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How to Sidestep Suffering Burnout for Business Success

Erika Rasso Updated on February 29, 2020


When you’re an entrepreneur, you experience a lot of stress.

Often more than the average 9 to 5 worker. Why? Because odds are your job isn’t just 9 to 5. It’s a 24 hour/7 days a week commitment.

If you’re running your business alone, you have to handle the sales, marketing, customer service, sometimes even the fulfilment of orders. If you have employees or a team, you have to manage them, make sure they are doing their jobs properly, and that your business is running smoothly. No matter your business model, there is plenty of work involved.

Unfortunately, an excess of stress results in a little thing we like to call burnout. According to the Mayo Clinic, job burnout is “a state of physical, emotional or mental exhaustion combined with doubts about your competence and the value of your work.”

It’s your breaking point, when you just can’t seem to handle your workload anymore, when you feel like quitting.

Burnout can be detrimental to your business success, so it’s in your best interest to nip it in the bud or avoid it all together. First, it’s important to understand where burnout comes from.

What Causes Burnout?

Studies have shown that there are three kinds of burnout caused by different kinds of coping strategies: being overloaded, being bored, and being worn-out.

  • When you’re overloaded, you strive too hard for success, and cope with emotional venting. This coping strategy, unsurprisingly, doesn’t work, and you end up feeling overloaded by stress and emotion.
  • When you burnout from boredom, it’s because you distance yourself from your job, leading to depersonalization and cynicism. When you no longer care about the work you’re doing, it’s easy to quit.
  • Finally, burnout from being worn-out stems from giving up. You know what you want, you know what your motivations are, but you lack the inner strength to overcome the challenges to get there.

What Are the Risks of Burnout?

You may be thinking, so what if I’m burnt out? That’s just another part of being an entrepreneur. You may know friends who suffer from burnout, and though they are always tired, they get along fine. You may think you can handle burnout when it finally happens to you. It’s no big deal.

That’s not true.

Being an entrepreneur is hard, but burnout is a serious state of exhaustion that can cause a great number of side effects and serious risks to your health. If you are suffering from burnout, your risks of depression, anxiety, substance abuse, heart disease, stroke, and obesity rise substantially.

If those health risks don’t scare you, then consider this: burnout leads to poor job performance, which then spills over into your personal life. You’re not just putting your health in jeopardy, you’re putting your business and your relationships at risk.

How to Tell If You’re Burning Out

Burnout comes in many shapes and sizes, and can be caused by many different factors. Hopefully, if you’re reading this article, you haven’t burnt out yet, but it’s possible you may be feeling over-worked or stressed to the point of concern.

Luckily, there are some common warning signs to look for if you are experiencing burnout, so you can catch it before it goes too far.

  • You’ve become cynical about the work you’re doing.
  • You have to drag yourself out of bed every morning to get to work, and have trouble starting.
  • Your productivity has taken a nosedive.
  • You lack satisfaction, or aren’t excited by achievements in your business.
  • You’ve become irritable or impatient with customers or employees.
  • You haven’t been sleeping well or eating well.
  • You’ve been using food, drugs, or alcohol to feel better after work.
  • You’ve been experiencing unexplained physical ailments like headaches or backaches.

If you identify with any of these symptoms, you may be approaching burnout, and burnout is definitely not something you want to have to deal with. That’s why we’ve come up with 10 ways to avoid burnout and prevent it from happening to you

1. Get to the Root of the Problem

If you feel like you may be experiencing the warning signs of burnout, it’s important to discover what’s causing the problem. You have to treat the disease, not the symptoms.

If you’re feeling tired, maybe you’re not getting enough sleep. You could try to sleep more, but you might only be treating the symptom. Why aren’t you getting enough sleep? Are you too wound up from working late into the night? Is there work you stay up thinking about? Chances are it’s something else you have to solve before you can start sleeping better at night.

What if you’re feeling cynical about the work you’re doing? Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a cynicism inhibitor. You can’t just start being more optimistic and voila! Problem solved! If the problem is that you don’t find the work you’re doing useful or meaningful, you may need to reevaluate the work you are actually doing. But we’ll touch more on that later.

Once you’ve figured out the cause of your burnout, you can start to strategize ways to reduce stress and change your work habits so that it doesn’t go too far.

2. Start Saying No

Of one of the problems causing your burnout is that you are overloaded by work, then you’re going to have to start saying no more often. If you do everything anyone asks of you, then it’s bound to add up to an unmanageable amount of work. I know it will be hard, especially if you’re a business owner whose job is to make sure everything’s running smoothly, but that doesn’t mean you have to actually do everything yourself.

Stop being a pushover. Delegate.

It’s tough love, but it’s true. If you always say yes, people will start to take advantage of that and overload you with work. If you learn to say no, you can more easily manage the workload assigned to you and avoid the high levels of stress associated with high levels of paperwork, emails, orders, etc. that you have to deal with.

3. Schedule in Some Downtime

Everyone needs a break. If you’re not taking sufficient amounts of time off, then it’s likely you will burn out fast.

The solution? Schedule in breaks throughout the day and take a vacation whenever you can. When you have time to de-stress, your body gets to rest and your mind gets to recharge. That way, you’ll be able to approach work with a renewed sense of self and the stress won’t chip away at your health like it does without time to relax.

We know what you’re thinking — isn’t sleep sufficient downtime? NO! Sleep is even more necessary than downtime, but it’s completely different. You need time when you’re awake to appreciate life apart from work — to binge a show on Netflix, learn how to knit, or play a game with your kids. Sure, you can also choose to nap in your downtime, but don’t consider the hours from midnight to 5 a.m. your “downtime,” because that’s just cheating.

4. Don’t Schedule To-Dos in Your Downtime

Don’t use your downtime to schedule a list of activities you’ve been meaning to do. That’s also cheating. Why? Because then you add the stress of checking off everything on your “downtime” list. That’s basically work. Your downtime is meant to be anything but productive. So be flexible with it.

If you’re going on vacation, especially to an exotic location, try not to be too strict with yourself or your itinerary. If you are, the vacation might actually worsen your burnout. Feel free to plan out your trip to stay within budget and safe, but don’t feel confined by time limits or locations. Go out and explore, or stay in and relax. Use your vacation to rest and do what you want to do, and avoid burnout in the process.

5. Stop Being Perfect

A big issue with entrepreneurs, and most type-A workers in general, is perfectionism. The need to do everything right, or make everything perfect causes a lot of stress to build up around your work life. But it’s not only doing everything right that has you stressing, it’s the need to be perfectly productive that is killing your vibe. If you’re not constantly working and getting stuff done, you’re failing yourself and your business. Is that any way to think?

The solution? Don’t set impossible standards for yourself or your productivity.

A little bit more tough love from us: stop being perfect, because you’ll never achieve it. Instead, set achievable expectations, stop at a reasonable time, and don’t worry about doing perfect work. Just worry about doing good work. You’ll get there. We promise.

6. Break Your Work into Manageable Sections

Part of setting achievable expectations for yourself also means making your work as manageable as possible. This could mean setting mini-deadlines for larger projects, or creating time limits for your productivity. If you’re dealing with multiple projects, there are strategies for that too.

Take the Pomodoro technique for example. This is a tried and true productivity technique that allows for breaks every 25 minutes or so. With this technique, you can work for 25 minutes on one project, take a 5 minute break, then switch to another project (or keep at the project you’re working on). This will keep your mind focused on one task for short amounts of time so you don’t get overloaded.

The point is to help make all of your work easier and more accessible to you, so your stress levels can be kept at a minimum.

7. Change Your Workspace

If you spend all of your day in one office, life can get pretty tedious. You may start to resent the room that’s bringing you down, and fill it with negative energy that makes it more difficult to work. That’s why you should change your workspace every so often.

Research has shown that changing one’s workplace, whether it’s the location, the lighting, the sound, or the look, can drastically improve productivity and heighten energy levels. Add a plant, switch to soft lighting, or even move your workspace to a different room.

Do this especially if you work from home. Every few hours, change what room you work in. You can even group your tasks by location so that you know exactly when you’ll have a break, and when to switch rooms. Doing so will leave you feeling renewed and much more positive about the work you’re doing.

8. Put Away Your Devices

Along the lines of making your work more manageable, make your life more manageable by using less devices. If you work from an office, it’s now so much easier to take your work home with you. All you have to do is turn on your phone or open your laptop and your emails are front and center.

To simplify your life, and reduce the speed at which you burn out, cut down on the devices you have out during your work time and especially your downtime. Limit yourself to one or two devices, those that are absolutely necessary to your work. That may mean putting away the Ipad for a few hours, maybe even hiding your phone away.

If you really want to take it to the next level, try working for an hour or two using only a pencil and paper. With fewer devices to look at and switch between, the stress on your eyes and on your brain will decrease and it will be much easier to focus on what really matters.

9. Search for Meaning

It’s possible that you’re feeling bored by the work you’re doing. The day-to-day tasks have become monotonous, tedious, and overall meaningless. That’s when you start to get cynical, and your work become depersonalized. This is when it is most important to find the meaning in the work you’re doing.

Sit down and think of all the people you affect with your business; the people you employ and the customers you delight. Without your business, the world would be lacking. And if that doesn’t make you feel better, what do your accomplishments mean to you? How did that last sale make you feel? What was it like to solve that customer’s problem?

Dig deep into your emotions and try to remember that you’re doing work that matters to someone, and revitalize the feeling that that work matters to you too.

10. Be Prepared to Walk Away

These strategies might work, and they might not. It really depends on your specific situation. If you’ve tried everything and still you feel overloaded, bored, or worn-out, it may be time to stop doing the work that’s burning you out. If you reach that tipping point and you can’t take it anymore, then be prepared to walk away. It may be in your best interest to quit or sell your business and change careers. We have a marketplace where you can do just that.

For moe about avoiding burnout, our frieinds over at the Simple Dollar put together this infographic on avoiding burnout.

Download your free report

It’s Not the End of the World

Burnout happens to a lot of people in this day and age. It’s so common that some people consider it just another part of life. But it’s important to understand that you don’t have to live that way. If you’re feeling burnt out, it’s something that you can solve with just a few changes to the way you work.

A little change never hurt anybody, right?

Don’t let you or your business suffer. Know the warning signs and you should be able to stop burnout before it happens to you.

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