Picture this: it’s 6 AM on a weekday, and you’re already on your second cup of coffee. You worked late last night, and you know you’re in for another long haul today. The business you love is starting to feel more like a chore, and instead of doing all of the things you hoped you’d work on, you’re stuck answering emails and returning phone calls for hours on end.
Welcome to burnout city. Where the hours are long, and the coffee is cold.
Burnout is a common side effect of running your own business — particularly in the early stages. The side effects of burnout include complete exhaustion, high-stress levels, and feeling like you’re falling behind on a list of tasks that never comes to an end.
How can you get back on track and prevent burnout before it takes its toll on your mental health? Luckily, there are a few tricks to take you from tired and anxious to calm and controlled.
#1. Understand that you can’t do it all
As a business owner, especially one just starting, you can feel obligated to do as much as possible without hiring additional help. Whether it’s because you want to keep your costs low or you like to have control over each stage of your business, it doesn’t mean it’s the best decision. As soon as you start to spend time doing administrative tasks, or worse — tasks that don’t lend to your strengths, both yourself and your business will struggle due to your burnout.
Instead, find a way to balance your time by asking for help and taking advantage of resources. If cost is an issue, look for larger companies that are useful for outsourcing small tasks (Virtual Gurus, for example). More often than not, you won’t have to hire a permanent full-time employee if you can’t afford that yet.
Where to look: Places like Fiverr, Upwork and Scripted are great tools for small business owners looking for affordable help. But if cost isn’t an issue, now is the time to look for partners to help you manage your accounting, come aboard full time for administrative duties, and begin to explore growth opportunities outside of yourself.
#2. Set yourself up with a schedule that emphasizes work-life balance
For most of us, work and life balance can easily blur if we don’t set clear boundaries. As adults, we sometimes forget the value of setting a schedule and letting ourselves eat and rest when we need to. For that reason, the best thing you can do to prevent burnout is to plan in time for yourself, which has nothing to do with your business.
Allow yourself to unplug from your emails after a certain period of the day — and book one day each week that you cannot schedule meetings on. Then, find little tactics to control your schedule again. James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, says that for many of us, it’s easy to get hung up on the little details (like making sure everything we do is perfect), which can prevent us from doing those things at all. Here’s how to start:
- Work with what you’ve got. If you only have 15 minutes of downtime in the middle of your day, use it to do something that helps you relax.
- Log off your phone.
- Take that time to put work to the side and enjoy ‘you’ time.
#3. Look for mentors and leaders who can help you overcome burnout
Although it may often feel like we’re alone, many people experience burnout. When it comes to work-life balance, sometimes we need to look to others who have gone through similar experiences.
For that reason, speaking with a mentor or fellow business person who has dealt with a heavy workload (and little time to relax) might be a great way to learn tactics to reduce your stress. Not only will you have a network to reach out to and to hold you accountable, you’ll also enjoy time with your friends and find a healthy way to fall back in love with work.
How to move forward: Find a group of like-minded individuals and set up a monthly meeting where you share ideas, discuss your difficulties and brainstorm unique solutions. The best way to keep motivation in business is to surround yourself with other people striving for excellence. Having strong leaders in your life may be just what you need to grow your business without letting burnout control you.
Hiring a business coach can also help you close the gap between where you are and where you want to be.
#4. Find a hobby or creative outlet that doesn’t revolve around work
One of the best ways to prevent burnout is giving yourself an outlet that helps take your mind off what’s distracting you. Whether you join a gym, play a team sport or find a book club, there are many options to give yourself a few hours each week that are solely dedicated to doing something carefree and fun. Releasing your energy and fighting stress by doing the things you love is a healthy way to remove burnout from your life.
Where to look: Check your local community website for upcoming events or activities that work with your schedule, or ask friends and family what might work as far as creative outlets go.
At times, it may feel like you are stuck, and there are no solutions to help you find balance in life without the stress that comes with owning a business. But by asking for help, scheduling free time, linking up with others or trying a new hobby, you can start to take your life back from burnout.
At True North Accounting, we help small business owners succeed and thrive. Book a meeting with one of our knowledgeable CPAs so we can help save you time, save you money and save you from dealing with CRA. Ever.
Want to learn more? Find other Entrepreneur Life topics that may be helpful to you and your small business.