Aurelius Advisory | Business Burnout*/
How to overcome business burnout and entrepreneur exhaustion
Unfortunately, fatigue, burnout, and breakdowns are the common, ugly side of running and owning your own business. You may have heard business owners say they have never worked more in their life since starting a business. And, it’s true.
Owning a business means you never switch off. You are always thinking about what there is left to do, what you forgot that day or when the next invoice is coming in. Business burnout isn’t just a concept; it is a recognised disease classification from the World Health Organisation;
“A syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterised by three dimensions: feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and reduced professional efficacy.”
Not only is burnout a genuine concern for business owners, but paired with pandemic fatigue, getting back on track for entrepreneurs can feel like an uphill battle.
It is essential to note burnout doesn’t just represent the result of circumstances. Existential beliefs can also bring it on. “Circumstantial burnout stems from workplace challenges, neglect of personal life, and not taking some time off. Existential burnout stems from the loss of meaning in one’s profession, lack of self-validation, loss of understanding of professional identity, and loss of connectivity with colleagues and clients,” Entrepreneur Magazine.
Signs of business burnout
Are you simply tired? Or are you burnt out? Here are some common signs your business is starting to cost you more than just your time.
Passion is now replaced with pain.
Once, you used to stay up late writing down all the ideas that came into your head, which fueled your energy. Now, you find it hard to complete basic tasks and no longer feel any joy when doing your work.
You forget everything.
You are starting to forget what you have on your calendar, what that client said and where you put your wallet. When we begin to become overstressed and overstretch, it is not uncommon for our short-term and long-term memory to take a backseat due to the activation of molecules that limit our brain’s processes.
You could take five at any time of the day.
Feeling exhausted is not uncommon. However, if you are always tired, even after waking up from a well-rested sleep, it’s time to step back and look at the big picture.
Other signs and symptoms can be mental health struggles, weakened immune system, muscle tension, body aches, irritability, insomnia, hormone imbalances and more.
Burnout is an area of health we continue to look more into because, sadly, many are experiencing it. Even before the pandemic, we were overworked, overstretched and over it. Professionals have studied the key signs many presents when heading to a full-blown burnout. Psychologists Herbert Freudenberger and Gail North developed a 12-stage model of burnout. Do you recognise any of these?
- A compulsion to prove oneself – demonstrating worth obsessively.
- Working hard – with an inability to switch off.
- Neglecting basic needs – lack of sleep, lack of healthy eating, lack of social interaction.
- Displacement of conflicts – problems are dismissed.
- Revision of values – values are skewed, friends and family dismissed, hobbies irrelevant.
- Denial of emerging problems – intolerance, perceiving collaborators as stupid, cynicism, aggression, problems are viewed as caused by work.
- Withdrawal – social life small or nonexistent, hard social contacts.
- Odd behavioural changes – changes in behaviour obvious to friends and family.
- Depersonalisation – seeing neither self nor others as valuable.
- Inner emptiness – feeling empty inside.
- Depression – feeling lost, exhausted, and the future feels bleak and dark.
- Burnout syndrome – includes mental and physical collapse; medical attention is required.
How to overcome entrepreneur exhaustion
There is a term for those that overcome burnout; it is called ‘post-traumatic growth’. The concept represents the potential of coming out the other side stronger than ever.
- Manage your time
Free time does not mean bookable time. Many business owners I work with fall into the trap of needing to be across everything, in every meeting and immersed in every project. That has to stop. Placing yourself in everything can result in progress from A to B to experiencing roadblocks. Yes, you’re the roadblock. Step back and assess at what level you need to be involved, what projects can benefit from your input, and where you can add the most value.
- Outline your goals
It is easy to lose focus when everything feels overwhelming. Redefine your goals to ensure every hour of your energy is placed into reaching those goals. Everything else can be managed by one of the team; stay on track with what matters most to your business.
- Prioritise what adds value
Once you have outlined your goals, now is the time to identify the activities that add value to your business. Everything you invest time in should carry a monetary outcome for you. If putting your energy into building your network on LinkedIn adds value to your business, go for it. If it doesn’t, let someone else carry that load.
- Maintain social relationships
It is easy to say ‘one more email’ but again, ask yourself if sending that email is returning a value to you that is more than the emotional value spending time with those closest to you adds. Don’t let friends and family fall to the side. They are what keep you on track and energised.
- Move more
There is no escaping this one. Physical exercise delivers a wide range of health benefits, one of them being stress management. Don’t treat your exercise time as negotiable. It is an activity that enhances your performance as a professional.
It is also essential to identify what triggers your burnout. Is it the fear of ‘when will it end?’ that creeps in when the business is going great? Is it because of the number of people who depend on you for their livelihood? It is because you are fueled by the adrenalin rush that comes with a hyper-growth phase, and when that stabilises, you feel lost? Start to understand the root cause of burnout triggers to address them ASAP.
How to set up a business to avoid burnout
Recovering from burnout is not easy, and it can result in a high cost to your business, your health and your family. Avoiding it all together is an ideal situation. If you are new to business ownership or starting to feel like you may be heading down burnout valley, here is how you can set up your business to dodge it altogether.
Build your team
Hire the right people from the start who take work off your plate, not add to this. If you can’t hire people in a full-time or part-time capacity, start creating a network of trusted freelancers you can lean on. Having people you can pass work to is key to keeping you focused on the big picture. You can’t steer the ship and pull the sails simultaneously.
Block out time
Block out regular times in your calendar and utilise it for exercise, connection or simply time to reflect. Making time for you a habit is essential to ensuring your body has the time to recoup and recharge. Extend this to block out long weekends and holidays in advance.
Refer to the plan
Remember that business plan you wrote? Or the ROI assessment you did? Use this as your weekly, monthly and yearly roadmap. When facing an activity or task assess if the potential outcome reflects the goals, value and financial benefit you outlined. If it does, then go for it; if it doesn’t, time to pass it down the line. Keep this in your line of sight to help you decide where to place your energy for the day.
The reality of business ownership is a commitment like no other you will experience. You will be tired, you will be overwhelmed, and you will question why you got into this. This is why we stress creating a plan and a vision to keep you on track. The work you do in the early days to plan your goals will ensure everything you are doing is for the bigger picture.
If you have never set out a business plan or assessed your ROI, now would be the time to book a free strategy session with us to provide you with the roadmap that will help you steer yourself away from entrepreneurial exhaustion.