Work-Life Balance

Combating burnout: how to maintain your business and your sanity

Written by Guest Contributor

Entrepreneurs often wear multiple hats on the job. They range from moms who offer coaching services while the baby sleeps to small business owners who left corporate America and now employ a small workforce. No matter where you fall on the spectrum of entrepreneurs, you might be at risk of experiencing burnout. When you work alone or with a small group of people, you can quickly start to feel isolated and spread thin. Let’s take a look at the burnout phenomenon and a few strategies you can use to stop the burn before it begins.

Importance of entrepreneurs

Corporate America is important to the success of our country. However, many experts would argue that entrepreneurs are the true backbone of our economy. From the first black female self-made millionaire, Madam C.J. Walker, to tech guru Bill Gates, entrepreneurs have been using their passions to create empires for centuries. According to a 2014 study by Alexander S. Kritikos, entrepreneurs boost economic growth by introducing innovations, cause competition among competitors, and provide new job opportunities.

When you’re making strides in your business, it can be easy to forget about the need to care for yourself. Bottom lines and profit margins are essential to your success, but if it’s all you think about, you might be headed towards a raging case of burnout.

The risk of burnout

You’ve probably heard of (or even experienced) burnout. It’s the state of physical or emotional exhaustion that can make you feel disconnected from who you are as a person. Believe or it or, burnout is an actual medical diagnosis that might be precipitated by depression and other mental health triggers. For many people, burnout happens when workplace stressors become too much to handle.

Those born with the entrepreneurial spirit have a few things in common that might place them at a higher-than-average risk of burnout. While research on this condition is plentiful in large corporations, data specific to small business and entrepreneurship isn’t. One study surveyed over 300 members of the entrepreneur networking organization, Business Networking International, to get a better understanding of what makes entrepreneurs burn out.

The study looked at everything from job fit to beliefs about work. The majority of those in the survey reported feeling like they fit in their chosen profession and possessed a high level of harmonious passion. However, 25 percent of entrepreneurs felt moderately burned out, and three percent felt strongly that they had a case of burnout.

It’s interesting to point out that the higher levels of passion the participants reported equated to a higher level of burnout. A smaller portion of study participants said they felt obsessive passion and destiny beliefs about their current professional roles. These individuals also self-reported more severe burnout symptoms.

Strategies to combat burnout

The good news is that once you recognize your risk of burnout, you can create a few intentional practices that will decrease your chances of feeling the burn. Here are a few strategies that can protect your small business from burnout:

Develop a flexible mindset

Passionate people tend to migrate towards fixed mindsets about their job fit, which can quickly lead to job stress. Adopting a flexible mindset just means that you can envision more than one perfect career for your life. This allows you to view your job as one part of who you are, not the only thing that makes you a unique individual.

This isn’t a natural mindset to break. If you suffer from a fixed mindset, the first thing you need to do is to recognize areas of closed-mindedness. Once you see one of these areas, challenge your thinking to be more flexible. Another strategy is to acknowledge your efforts more than your traits. For instance, instead of identifying how smart you are, consider how hard you work instead. This can also help you notice other people’s efforts at work, too.

Switch up your work

Have you ever noticed that doing the same thing for a few hours (much less a whole day) can zap your energy? Creative people who are tasked to write compelling copy or create the next masterpiece day after day can feel exhausted when they do the same task for too long. Switching between tasks actually promotes creativity and can increase productivity.

To minimize this precursor to burnout, limit your time on any one task. Block out separate times on your calendar for creative work and the more mundane — but just as critical — tasks. Some experts believe that spending about two hours on work that requires a lot of thought will help you be most productive.

Find work-life balance

If you did a random survey, you would probably find that many people have had to talk about work-life balance with their boss. Finding this critical balance has long been a desire of workplace cultures big and small. Many businesses boast that they’ve found the perfect mix, but when you speak with their employees, it seems they’ve missed the mark.

As a small business owner, it’s critical you find the perfect balance for yourself and your staff. This means you need to create a few rules for successful work-life balance. Here are a few we love:

No job is worth your health: That’s right, even your own business isn’t worth sleepless nights, panic attacks, or recurrent nightmares. If you’re sick all the time from working too much, it’s time to find balance.

Be open to new opportunities: This rule goes back to the “flexible mindset” we talked about above. Maybe you went into business with one objective in mind, but you keep getting asked about a new product or service line that could be your new “best seller.” Remember that success means being open to new things, even when it’s not what you planned for.

Cultivate outside interests: All work and no play is a dangerous way to live. You must have hobbies and passions outside of work if you want to have an overall sense of wellness. Turn off the email notifications on your phone at least one day a week and leave the job at the office.

Get up and move

Physical activity isn’t only good for your body. It’s an excellent way to calm stress and anxiety. No one says you have to be the next marathon runner, you just have to create a regular exercise routine that gets you at least 30-minutes of activity each day. Join the gym or find a local yoga or pilates class. If working out around the house fits into your schedule more comfortably, take a 30-minute walk around your neighborhood each day.

Thriving, not just surviving

No one wants to merely exist in life. You want to be happy, productive, and above all else, satisfied with your work life. After all, you didn’t leave the cubicle to head into another stressful workplace culture. Use these tips to decrease your risk of burning out as an entrepreneur.

About the Author:
Jori Hamilton is a writer from the Pacific Northwest who has a particular interest in social justice, politics, education, healthcare, technology, and more. You can follow her on Twitter @ HamiltonJori.

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