Much is being written about burnout. Just Google the term and you’ll receive 52 million results in less than a second. Unfortunately, that doesn’t alter the debilitating landscape for entrepreneurs facing the exhausting influence of burnout.
Any small business entrepreneur who has teetered on the brink of weariness understands, only too well, the forewarnings of pending burnout. The early warning signals exist — if we only paid attention to them.
Early Warning Signs
Sadly, many entrepreneurs are missing an “off switch” and are not equipped to recognize the warnings until its too late. Here are some of the indications of impending burnout:
- Inability to fall asleep readily
- Waking up fatigued and groggy
- Undergoing a run-on business narrative that keeps you awake at night
- Craving more and more caffeine
- Consuming more comfort foods in an attempt to unwind and lessen stress
- Difficulty focusing on one project for any length of time
- Diminished creativity
- Ineffectiveness in decision making
Burnout Avoidance System
If you’re one of those ambitious entrepreneurs that doesn’t hear — or heed — the early cautionary signs of burnout, you need a system that interrupts a budding burnout lifestyle. Here are six ways to ensure long hours and stress doesn’t trip your circuits and cause you to burnout:
1. Block out 30 minutes for lunch. This doesn’t mean you eat lunch at your desk. It does mean leaving your office for 30 minutes — at a minimum. The change of scenery keeps you renewed and invigorated. And, if you “take 10” outside, research demonstrates you’ll return to your desk renewed and ready to take on the remainder of your day.
2. Institute a hard stop time for each day. If you’re like me, my list of things to accomplish each day inevitably surpasses the amount of time in my day — much like my client who needs a 33-hour day! A pre-determined stop time — like an automatic lock on the bank safe — signals the end of the workday and time to transition to recharge your batteries.
3. Plan for the unexpected. If there’s one thing the 21st century teaches, it’s to “expect the unexpected.” Even so, few entrepreneurs accommodate the unexpected in their schedule. Allow 60–90 minutes of “white space” — unplanned time — in each day to handle the unforeseen.
4. Exercise to energize and decompress. Plenty of research studies have proven the significance of exercise on mood, motivation, and stress — including how exercise boosts sales. Why not make daily exercise part of your sales strategy? With 30 minutes of cardio to energize your mornings, and 30 minutes of yoga to decompress as you exit your office, you can count on a more balanced level of energy to get through each day with flying colors.
5. Plan for one uncommitted day each week. A 24-hour period minuses promises and pledges — personally or professionally — doesn’t happen without some forethought. Plan, in advance, to treat yourself to 24 hours every week of nonstop “you” time. Then vigorously protect it with the same gusto you bring to your work as an entrepreneur.
6. Manage your expectations. Ambitious, high-performing entrepreneurs are eternally optimistic about what’s possible to achieve in a day. The endless enthusiasm, which makes entrepreneurs a joy to work with, can also grind their gears to a nub, rendering them ineffective. A healthy dose of reality, blended with your endless optimism, helps you deliver on your promises without the unnecessary race to the finish line.
Undoubtedly, burnout comes at a high price. From the quality of your work to high levels of anxiety associated with excess stress to time wasted when you’re unable to focus and troubled by decision fatigue, the cost of burnout certainly isn’t worth the price being paid.
If you happen to be one of those entrepreneurs — like me — absent an “off switch”, a Burnout Avoidance System is the best protection against perpetual weariness, fatigue, and stress.