When you’re running a small business, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. There may be staff to support you, but when something really needs to get done, you’re the last line of defense. Taking on all that responsibility can be necessary for success, but it can also quickly lead to burnout if it’s not managed properly.
On top of that, common techniques to avoid burnout are not always available for small business owners. An impromptu vacation could mean upsetting or losing key customers; setting a policy not to take work home goes out the window when a business emergency comes up; and finding a different area of work to focus on just isn’t an option when you are launching your website.
However, there are plenty of other ways you can avoid burnout while continuing to meet the demands of the job. To keep up, it’s useful to have some special strategies to keep you going even when it seems like the time to call it a day passed hours ago.
1. Change your environment
Tasks that should feel energizing — such as choosing a logo for your business, or interacting with customers on social media — can become dull if you’re stuck at your desk. When you feel like your productivity is hitting a wall, one simple remedy can be to find another place to take care of business.
Relocating to a coffee shop for a few hours is an obvious option for many, especially if you’re building a business from home and most of your interactions with people are limited to phone and email. Getting outside — whether it’s a park, outdoor cafe or even a backyard – can refresh your mind. Simply being able to look at nature can improve your brain function, according to a study published in the journal Environmental Psychology.
2. Exercise your body and mind
With all the different activities you need to pursue to keep a small business moving, physical exercise and other hobbies often seem like a distraction. While your exercise routine doesn’t contribute to your company’s bottom line, it’s vital to keep you afloat — especially when you’re dealing with high levels of stress and job demands. Getting up early to go for a run or heading to the gym after work may sound like it’s adding more to your plate, but it actually serves as an essential protection against work-induced burnout.
Similarly, creative activities and hobbies outside of your job play a key role in boosting motivation and keeping your mind sharp and fresh. If you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, writing in a journal can be a great way to vent your emotions — without having to worry about bringing too much of your work worries into your personal and family life. Many people find that activities totally unrelated to their jobs, such as playing music, gardening or woodworking, help them refocus their minds and gain the perspective needed to continue moving the business forward.
3. Take care of yourself
Running a small business means paying attention to a lot of other people — your customers, your employees, your partners and vendors — so it’s easy to forget to take care of yourself. But ignoring your own needs will quickly put you on the path to complete burnout, and that’s a position where it becomes impossible to take care of anybody. As work becomes especially busy or stressful, take a moment to step back and ensure you’re supporting your basic needs.
Start with the fundamentals: food and sleep. Eating well, both in terms of consuming healthy food and also enjoying meals, provides a powerful foundation for you to be productive. There’s plenty of research that points to the productivity benefits of a nutritious diet and how unhealthy foods (especially excess sugar) can ultimately slow you down. But it’s also important to find food that you enjoy, even if it doesn’t always match your cravings – otherwise eating nutritious meals could turn into another task piled on your to-do list rather than a refreshing source of energy.
Different people need different amounts of sleep, but in the end, nobody can continue functioning well without getting enough rest. There will be nights when you have to stay up especially late to complete an order and mornings when you have to wake up especially early to get to an important meeting. The key to avoiding burnout is to keep track of how often you’re cutting short your regular sleep schedule. Make sure you prioritize rest when you’re starting to run below normal levels, even if you feel like you still have plenty of energy left to burn. That helps avoid a bigger crash later. If you find yourself spending too many hours on menial tasks, consider outsourcing them: Small businesses can affordably hire someone to do their payroll, run their social media accounts, design and send their marketing emails, and more.
Finally, make sure to reward yourself for all your hard work. Splurging on something frivolous may seem to go against your principles as a responsible and budget-focused person, but these little gifts often have a big effect on your overall motivation. Think of it like the special commissions, accolades and anniversary celebrations that are proven techniques for employee motivation at bigger companies. You are your own boss, which also means you need to treat yourself like a valuable employee.
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