You begin to feel it, your eyes are tired, head is pounding, palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy. After a non-stop week, you’re on the very brink of imploding. We’ve all been there as an entrepreneur, I’ve personally been in that situation on more than one occasion, and that’s why i’m going to share with you my best tips on how to avoid the dreaded burnout.
Part of the battle of avoiding burnout is first understanding that you’re playing a long-game, most entrepreneurs that suffer with burnout tend to rush through various projects thinking that it all has to be down right now – which it doesn’t. More often than not, burnout occurs as a result of giving-in to the demands of your clients, regardless of what’s asked of you. Aside from getting adequate rest, you can drastically reduce the chances of burnout once you start saying “No” a bit more.
Now I don’t mean that you should be rude to your clients, after all you’re probably looking to build a long-term working relationship with them – right? But what you do need to start doing is understanding what your limits are & conveying them to your clients professionally.
Consider what makes you happy, what’s a good day for you? Does it include 8 hours sleep? Do you spend an hour at the gym? Do you need the weekends off to be with your friends & family? Is there an hour in the morning where you like to stay in bed, laughing at memes? Whatever it is, set aside the time that you need in order to just relax & be yourself – which means that you need to start pushing back when clients demand overly-sharp turnarounds. Over time you’ll be able to find the perfect balance between work and pleasure.
What is burnout?
Let’s pedal back here a second and explain what burnout actually is. Burnout is unofficially defined as the physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress. You might feel that you’re overly tired and lack motivation to do any work or even socialise with others, I know that when I’ve been suffering with burnout I’ve actually been quite short with people, snapping at them for the tiniest of remarks, which isn’t ideal!
What are the causes of burnout & how do you avoid them?
I figure if I explain the reasons why we suffer with burnout, then it may help in teaching you how to avoid burnout in the first place. It’s worth noting that you may be suffering with more than one of these causes, but the good news is that they are all within your control. Such causes of burnout include:
The most common cause of burnout is when dealing with an excessive workload, the very thought of knowing that you have so much work to do, but so little time or energy to do it, can causes a migraine just in itself.
I know that when I used to work in finance, every member of staff had work trays stacked to the ceiling, which only got worse when someone took a sick day or holiday. That sort of workload played havoc with our stress levels, affecting our productivity not just as individuals but as a team too.
Even more recently after setting up my business, I was initially taking on any possible client I could find, trying to fill out my portfolio and make some money. The consequence of that was that I took on nightmare clients, who would make constant demands which took its toll on my mental (and physical) health. I had sleepless nights trying to please people that didn’t give a shit, in the end I ended up losing money, the clients & the will to carry on.
Looking back on both of these situations, as an employee and as a business owner, I realise that my experiences of burnout came about because I let it happen. I didn’t say “No”. There were plenty of times where I could have said “Sorry but I won’t have time to get round to X” before offering an acceptable alternative, either by delegating (effectively) or offering an extended deadline. More often than not people will appreciate your honesty, especially over the alternative scenario of you taking on said work, burning yourself out and then missing the deadline.
Surprisingly, Imposter syndrome can also be a cause of burnout. Imposter syndrome is the feeling that you’re not (or never) good enough and as such aren’t willing to take on new possibilities, purely because you feel that you’re not capable or worthy of doing so.
Imposter syndrome can cause burnout as you’re constantly under pressure, from yourself, to work harder & harder to prove yourself yet you never end up reaping the rewards for your hard work because you’re always playing down your efforts at the final hurdle.
If you can manage this mindset and start to receive more recognition, not just from others but also from yourself, then you’ll find that you won’t feel as tired or defeated as usual.
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Your social circle
Sometimes burnout isn’t just about business, it can involve everything else that’s going on in your life too. As adults we tend to take on so many commitments and it can gradually grind you down. For instance if you’re a parent, as lovely as it is, it can also add a lot of stress to your life especially when you’ve got a dozen other tasks that need doing, but you’re stuck cleaning up vomit from the new carpet.
In an another example you might be feeling down towards your friends or family, perhaps they’re not reciprocating your investment in the relationship, and maybe are going as far as using you for their own gain. In that case it would be worth considering whether you really need them in your life. It might sound a little extreme, but not everyone that you love has your best interest at heart, if they add nothing but stress to your life then it’s perfectly fine to go out and make new friends. Spend less time with negativity.
Long story short, you need to assess what your friends, family, work & hobbies add to your life – other than stress! If the answer is nothing, then it might be time to look elsewhere.
Lack of sleep
A simple reason why you might be dealing with burnout is due to lack of sleep. Sleep, as well as exercise and good nutrition is vitally important to your general health and productivity, without it you can see a decline in the quality & quantity of your work.
If you’re looking for great advice on how to improve your sleep, feel free to check out my friend Daniel White’s new website, The Sleep Superstore. Not only does he provide great advice on how to improve your sleep, he also teaches us that two-thirds of adults throughout all developed nations are unable to achieve the amount of sleep recommended each night – that’s crazy!
Give yourself a fighting chance, get some sleep!
Lack of exercise
Following on from my previous point, lack of exercise can lead to burnout – ironically. The thought that you need to add more stress to your body in order to have more energy might sound strange but trust me – it helps!
Regular exercise has been proven to relieve common conditions including depression & anxiety, but moreso it’s a great way to improve your mood. You see, when you exercise your body releases endorphins in your brain which help to boost your mood, as well as relieving pain and stress. So get yourself to the gym or even go for a walk, you’ll feel much better for it!
Additional ways you can avoid burnout
Aside from the causes and suggestions above, there are further ways that you can help avoid and recover from burnout. You can choose to implement each of the following individually, however for best results you can try them all!
Now I’m no yoga expert, but I soon learnt the importance of stretching, deep breathing & meditation when I was working with my personal trainer not long ago.
The best lesson I learnt about relieving stress (and anxiety) was to do a session of box breathing. Although I’m not sure whether that it’s the technical term, box breathing is the exercise of breathing in for 4 seconds, then holding it in for 4 seconds, breathing out for another 4 seconds and then holding that for a final 4 seconds. You repeat that process for as long as you need to.
When box breathing you’ll soon realise that you’ve totally forgotten about everything that’s plaguing your mind & that you’ve settled your heartbeat (and body).
Take regular breaks
Not only is it recommended that you take regular 10-15 minute breaks every now and then, especially if you work behind a desk all day, it may also be beneficial to take naps or even extended holidays to relieve your stress. By making “me time” a priority, you can temporarily detach yourself from the stress of work, and as a result give yourself time to regain your energy.
Take a break to grab a coffee, go for a walk, play video games, exercise or enjoy your hobbies. Whatever it is that makes you happy, make time for it. Your life shouldn’t be confined to your work, if you continue to do that then you’ll eventually burn yourself out.
This point might be even more evident if you do decide to take a holiday, as you’ll want to ensure that you’re letting your hair down, as much as possible, and putting yourself into full-relaxation mode. Although not totally dependant on taking a holiday, outsourcing your workloads can be a very effective way of reducing stress & increasing productivity. If done right, you can maximise performance by increasing (wo)man-power with the addition of an extra pair of hands.
Most of us have suffered with the dreaded burnout, feeling drained and on the brink of imploding, but when you begin to control your sleep, exercise & workloads, that can be a problem of the past. Additional ways to avoid burnout as an entrepreneur include meditation, short breaks, holidays & effectively outsourcing your work to competent individuals.
Random question, if you could work anywhere in the world… where would it be?