How to Recognize Burnout When It Starts, And What to Do About It

April 29, 2021
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For many small business owners, their business is both their job, their hobby and their passion. If you own a business it can be difficult to separate work from free time, especially when your business is your baby – and your responsibility. 

It’s true that running your own business takes hard work and perseverance, but along the way, so many business owners end up feeling overwhelmed, overworked, and overstressed. It can be challenging to step away from the business and recognize what these feelings may be trying to tell you; you are quickly headed toward business ownership burnout. 

When it comes down to it, burnout has a lot to do with protecting your time and realigning your priorities to work smarter, not harder. Taking breaks and taking time away from work can leave you feeling refreshed and rejuvenated – and ready to work more efficiently. 

Once you’re able to recognize the telltale signs of burnout, it will take a conscious, daily effort to combat the internal overwhelm allowing you to reduce toxic stress and achieve a healthier, more sustainable mindset. 

Here’s how you can get started recognizing some of the signs of burnout – and the best ways to address it. 

The Signs of Burnout 

Do you recognize any of these signs? Burnout may not always appear the way you expect. 

  • You’re exhausted. Always. One classic sign of burnout? You’re constantly tired and exhausted. Tackling your to-do list seems difficult to do every day, and you no longer feel like you have the energy to do your work (the work you used to love!). 
  • You feel frustrated and overly cynical. Feeling frustrated and cynical is one of the classic signs of burnout. When you feel cynical, it can be hard to find (and recognize) the good work happening all over your company. It can also be hard to feel hopeful. 
  • Your work isn’t the same. Notice the quality of your work dropping? It’s probably because you’re exhausted, and you can’t think straight. When the quality of your work suffers, it’ll take you longer to do the same amount of work. 
  • You lash out. Lashing out is another classic sign of burnout. Short tempers and explosive, negative behavior can be common for people who feel like they’re at the end of their rope. 
burnout
  • You don’t sleep well. Stress keeping you up? Relying on any medication to get a good night’s sleep can be one of the most difficult effects of burnout. 
  • You can’t see the bright side… of anything. Do you find yourself pointing out all the negatives, but not the positives? Yup…burnout! 

The Most Effective Ways to Avoid Business Ownership Burnout 

Face it: getting away from work for a while, or closing down for the day, can be pretty tough. Here are some of our top tips for avoiding burnout (even in its early stages!) and taking action:

  1. Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize! 
    Every entrepreneur has a nearly endless list of tasks that has to get done – and it can be really easy to feel overwhelmed just looking at that long list. Putting things into perspective, and breaking up your to-do list, can be a big relief for many who feel stressed out to the max. Take the time to break down that big list into manageable segments (by day or by task) and organize it by priority. Many people also find it helpful to stick to one to three priorities a day. 
  1. Maintain a routine 
    Having a packed schedule can be a big challenge for business owners… But that makes it even more important to stick to a routine. That means scheduling time for multiple breaks, plus sticking to strict work hours. It’s important to take time for yourself and set boundaries. If that means scheduling in your workout, or setting aside time for non-work-related activities, then that’s what you need to do! And don’t forget to schedule a vacation, too! 
  1. Recognize your stressors
    We all have parts of our job that we don’t particularly enjoy, even entrepreneurs and business owners.. If you find yourself avoiding the same tasks every day, week or month, you’re likely to make yourself miserable, tacking on unnecessary stress. Create a running list of the tasks you despise and make a plan for getting those things out of the way as soon as you can (we call these tasks ‘doing the dishes’ or ‘eating the frog’). But continue to add to that ‘hit list’ of hated to-dos so you can create a job description or outsource the job when the time is right.

  1. Learn to say no
    So many business owners don’t really know how to say “no.” It’s tough to turn down work when you own a business, but it’s crucial to protect your own sanity and wellbeing, too. And sometimes that means turning down work, or a project, that you don’t really want to do. By creating guidelines for new work, this can help to establish boundaries for yourself and ensures that you’re taking on work you truly want to take on. 
  1. Delegate (if you can!)
    How many times have you heard this one? It may feel as if you can’t delegate some of your work, but successful business owners must be able to identify their own weaknesses and areas of need and find support. Once you trust the people you delegate to, you can free up your own time and focus on the projects that have a bigger impact on the business. It doesn’t have to be work, either. Maybe you delegate some of your chores, or the cooking for the night. It really does take a village! 
  1. Stick to working hours
    Turning off your computer for the day (or week) can be really challenging for many business owners, who feel as if it is their own responsibility to manage absolutely everything. Here’s a secret to avoiding burnout: work smarter, not harder. Setting a schedule can be a great way for some people to see more structure. Once you set your hours, stick to them – and that means no emails after hours, either! 
  1. Recognize your successes 
    It can be hard to truly see how far you’ve come, and recognizing your successes can be a great way to avoid feeling overwhelmed. From time to time, consider looking back on some of your older goals and truly recognize how far you’ve come. Acknowledge the vision, the people and  motivating factors that launched you into this amazing journey of business ownership. Never lose sight of your ‘why’ and keep moving forward!

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