Burnout for entrepreneurs is not the exception to the rule… it IS the rule. When you are an entrepreneur it’s easy to end up being “always at work” and always on call. How you overcome burnout will make the difference in whether you are a successful entrepreneur or a statistic.
If you are an entrepreneurial spirit, it’s hard to say no. It’s hard to say “I can’t juggle one more thing!” Entrepreneurs have, by definition, a “can-do!” personality. We think we can do it all. Someone needs your help? You are sooo there! Right? I know. But sometimes that spreads you so thin that all you ever DO is work.
Working all the time isn’t good for you. It makes it so you can’t “shut down” the business even when you aren’t actually AT work.
Know what you need to do, but don’t burden yourself with endless to-do lists for each day. Instead, keep a running list of things that need done — just so you won’t forget them. Writing these down means you can “release” them mentally and concentrate on the task at hand.
Your daily goal should be to do 3-5 things. That’s it. Seriously. You should only do what really matters and you should be able to write it on a 3″x 3″ Post It note each morning. If your “to do” list for the day is too long to fit in that space, you are taking on too much or you aren’t prioritizing and setting reasonable daily goals.
Review each of these items on your Post It, and think about how essential they are. If they didn’t get done — would it matter tomorrow? Would it matter in a week? A month? A year? Does it really need to be done? If it’s not essential, don’t do it. This space is for tasks that will move your business forward toward your long term goals. Daily tasks are baby steps toward your goals. Choose wisely.
Your day should include breaks too — not breaks that is a different version of the same thing (like surfing the web if you are a technology worker) but breaks of 5-15 minutes a couple times in the morning and a couple times in the afternoon where you get completely away from work. And, don’t eat lunch at your desk — get up, go out, take a walk, meet a friend, do anything to change your environment for an hour.
When you take on too much and try to be all things to all people, you start doing things less well. Focus your efforts to reach a maximum of three goals. Trim off those items that don’t fall under that umbrella and dig deeper rather than broader. That means you will be better at what you do, you can make more money at what you do and do well, you can focus your work time more effectively.)
If it doesn’t matter, then say “no” to projects that don’t fit your goal. It’s hard for entrepreneurs to say no. We want to help people. It’s what we do. But saying “yes” to things that don’t meet your personal and professional goals means saying NO to what matters — by default.
You need to realize that every time you say “yes” to something, you are deciding that THAT item is something that you will have to do instead of something you want to do — or something that you may want to do in the future.
Need help saying NO? Consider reading this: The Art of Saying No – Forbes
You need to know where all the time goes. Don’t spend your day playing the entrepreneurial version of “Whack a Mole” and end your day way too late only to look back and say, “I worked my butt off all day and I don’t think I got one single thing accomplished!”
Putting a timer on your work and notating what you are doing will help you see where your time goes and to make informed decisions on how to make it go where you want it to go. Once you know how your time goes now, you can set a timer on each of the items you have on your daily Post It. Work in 20-30 minute blocks with short (5 min) breaks between for the most effective work. Use a kitchen timer or a visual timer on your phone. Make it something you can see without effort.
It’s easier to work hard and stay focused if you have a short “burst” of work planned and timed.
I know, I know, the entrepreneur is not, typically, the “lets set up a schedule” type of individual. We are usually more of the “don’t stick me in that straight-jacket of a schedule, because if I wanted to be a conformist, I would be punching someone else’s clock!” type. I get it.
But, let’s face facts, it’s hard to concentrate on what your goals are when you are constantly being “poked” by all the different stimuli of technology and instant-gratification communication.
We live in a world that has built-in “notifications” for everything. Your smartphone goes off constantly with things that people text to you, with phone calls, with notifications of emails, voice mails, social media updates, etc. Your computer does the same thing, as does your family, as do your friends (who think that if THEY aren’t working then YOU should have time to talk… right now.)
Communications venues alone are enough to send you screaming and to toss you into burnout land.
Shut them ALL down and get some work done. During your timed bursts of productivity, you need focus. Here’s how you get it:
If you are doing research online, beware the surfing hijack. Refuse to surf. Refuse to get pulled “off task” and make a rule for yourself. Here’s why:
You are researching how to add an optimized photo into your blog that’s scheduled to go live by 10 a.m. and it’s now 8 a.m. You have plenty of time and you have needed to get this figured out for some time.
While researching, this happens:
You find the tutorial on website photo optimization and you also find something really cool that might help with changing the fonts on your site on this other page and oh, that looks like a cute meme and I might want to save that and share it on facebook later, and hmmm… I wonder if anyone liked or shared that post I put on FB this morning, I’ll just go check for a moment.
Oh, yay, someone did, who is that, are they someone new? I better respond right now. Gotta be responsive. Wonder how they lean, let me go check out their FB page first just to be sure I’m appealing to them personally. Wow. That’s weird, they aren’t even in my demographic. They live across the globe. Hmmmm. I wonder if they are spam.
Let me google “how to spot spammers on facebook” real quick, just to be safe. Look at that, it’s a whole new spamming threat that’s not related to FB, but might impact my website or my email. I better get informed. It’s a short article and won’t take long and I really need to implement this other security stuff they mentioned on my website and my email, like… NOW.
Let me create a list with links to each of these resources so I can check those off this afternoon, once I finish my blog and get it posted and go share it on social media. It won’t take long to make a list, then I’ll add this to my list of things to do this afternoon. There are only 12 major security things I need to check out, I wonder if it would be just as quick do go on and do them as it would be to create another list and put on my “to do list” that I need to review this list and complete the items. Yeah, probably just easier to go check them off now.
That first one means I need to get into the backend of my website on the hosting side. Where in the world did I put that password? I really need to find a better way to handle passwords so I don’t have to go searching every time I need one. Sure I know all my main passwords, because they are all the same, which that security site said was a no-no and I need to stop that.
I wonder if I can find a password management system or tool that I like, let me go back to that link and see what they recommend. Ok, there are seven they like, let me read through that real quick and find one. Oh, that one has an app I can use. No, wait, that’s not available for my type of phone. But I want that feature, so I need that. Which ones DO support apps on my phone. There are three. Lets go look at those.
I don’t like the way that first one looks. It’s not a very pretty user interface. That second one is kinda cool, but only gets three stars at the download site. Let’s check out the last one. Yeah, that one looks pretty good, but not enough features and it’s not compatible across all of the platforms I use. I guess I could go with the first one, even if it’s ugly, since it has a better feature set and has a better user rating. Let me go ahead and download that now to my phone. Now to sign up online for an account. Now to check my email for the verification code and link.
GAWD! What happened in my inbox? Did it explode?…
And so it goes until the daylight is gone and you still haven’t finished the research you needed to do first thing that morning. And that’s assuming that you have killed notifications, the phone has been in airplane mode, and your family and friends all went on vacation together… without you. It also assumes that the dog didn’t need to walk, that you have somehow managed to not require food or bathroom breaks, and no one walked in your office.
Keep yourself from being pulled in so many directions. That is the only way to determine how well your activities match up with your goals. Burnout occurs more frequently when you are really busy, but can’t seem to get the things done that you need to do.
If you are running your own business, it’s easy to be thinking and doing business all the time. But, if you do that you will burn out. You won’t have the same creative and problem-solving abilities that your customers and clients need. So get some “me” time when you aren’t working. Enjoy life a little. Just because you love your work and are grateful every single day that you have it, doesn’t mean you don’t need time away from it.
Absence makes the heart grow fonder — and it helps make you a happier person when you are away from work. If you can manage to avoid burnout, and get some downtime, you will be happier when you return and more anxious to get back down to the business of running your business!