Running a business is non-stop work. Hours pass like minutes, the sun cycles around you at warp speed (or so it seems), and you wonder whether you're getting enough done.
"I can't be doing enough," you lament, "because there's still so much left to do!"
While you might be having a problem with the effectiveness of your actions, there might be another reason you feel like you're running in place: You're exhausted! There's no denying that running a business is only for the strong-willed, but even the mightiest among us can sputter and stall out.
Your business tasks will fill each day and then some, tempting you to work harder and longer than you should. When it's said, "something has to give," that something is usually you. Here's how to get back in balance, take control of your business and give yourself the breathing room you need to make it for the long haul. This is a marathon, not a sprint.
There's no denying that running a business is only for the strong-willed, but even the mightiest among us can sputter and stall out
The signs of burnout
Burnout doesn't usually happen overnight. It's a long, slow boil. The bad news is you can be heading down the path to burnout without realizing it. The good news is that if you can detect the symptoms and effects early enough, you can correct the trend and get yourself back to a better place, mentally, physically, and professionally.
To that end, here are the most common signs of the onset of burnout, be it in your business or personal life:
- You feel exhausted all the time.
- You feel as if whatever you do, it just doesn't matter.
- You're at a loss for ideas to solve the problems that face you daily.
- You're having trouble caring about what's in front of you; you feel defeated before you even begin to take action.
When reading those symptoms, it appears burnout is far more serious than just its effect on your business results and performance. Even so, it could be your business that puts you in this frame of mind, and maybe that means you need to rethink your business and how you go about managing it.
Whether your work has become tedious to the deepest point of boredom or it has become so overwhelming that you're convinced it's only a matter of time before it all collapses on you, it's a sign you need to take action—and even if you're burned out, you can turn your situation around.
Is it burnout or stress?
Most often, burnout comes following extended periods of stress. They're not the same thing, though
Most often, burnout comes following extended periods of stress. They're not the same thing, though. Stress is characterized by over-activeness, over commitment and a perpetual sense of urgency. You want to do everything, you promise to do everything and everything you're doing is already late. Ah!
Burnout, on the other hand, manifests itself in behavior of disengagement, a hopeless outlook and a dullness of emotion. You don't want to see anyone, it won't matter if you do or don't, and there's nothing left to be excited about.
Stress, then, is the feeling you get from putting too much on your plate, whereas burnout is a feeling that leaves you unwilling to put anything on your plate.
Think about your business and how it leaves you feeling at the start, middle and end of each day. If you think you might be experiencing some of these symptoms just mentioned, it could be time to take action to save your business and—more important—to save yourself.
Take steps to prevent burnout
If your business is taking you to the point of burnout, remember that it isn't taking you anywhere—you are. That's not an admonition; it's a revelation that lets you know that you're the one who got yourself here, and you're the one who can bring about your own rescue, too.
You likely manage an arm's length of tasks and to-dos in your business and, as such, you're in a perfect position to add some new tasks that will keep you from pushing yourself too far. Here are some things you can do to head off the onset of burnout:
Anything else that lets you 'plug in' to the business world needs to be unplugged, so you can clear your thoughts
- Add relaxation to your must-do list. Every day, you can benefit from peaceful and introspective time. Even if you take only 30 minutes each day, maybe before you jump into the thick of your business activity, you'll give your mind and body a chance to sort things out while not actively in busy mode. Your thinking will be clear, and you'll likely be more efficient when you do actually get going on your business day.
- Eat, sleep and sweat every day. Simply put, this is where you ensure you're eating healthy, and regularly, you're getting plenty of sleep (at least seven hours), and you're getting exercise. This is the physical trifecta that keeps you operating at your best and helps ward off exhaustion and illness.
- Turn off the tech. It's hard to do and it definitely takes practice, but turning off your computer, your cell phone and anything else that lets you "plug in" to the business world needs to be unplugged, so you can clear your thoughts. If you have to, combine turning off the tech with exercising (too many of us try to do both at the same time) and give yourself a break from the never-ending flow of information.
- Do something completely different. If you don't already have a hobby, get one. Whether you'll do something artistic, crafty or whatever, let your right brain get involved in your daily life and give the left side a breather.
Heal yourself, strengthen your approach
Burnout is the unfortunate result of pushing yourself beyond your limits while failing to tend to your own needs. Yes, running a business requires constant attention and consumes mindshare every day. Even so, it doesn't have to overrun your existence.
If you fear you're burning out, slow down and simplify. Trim back your working hours, delegate activities to others with whom you work (or get some help if you're still running a one-person operation), and revisit your expectations of your business.
Just as it was in your control to establish your business in the first place, it's just as much in your control to dial it back. The good news is that you're the one who's still in control. Make the most of that.