Everyone has hit “The Wall” at some point in their career.
Whether that was personal or professional, it happens and all of a sudden you just can’t keep going. You can’t push through - mentally or physically.
I’ve had my fair share of those days.
December 2015 was my first.
I was on the way home from work after a meeting I didn’t want to attend, that had run longer than it should have, and traffic had piled up while the meeting ran long. I ended up pulled over on the side of the road, crying too hard to see straight because I had so much work to do when I got home and traffic was going to double my drive-time.
I still run up against them every so often, but I’ve learned how to watch for, and then control the burn-out factors to a much better degree.
Here are a couple of the keys I’ve found to avoid and recover from burnout…
Schedule working time. Schedule time off. And stick to it.
I work 8am-6pm weekdays. I allow myself to work two evenings per week (that includes evening mixers!) and four hours every other Saturday. Saturday work is only allowed to be “want to” work though.
My point: This set up allows me to check-out when work-time is over. It also forces me to be more efficient and focused when I am working.
The goal is to create safe spaces. Safe moments of time when you are allowed to not worry about the business.
Understand Your Burnout Symptoms
I also refer to these as “red glass symptoms” when I discuss Emotional Quotient (Check out EQ here if you’re not sure what Emotional Quotient is!). Here’s the difference between red glass and clear glass:
You can think clearly, easily push forward, think in terms of the team, understand others and yourself, take risks, etc.
You’re frustrated because the coffee spilled and someone cut you off on the freeway and all of a sudden you can’t think straight in your business because you’re so overwhelmed by everything that has happened. Every frustrating thing that happens is a drop of red in your clear glass and eventually the result is burnout. Your clear glass becomes red.
When we get stressed, we are experiencing a physical change as the stress hormones hit our system and those result in physical cues. I personally experience a sharp pain under my right shoulder blade, tunnel vision, rawness in my throat and I’ll find myself saying things like “I can’t process through that right now” or “I just can’t wrap my head around that right now.” I find myself sending short and thoughtless replies via email.
We all have different signals, but it’s important to learn your red glass symptoms so you can recognize when it’s important to back up and start proactively avoiding burnout.
Lean On Your Team
Even solopreneurs lean on people.
Don’t believe me? Think of all the vendors used, or the graphic designers, or the VA’s, or the web developers that a solopreneur uses. Spouses, friends, networking partners also fall in this category. These are people that can be leaned on for help with different things!
Whether you’ve got an in-house team, or you lean on alternate options, avoiding burnout means we have to lean on them.
Personally, when I find myself “doing it all myself” I am able to recognize another one of my red glass symptoms. I’m learning that my feeling of “I can’t send this to anyone else” means I need to rely on them even more.
Price Your Business Appropriately From The Get-Go
Money is one of the greatest stressors for people in general, but businesses especially.
So many business owners set themselves up for failure because they don’t price themselves with enough profit margin to be able to bring on help when they need it. It’s a painful mistake to make.
Check out Mike Michalowicz’s book Profit First if you’re not sure how to do that. If you use the Profit First method you will build in the profit margins you need to be successful.
Have Systems In Place To Keep Things Running
So that even when you need to tap out, you have automated systems in place to keep sales and the business running.
Ideas for this are prepared content that can go out without your help. An assistant or software that manages your scheduling. Whatever it is doesn’t truly matter, as long as you have systems in place to keep everything from relying on you - don’t set yourself up for failure by taking it all on yourself.
Recovering from Burnout
Although all these things are great, life is still life. As you’re growing a business and learning how to balance burnout, it’s almost inevitable that burnout will happen. The trick is to ensure it doesn’t knock you flat on your back, it is only a temporary setback.
Take Time When You Need It
Self-care is not always about wine and chocolates and baths. Self-care is often about being just a little bit selfish.
It’s doing things like occasionally pushing some of the things you don’t want to do off of your calendar so you can do the things you are aching to do. Maybe you cancel that meeting you’re dreading or ask someone else to deal with the string of emails that just came in. Whatever it is, take time for yourself when you need it.
You can’t pour out into other people if your cup is empty, so take time to fill it and be a little bit selfish sometimes. Even if it’s just for a few hours.
Journaling and/or Meditation
Journaling is one of my key recovery points from burnout.
Listing out what’s bothering me and driving me crazy is where I start. Then I move to figuring out how I can most quickly and most efficiently get all of that off my plate - whether that is giving it to a team member or shipping it off to a VA.
Beyond that, I also take time to note the things that are going well and what I’m grateful for. After focusing on what’s stressful, it’s helpful to refocus and remember that not all things in my life are going wrong!
I also use mediation apps to help myself focus when I’m hyper stressed!
Do Things That Bring You Joy
Really! Do something that you love.
It can be something as simple as starting a fire and sitting with a cup of hot cocoa on the couch and just watching the flames dance. Not having to do anything but watching the flames dance.
Or play music. Or paint. Or go hang out with friends. Or do something nice for someone else.
Do something that gets you excited and energizes your soul. Refocus your attention on the things you love about your life.
Entrepreneurs often make excuses for why we can’t take care of themselves. For the sake of our health, we have to stop doing this. Entrepreneurs are humans just as much as the next person.
The biggest key to avoiding burnout in business?
Take care of yourself.
The Grow Retreat is the biggest event of the year for us! We just finished up Grow2020, but registration for Grow2021 is open! Book your interview for this phenomenal event here! (Yup, we're aware this link goes to the website for Grow2020. Don't worry, you can still book an interview and check out what this year's retreat was like!)
About the Author:
Stephanie Scheller is a TED speaker, a two-time best-selling author and the founder of Grow Disrupt: a San Antonio based company dedicated to disrupting the way the world does business through training. In just under a decade, Stephanie has been behind the scenes with nearly 2500 small businesses. She has worked in groups and one-on-one to create total business transformation & help business owners live the life they got into business to create!