How to Avoid Burnout as a Business Owner

How to Avoid Burnout as a Business Owner

One of the biggest reasons people choose to start their own business is because they want more freedom and control over what they do and when they do it. The appeal of being an entrepreneur is about having access to a great lifestyle.

Unfortunately, that’s not what every entrepreneur gets. Instead, it’s all too easy (and in entrepreneur culture even encouraged) to be tied to your desk, overwhelmed with tasks, working round the clock and stressed, hoping that one day in the future, all the hard work will be worth it.

All that stress is leading to burnout – and it can be fatal to your business.

You need to hear this: It’s not working! It’s not going to magically get fixed as more business comes in. You need to make a change if you want to get your life back and get your business working for your lifestyle, not the other way around.

Is it Normal to Feel Burned Out?

The short answer is no. Feeling burnt out is not normal and it’s not a natural part of being a business owner. Burnout is not a buzzword that means you are in a hustle mindset, it’s a legitimate crisis point where you literally can’t handle the stress anymore and you start to shut down, mentally, emotionally and physically.

There are big dangers here including falling out of love with your business and what you have built, as well as being too stressed and wiped out to enjoy any of the benefits working for yourself brings.

A little bit of stress can be good for you. It can be motivating and get your tail into gear, especially if it’s crunch time, but if the stress is ongoing and your coping mechanism is just to push through, you are going to hit burnout and it’s going to hurt.

Why do business owners burn out?

There is an expectation that owning your own business means you have to always keep the candle burning – both ends of the wick if possible, but at some point, you are going to run out of solid ground and start burning into yourself, even if things seem to be going well on the business and financial front.

Most business owners burn out because they don’t know how to evolve or grow from a start-up to the next natural level in business. They are holding themselves back trying to do it all themselves.

In some cases too much work comes from failing to set up an early business structure – so doing it yourself feels necessary – other times it comes from not wanting to give up control or not being able to trust anyone else to do the job as well as you can.

Building a quality team and trusting others to work with you is part of being a leader, which is the role you have taken on as a business owner.

How do small businesses deal with burnout?

Identifying burnout isn’t easy. It can be a gradual slide – like a frog in slowly warming water- that means you might not even realise when you have reached a crisis point.

It’s hard to ask for help if you don’t know you are in trouble. 

Check in with how you feel on regular basis and take it seriously if you are experiencing:

  • Exhaustion and overwhelm
  • Frustration and cynicism
  • Confusion, difficulties making decisions
  • A drop in your performance or energy
  • The mindset of always being at work…if not physically, then mentally
  • Short temper/snappiness that is taken out on co-workers or family
  • A sense that nothing is ever good enough or done correctly
  • Avoiding socialisation, catch ups and gatherings
  • Sleep Problems
  • Increased Health Issues

Asking questions to figure out where burnout is stemming from is a valuable start. Is this a mindset problem, a process-driven issue or a lack of achievable goals and expectations?

It takes a bit of personal awareness to get to the heart of your stress issues, especially if you’re not used to looking internally or asking questions about emotions. In most cases, the fastest and most empowering way to handle this step is with a mentor. An experienced business coach knows the right questions to ask to get you thinking about your business with fresh eyes and seeing where you are going wrong – as well as asking the right questions to get you back on task and motivated.

How to Avoid Burnout as a Business Owner

It is possible to prevent burnout. Recovery can take a long time, so it’s best to learn when you are stressed and put preventive strategies in place as early as possible. Once these strategies become habits, you’ll experience better workflow, more energy, and start to love what you do.

Here are some ways to prevent burnout and run your business, instead of letting your business run you:

1. Take time out

This seems illogical but time away from work is essential for growth. Pushing too hard for too long is one of the biggest triggers for burnout. We need to step away, reset and refresh every business quarter so plan a break – let’s say one week long – every 90-days.

Regular and predictable breaks are needed to:

  • Step away from current systems
  • Gain clarity on where you are
  • See what you need to do next
  • Have time for new innovation
  • Think over new processes
  • Reflect on what you love about your business and why you are doing it

NOTE: This needs to be done before burnout – not as a burnout recovery strategy.

Entrepreneurs tend to go gung-ho in the pursuit of big goals, but we can’t focus more than 90-days at a time, which is why we need to set recharge time and unplug time and step right out of business.

Once you see just how rewarding regular breaks are and how much your business benefits, this 90-day cycle will become one of your favourite business practices.

2. Do one thing at a time

Setting too many business goals at once, trying to launch too many products – or even businesses – at once splits your focus and divides your energy. This will hold you back from putting the time and resources needed into one project to see your goals reached.

Even in your daily tasks, look to achieve one, perhaps two main goals for the day. This will stop you from working around the clock – as well as avoiding getting overwhelmed by the amount you need to achieve.

If you have more things than a handful that need urgent attention, get help. You need to bring in a qualified team to do the work on your behalf or discuss your business strategy (or lack of) with an experienced business coach.

Having the right business systems will help you know what jobs need doing, who to hire and how to communicate their role effectively.

3. Get organised

Getting organised will simplify your business structure. No matter how impossible that may seem with the hectic processes around you, every business can be simplified. You can set your day and business up to work around the lifestyle you want, whether that’s more time, freedom, picking up your kids from school, holidays or lots of money. It’s possible to have it all when you have solid systems behind you.

4. Gain control by taking time out

A big issue with burnout is the feeling you are at work all the time. The way around this is to deliberately not be at work at certain times of the day. Set aside time for yourself – for me it’s a morning walk on the beach, but it could be anything, any time. Think about:

  • What you love to do
  • Who you love to spend time with
  • Where you love to be
  • How you relax and unwind

Once doing these activities regularly becomes a habit, you’ll find that a balanced lifestyle comes pretty easily.

5. Set up a schedule to prioritise your day

Each morning I spend some time seeing where I am with the business so I can determine what actually needs to be achieved and what my priorities are. I use this to schedule these tasks (and only these tasks) as my to-list that day. That way I am actively working towards my goals without wasting time doing other unnecessary things that eat up time and stop me from being where I really want to be. If there is a surge in work items, growth or some unec]pected situation that needs attention, then you can put in more time and work harder those days, but it’s temporary.

6. Be Outcome Bound

Outcome-bound business setups are far more efficient than time-bound ones because you have control over when you are completed. If you say you are going to work for nine hours you will stretch out your work so it takes nine hours to complete – and with all that procrastinating, you still might not get it all done.

When you work on being outcome bound as opposed to time-bound you can control how much time you actually work.

When you are outcome bound and think, “I need to achieve these five items today”, you might finish them in 3.5 hours and have the rest of the day to do what you want, because you are laser-focused and able to prioritise your day more efficiently.

When you have the momentum behind you, you feel like you are making progress and getting results, so you want to stick with it and keep climbing, you also get the rewards of having the afternoon to do anything you want.

Burnout can creep up on you, especially if you are stuck in the grind. When you pay attention to how you’re feeling and step back to see the negative habits you are running, it gives you a fighting chance to see warning signs. Follow these steps to put strategies in place that prevent burnout and help you take control of your life and business and ask for help if things are getting over your head.

When you can build strategies that keep the enjoyment in your life and your business you have more energy to put into what needs doing because you are looking after yourself.

Getting started is as easy as looking at what successful entrepreneurs are doing to win back their time. Join our Facebook group to start conversations with business owners just like you who are setting up a business for life. You’ll see me jump on as well and put in my expert suggestions for how to make successful changes to your business.