According to a Gallup study, around 23 percent of 7500 employees surveyed reported feeling burned out at work “very often” or “always”. An additional 44 percent in the survey reported an occasional feeling of burnout. That’s 67 percent of the respondents suffering from some degree of burnout during their working life. It’s safe to say this is an issue that affects a vast amount of the workforce, but we still don’t really know what to do about it when it hits us.
If you’re not sure what burnout is, here’s a quick definition. Burnout is effectively a state of heightened physical or emotional stress. It’s usually brought on by overwork or overexposure to an emotionally or physically demanding situation. If you’ve ever sat at your desk and despaired that you’ll never get anything done, suddenly feeling too tired to work, that’s probably burnout. The good news is it can be avoided. Here are 10 steps to avoid burnout as a business owner.
Take regular breaks
It might feel tempting to simply work through the night – after all, those accounts aren’t going to file themselves – but this is a mistake. Burnout begins when you start neglecting your personal life in favour of work, and it’s a slippery slope. Make sure you’re taking regular breaks. Why not punctuate your working life with a holiday or a DIY project? Some might want to dip into savings for this, some might consider second mortgage loans, and some might think about asking friends and family for help. What’s important is that you take those breaks.
Prioritise important work
Don’t think you have to cross every i and dot every t each time you clock in. Instead, it’s a good idea to focus on the important work and prioritise that. Sometimes, it can feel like everything in your business has equal importance, but that’s not true. Think carefully about exactly what needs to be done at any given time. Could those accounts wait until next week? Can that meeting potentially be rescheduled? When it comes to your mental health and avoiding burnout, it’s important to prioritise yourself and not to worry too much about work that can realistically be postponed.
Learn to say no
In our hectic lives, we’ve forgotten the importance of simply saying no to someone. This is a skill that’s abandoned us because many of us don’t know our self-worth. If that’s you, it’s time to learn to start saying no to things. There are two steps to this process: saying no and not saying yes. When someone asks if you can do something, seriously consider your schedule. If you’re booked up, don’t take on extra work – delegate to someone else. If you’re not emotionally ready to take on the work, don’t force yourself. The work will wait, but your mental health won’t.
Schedule a break
If you can’t take regular breaks, then it’s a good idea to try to incorporate them into your schedule. Every business owner is busy, but there is definitely going to be space in your schedule for some downtime, and if there isn’t then you need to make it. Don’t use your downtime doing anything related to the business. Indulge in your hobbies, practice meditation or mindfulness, or simply find some time to sit quietly and not let the outside world interfere. If you can’t know yourself well enough to know when you need a break, entrust this important task to someone you trust.
It’s not necessarily possible for you to delegate if you’re a sole trader, but if you’re a small business owner with staff, then you can try to assign tasks throughout the workforce. You might think “this won’t get done properly if I don’t do it myself”, but that’s what your staff are for; they’re there to help you accomplish things in a speedier and more efficient manner. Trust your workforce and don’t feel like you have to shoulder the world alone. If you’re a sole trader, consider hiring outside help – freelancers or volunteers – so you’re not quite so inundated.
Burnout can come when you’re not focusing on success and your tunnel vision means you’re only looking at either failures or where to go next. It’s alright to take a step back and appreciate how far you’ve come as a business owner. Just setting up a business and operating it is a monumental achievement, so sometimes you should pat yourself on the back for getting this far. If a major anniversary is coming up, why not plan a celebration? Your staff will also appreciate the time off; they’re just as potentially susceptible to burnout as you are.
Don’t beat yourself up for failure
The flipside of celebrating success is berating yourself for every failure. In business, failure happens; it’s what drives custom and leads to success through learning. When you fail, don’t simply take yourself off to your office to either mope or beat yourself up. Instead, call a meeting of your employees (or take stock if you’re a sole trader) and ask them what they think could have gone wrong and what could have been done better. If your workforce is solid and dependable, they’ll have an answer for you. Take this feedback and let it make you into a better business owner.
A cluttered work environment can lead to mental health problems. When your desk is a total mess, it’s tempting to think of your working life in the same way, even if it’s going better than it ever has before. During a quiet period in the office, take a moment to clean up your desk and reorganise things. Create a new arrangement on your desk to give yourself something new to look at. This goes for digital spaces too; clean out your hard drive, reorganise what’s left, and look to the future instead of letting yourself wallow in untidiness.