follow).
But, it doesn’t have to happen. Small business owner burnout can be avoided and even completely eliminated if the team is strong enough to detect the onset.
Here are five ways to avoid small business owner burnout.
- Disconnect to reconnect.
Contrary to popular belief, small business owners do not need to be connected 24/7. Unless you are running a business that staffs brain surgeons for emergency surgeries, there is a good chance that the business you perceive as being a top priority 24/7 can take a few hours of rest. The key is to figure out which hours make most sense (even if they rotate on a weekly or daily basis) and take the time to disconnect. And in this context, disconnect means step away from the business completely – physically and mentally – and think about and do other things. This could be a time of meditation, a time of exercise, or a time to just sit in silence. There is a rumor that famed pop singer, Justin Bieber, has a strict regimen of getting an hour to himself every day and this is mandated and controlled by his manager. This hour is the time when Bieber disconnects from everything and everyone, and he is “not to be disturbed” under any circumstance.
- Learn to manage – and value – time like a boss.
As a small business owner, your time is incredibly important and valuable. If you don’t value your time, no one else will. It is up to you to learn how to manage your time to be most effective, which is based off your schedule, the times when you’re most productive, and how you prefer working. Understand how your brain and body operate. Identify your “productivity hours” and use them to tackle more challenging tasks, which use the majority of your brainpower and energy. Save the smaller tasks for times when you may feel a little less motivated and maybe a little more bleary-eyed. Also, don’t overschedule yourself and allow travel time to and from appointments. While we often look at a blank schedule and feel the need to start penciling in appointments and activities, remember that downtime is also important and adding stress by hustling from place-to-place on limited time can actually be counterproductive.
- Schedule a vacation – or staycation.
Repeat this phrase ten times: I must take a break and I will take a break. While consistently working on your business and using your time effectively are keys to running a successful business, you cannot perform at your optimal level if you don’t have a chance to get away from your business. Plan ahead and schedule time away that you can look forward to and plan for so you can get into a different mindset and know that everything will be okay.
While you may not have the time or money to travel to an exotic island, you may be able create an experience that is just as beneficial through a staycation. Set your sights on a place where you can feel comfortable and you won’t feel like you need to represent your business every second of every day.
Whether you go to where the ocean is blue or you take it to your closest big city and rent a hotel room, set boundaries and rules to keep your mind on vacation and out of the business. If you bring a partner, have him/her hold you accountable and ensure you don’t wander into the web of emails or world of worry.
- Take care of YOU.
This relates to all of the above – you must take care of you. This includes checking in on your mental and physical health and addressing any issues – and be sure to do this regularly. If you find that there is an issue with any aspect of your health, find a way to course correct and steer yourself down a different path.
Note that you do not have to completely overhaul your life to make mental and physical changes. If you detect an issue, instead of feeling overwhelmed, focus on incremental actions that can be integrated over time. For instance, if you gained a few and you realize that it is making you feel a bit sluggish and worried about needing a new wardrobe, then set actionable steps to reverse the process. Evaluate your diet and start adding one healthier meal option a day. Over time, add other healthier options and start taking a walk or adding other types of exercises. Take it one day at a time and eventually you will start getting back to feeling like yourself.
- Remember what is most important.
When it all comes down to it, life is about people – family, friends, and those that make you happy. When the going gets tough, reevaluate, reprioritize, and lean on your family and friends for support. Reframe your thinking and remain positive. If you start heading down the path of worry and letting negative thoughts take up real estate in your self-talk, you will get burned out quicker than ever and it will be event harder to bounce back into action.
While your business is likely your livelihood and hopefully your passion, you must avoid the crash and burn cycle that will eventually end in a full stop. Stay ahead of the burn, know when it’s coming, and avoid it using these suggestions (or frankly, however you can).
And if all else fails, always remember that this too shall pass.