"A weekend getaway is not a luxury, it's an investment in your business." That was my response to a client who is nearing burnout and believed that she could not justify a weekend away with her husband.
Entrepreneurial burnout is one of the most serious challenges that you may face as a business owner. When the physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion associated with job burnout sets in, it brings with it doubts about your competence and value of your work. It will lead to poor decision-making and moodiness. Ultimately, it can lead to illness. Therefore, avoiding burnout should be one of your top priorities because without you, it's likely that your small business will not thrive.
Naturally, the most efficient way to achieve progress, yet avoid burnout, is to build a business that does not solely rely on you 24/7. Until then, use these safeguards against burnout to preserve your health, sanity, relationships, and the future of your business.
1. Be clear about what you want.
Oftentimes, entrepreneurs with the highest level of burnout aren't clear about their vision and the steps necessary to achieve it. This lack of clarity leads to mental fatigue, fear, and an excess of activity that leads to nowhere.
Work with an experienced coach or mentor to establish and evaluate your purpose, vision, and plan. The clarity you'll gain here will create a great sense of freedom and relief. This knowledge alone will take you light years ahead of where you are now.
2. Avoid getting into a rut.
If you're sitting in your office at a computer all day you'll get to the point of burnout quickly. Grab your tablet or laptop and move into a new environment. If you are home-based, simply relocating from your office to a different room can renew your energy. Most mornings you'll find me working at a local coffeehouse or even the home office of a fellow entrepreneur.
If physical relocation is not an option then take your phone meetings, and even in person meetings, for a walk. Last week I had an important meeting with a prospective strategic partner in downtown Chicago. I expected to settle into his office, but he surprised me by suggesting we walk while we talk. This activity established a relationship that was immediately comfortable, and change of scenery boosted our energy and creativity.
3. Build in breaks: long and short.
From a five-minute break, to a weekend getaway or full-blown vacation, every opportunity to refresh your brain and body is critical to the success of your business. If your computer is running slow, you get it fixed. In fact, you probably maintain your computer by running malware and virus protection software at a minimum. What do you do to maintain your own health?
Set a timer or schedule in your breaks. Schedule a quarterly weekend away, and make sure you take a real vacation annually (at least). Money may be tight but there are creative ways to take an inexpensive vacation.
4. Avoid unnecessary time-suckers.
Evaluate how you spend your time. If you get caught up in browsing or social media, it will only add to the pressure of your day. Do you spend more time on the phone than necessary? Indulge in an excess of idle chit-chat with employees, or waste way too much energy striving for the perfection that doesn't exist? Maybe you even get caught up in a bit of gaming activity. The hour easily spent playing Rise of the Tomb Raider will rob you of any hope of a productive day.
I find that people who "escape" in these activities usually don't have the clarity that I talked about in point No. 1. When you're clear, have a checklist of priorities, and are committed to success, it's less likely that you'll need this escape.
5. Practice Mindfulness
A recent Harvard Business Review report says, "Mindfulness should no longer be considered a "nice-to-have" for executives. It's a "must-have": a way to keep our brains healthy, to support self-regulation and effective decision-making capabilities, and to protect ourselves from toxic stress." Mindfulness can actually change the brain!
It's true. Even a daily two or three minutes of relaxing your mind with meditation or visualization will change your world. Practicing the art of being present in the moment will increase your clarity, focus, and productivity levels. Any mindfulness practice is capable of reducing your stress and boosting your happiness levels as well. Who doesn't want that?
If you are at the point of burnout, or drawing near, doing these things--as simple as they are--may sound overwhelming. Begin with one and work your way up. I suggest No. 3 as your first step!