You wake up one morning and realize you don’t want to work. You just want to take some time off, do something different. Before long, you start contemplating of closing the business and getting a day job.
While lots of things can cause these feelings, burnout is usually to blame. And it’s responsible for most business failures.
Usually, entrepreneurs are busy with financial healthy and growing a customer base, believing excellence in these areas guarantees success. So they neglect their bodies and lives. But these are the engines that drive everything.
If the trend continues, the owner starts losing his motivation. He becomes too paralyzed, unable to move himself or the business.
However, anyone can avoid burnout with ease. You just have to understand it and know the ways of dealing with it.
When Burnout Is Likely to Happen
Burnout affects entrepreneurs differently. It all comes down to one’s working practices. Every entrepreneur must know what these are to avoid being a victim.
Here are some causes of small business owner burnout:
You have a one-man business – due to lack of resources, most owners do most things themselves. As a result, they spend too much energy taking care of the business.
Lack of willingness to unload work – some entrepreneurs have trust issues, and they work alone even when they have the resources to hire.
The business is still young – when just starting, there are lots of things that need to be done. And the owner is forced to do more than he should.
Lack of organization – if your business is a mess, you can’t get anything done. You get busy finding your way through the chaos.
How to Deal with Small Business Owner Burnout
You can fight entrepreneurial burnout in a number of ways. I only advise that you find the cause in your case, and choose a solution you think may help. Here are the best solutions:
One Brick at a Time
Sometimes, working a lot has to do with the many/gigantic goals we assign ourselves.
Most of us are in a rush to succeed now. So we put everything on the line.
But remember that even mansions are built one brick at a time. If you try to do it in a single day, the whole thing will surely crumble. And you will be exhausted.
You cannot expect to have a business like Amazon or LinkedIn in just a year.
So set reasonable goals.
At best, focus on goals you can achieve in less than a year. But these must be building to another bigger goal you will achieve in 5-10 years. This will reduce your workload. And it will reduce the amount of time spent in your business.
Research other businesses in the same industry.
How much do they make?
How many customers do they have?
How long did it take them to get where they are?
You could use this data as benchmarks for your own goals. Read this article for more on setting business goals that are guaranteed to succeed.
Become a Master
If you are incompetent, you will take longer to finish a task. So upgrading your skills is a smart move. But not only will you work fast, you will also motivate yourself, reducing chances of burnout further. In addition, you will boost your confidence, which translates into less time worrying if you’ve got everything right.
There are lots of ways to learn. And with advances in technology, learning is now easier than ever. You can:
- Work with a coach
- Work with a mentor
- Read books on the subject you want to master
- Enroll in a mini-course (there are lots of these on the internet, covering almost every subject)
- Go to university or college (in case the skill is complex and formal education is necessary)
Ideally, you must make a plan of what you are going to learn and how you are going to learn it. For example, if you will be learning through books, list the books you will use. In addition, make deadlines for when you should finish them. The same should be true for courses, coaches, and even mentors.
Not all learning materials are created equal. And not all people understand things the same way. While some people like to learn through books, others prefer a coach to guide them. Consider the style of learning suitable for you so you don’t waste time and money.
Also, remember to assess your progress. When you reach your deadlines, see if there is any change in your work.
Do you now make fewer mistakes?
Are you finishing your work in less time?
Do your clients now seem to be more satisfied with your work?
Don’t Carry More than You Can
I understand that there is a lot you must do to keep your business operating. And since you may be working alone, you have no choice but do everything yourself.
However, cramming as much work as you can in a day is stupid. You will wear yourself out and doing business will be less satisfying.
And this is backed by science. Researchers asked knowledge workers to give up unimportant tasks and only focus on core activities. The result was that productivity soared.
So how can you work less without crippling your business?
Hire other people – these do not need to be permanent employees. Freelancers are a great example. Outsource all tasks that are not the core of your business or that require highly specialized skills. Here are some tips to keep in mind when outsourcing:
- Outsource to the right people or organizations by doing enough research.
- Have clear goals before you outsource and identify the benefits you will get.
- Review progress from time to time to ensure things are as planned.
- Maintain good communication.
- Remember that you get what you pay for. Outsourcing should not be used as a way of saving money.
Use software – almost every business activity has a software that can substitute the human effort required. So research how software can handle some of your load.
Play a lot
You need to allot your time so you can work and also play. Spending time with your family or friends, pursuing your hobbies, and looking after your body are as important as the success of your business.
Focusing only on work makes you unbalanced. And that leads to small business owner burnout.
Most entrepreneurs work for over 60 hours per week. While this may seem productive, it does not translate into getting more done.
Research shows that working for more than 40 hours per week makes you less productive. You lose time you would have spent taking breaks (and these are important for avoiding burnout). So stick to 40 hours per week.
And during the day, have 20-minute breaks after every 90 minutes of focused productivity.
It matters how you spend your time during the breaks. Generally, you want to be detached from your work. Taking a nap, walking in the woods, meditating, or listening to music are good ways to spend a break.
Make Every Second Count
Procrastination is an enemy all entrepreneurs should fight. When you procrastinate, you spend more time working on a single task. In addition, tasks pile up, making you work when you should be playing.
Meanwhile, all that this does is keep you from enriching your life. And that leads to burnout.
Here is how you can avoid procrastinating:
Break activities into tasks you can achieve today – research shows that trying to conquer gigantic tasks only leads to fear which leads to procrastination. The solution is to break your tasks as much as you can.
For example, to break the task of writing a business plan, you would have the following:
- Write “Company Description” and “Products and Services” sections on Monday
- Write “Marketing Plan” and “Operational Plan” sections on Tuesday
- Write “Management and Organization” and “Financial Plan” sections on Wednesday
- Write “Appendices” and “Executive Summary” sections on Thursday
- Polish the plan on Friday.
Have a to-do list – to make this effective, you must ensure that all tasks on it are to be finished that day. Excuses cannot be tolerated. Here are more tips for better to do lists:
- Plan your next day’s work before going to bed – you want to hit the ground running in the morning.
- Ensure the list only has less than 10 items. This will reduce clutter.
- Put the most important tasks at the top of your list.
- Keep the list handy. A piece of paper on your desk is usually a good idea. You won’t waste time opening apps (which can lead to distractions).
- Check off completed tasks. Not only does this motivate, it also reduces clutter.
- Have different lists for each area of your life. Categories may include work, personal, etc.
Reignite the Fire
The thought of becoming your own boss feels good. Who does not want to set his own work hours, decide his own salary, or choose when to have a holiday?
However, these are not the only realities of doing business. Other nasty realities include the possibilities of going for days without a sale, dealing with difficult customers, having competitors steal your customers, and more.
Things like these kill motivation. And you may really start contemplating of shutting your business to get a regular job.
But there is a simple solution to all this – reignite that fire you had when starting the business.
The most effective thing I have found is to read stories of other entrepreneurs. Every successful entrepreneur has a sad story from his or her early startup years. Knowing you are not the first to experience hardships can change your perspective.
You also need to join a network of entrepreneurs. Being around like-minded people can really do wonders for you. And you learn a lot.
Another trick is to visualize success from time to time. Here is how to do it:
- Lock yourself in your room or anywhere you won’t be disturbed.
- Take a seat, and ensure you are comfortable.
- Focus on your breathe for 2 minutes. This is to calm yourself.
- See yourself living the life you want while running your business. How much profit are you making? How many customers do you have? Include as much detail as you can.
- But don’t only focus on the roses. Visualize yourself persevering against difficulties, be it tough competition, falling profits, etc.
- Do this activity for 10-20 minutes.
Success coaches recommend that we visualize every day to achieve our goals. The brain sees no difference between imagination and reality.
So that is how you can avoid small business owner burnout. It all comes down to how you work and live your life. If you can keep a balance between these two, burnout should not be a problem.
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