Yeah! I have been there and stayed there for a very long time. If you have the same issue, let me help you to avoid burnout issue before it eats your soul.
One of the most road blocks I suffered from during my entrepreneurship journey, is burnout. It is the most difficult challenge, because you normally get excited in the early phases of your business. This leads to working 24 hours a day.
I know it is beyond human capabilities to stay up for 24 hours, but the issues is not staying up. If you keep taking phone calls, checking your email or thinking even while asleep, then you are working 24 hours.
Normally there is no work life balance in a small business owner life. Everything overlaps, because you maybe working from your home and wearing all the hats in your company. You worry too much because your business can’t run without your involvement. But what is more important to you? To run a sustainable business with slow success? Or to reach a quick huge success and fall down miserably?
Don’t work in your vacation!
If you consider a day off or a vacation outside the city is a waste of time, you are wrong. Your brain as well as your body need to reboot from time to time, to continue working productively.
I used to take work with me everywhere, because I thought that work is the most enjoyable thing in my life. But, later I discovered that not taking a proper break caused long periods of fatigue, and loss of purpose. Those lost breaks translated into lost money and, of course, delays in reaching my goals.
Then, I started to fully enjoy my vacation, and never let work interrupt it except in critical cases to my business. But, if work is popping up in forms of new ideas, or unimportant tasks, I write them down in my to-do list, and continue enjoying my break time.
Block The Incoming Disturbance
For higher productivity, it is highly advisable that you ignore calls with low importance while you work, until you start your break or after your working hours.
But what about your day off and vacations?
I always find phone calls that interrupt my relaxation time very annoying. They steal from my time, and delay the recovery process for my brain, and body as well.
Those phone calls usually come with stressful conversations, or nonsense. So why bother answering them?
If you really want to recover and avoid burnout, install an answering machine and a white-list apps on your smart phone.
The answering machine app will normally keep out the nonsense, because no one will bother leaving a message if the call itself is not important. But if it still collects low importance messages, you have the option to skip listening to them.
And the white-list application, will allow you to configure it to receive ringing alerts only from important callers, and the ones who respect your own time.
Stop Work Addiction and Don’t Be A Workaholic
Sometimes it is tempting to be a workaholic, because you believe that it is an advantage over your competitors. However, the fact is that you will burn out before those competitors, and you will collapse before you even notice.
It is important to achieve life-work balance, to be able to continue providing value to your business. You should also make this the slogan of your working environment to avoid abusing your family time, your own time or even your employees time.
I used to be a workaholic, I enjoyed working 12 to 16 hours straight to feel fulfilled. In my day job, many times I stayed overnight in the office, to complete a project ahead of schedule. But after years of this behavior, I lost the momentum and purpose in my day job.
At the same time, in my business, I kept working with the same attitude until I had no break or reboot time at all. So, I became so exhausted that I left my business running by itself even when it had issues, this caused lower customer satisfaction and it was almost ruining it.
Then, I tried to put clear boundaries between my break time and my work time. This really helped me be more excited and restored the momentum. I even made a pivotal change in my company goals and operations, which lead to true success soon after.
Have A True Break
If you reached this far, I believe you feel that I am against working hard and making great efforts. No, the opposite is true.
Because I want you to be successful, I have to tell you the truth. Burning out will destroy all your dreams. You will never reach your goals, if you don’t have the energy to continue.
One of the most important factors to help you avoid burnout, is to have a true break. These breaks are not extra luxury in our lives. It is a must, because our bodies and brains need to recharge!
In order to be able to have a real break, you have to turn off work during your break time. But how can you do that if you always keep something remaining behind?
Leaving something behind is always stressful
If you are used to not complete the tasks, you will find a hard time turning off work during break time. Because you will always feel the stress of incomplete tasks. You will not feel fulfilled and will keep thinking about the next time you will continue to work to complete them.
This bad habit leads to the problem of our topic. You should always break your bigger tasks into smaller ones, those smaller tasks should be able to fit into attainable time blocks, say 25 minutes blocks. Then you have to fully complete those small tasks before taking your true break. Try it and you will notice the difference.
Perfection also leads to burnout!
Sometimes, we tend to avoid negative feedback. We always look for a perfect output that should impress others. Face the simple truth, there is nothing perfect in the world!
Another simple truth is that seeking perfection leads to lower productivity. And, it leads also to burn out, because you will always be unable to have a real break.
You will always be obsessed by the fact that your output needs further improvements, and you will keep attached to this idea. This will always lead to more delays and fake breaks.
If you believe that thinking about your tasks, or the project during your break is efficient use of time, think again. This is a “true” fake break, because your mind didn’t rest or recharge. It kept working, even if you believe that leaving the office or taking a walk is a break. No, not while your mind is not focused on the break itself.
You have to accept negative feedback, you have to know that there will always be better versions of your final output in the future. Never be afraid to take comments, because real feedback is what makes your improvements real and successful.
Do your best, deliver your results and take a real break!
Fight the temptation to stay working without breaks. Resist work interference by your mind or other people, just shut it down, turn off your phone or stay away from the screen. Accept negative feedback on your results to make real improvements.
Automation & Delegation
I worked as the only person in my business for about 10 years, because I always believed that no body had the same passion, or could complete the tasks efficiently as I do.
Based on my personality type, I still hold this belief!
So how did I solve the burnout problem by automation and delegation?
First of all, I categorized the tasks based on their difficulty, importance and the ability to be automated using a specialized software.
For example, I used to have an assistant to help me with accounting and book-keeping. Although, she was doing her best, I kept feeling responsible for human errors that may happen. I had to interfere many times to provide invoices, and excel sheets with income and expense transactions then explain them, it was simply more headache than if I was doing it all by myself.
But how to get more time and energy for that?
I moved to a cloud based accounting software, it was linked to my PayPal and Bank accounts, had invoicing features and was automating 90% of my accounting tasks. All what I needed to do by myself is verification from time to time, and extracting reports to file taxes.
No more manual work, no more worrying about human mistakes because the software will simply give the required clues, if there are mistakes.
I have also relied on automation on other areas of my business, which removed a lot of the hassles.
What about delegation?
As I said earlier, I worry too much that no one really cares about my business like I do. But still, I started to delegate.
Delegation is a skill that can be developed by time. So, I started delegating time-consuming and repeated tasks that don’t really need my involvement, just a quick follow-up from time to time. Once I believe that the employee can complete the tasks with satisfactory quality, I start to delegate more advanced tasks and so on.
In fact, I don’t throw out highly advanced tasks from the beginning to challenge the employees, and expect them to be completed flawlessly.
Even the best, and most experienced NEW comers to your business will not be fully aware about your business needs, and how things work from your business perspective.
So, if you delegate slowly you are not underestimating your employees capabilities, or insulting them. You simply want to help them digest your business operations bite by bite, to reduce errors and your involvement in the future. And accordingly, eliminate the possibility of burning out on the long run.
Burnout was burning my soul and all my dreams, avoid it instead of solving its symptoms
At the end of this article, I hope you can follow the tips discussed above to avoid burnout issue before it happens. Solving the burnout issue after it occurs is very painful and time-consuming. Most business owners who face this issue will not be able to solve it by themselves, they might need external coaching and support.
That’s why I urge you to learn from my experience, to stay motivated. This is critical, in order to be always successful in your life and business.
Let’s discuss and share thoughts about this issue, and other ways to solve it in the comments below.