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7 Tips for Avoiding Burnout as a Small Business Owner

Burnout is a very real risk for small business owners.

It’s easy for work-related worries to take over your life when you run your own business. Couple that stress with the manic work pace that some entrepreneurs try to sustain, and it’s no surprise that many business owners find themselves running on empty after a while. 

How can you tell if you’re burned out? Burnout doesn’t just mean feeling tired or down – it’s a feeling of exhaustion and emptiness that comes on after a long period of overworking yourself. If you feel constantly stressed out, anxious, overwhelmed, or just plain tired, you could be at risk for burning out soon.

Good lifestyle habits can go a long way towards preventing burnout, so take steps to protect yourself sooner rather than later.

These seven tips are a good place to start: 


1.  Keep your expectations realistic.

If you expect too much from yourself, you could end up pushing yourself too hard, and that can lead to burnout. It’s okay (and a good thing!) to hold yourself and your employees to high standards. If you expect yourself to be superhuman, though, you’ll constantly feel like you’re not doing well enough, even if you’re objectively doing a great job.

Fix this problem by reality-checking yourself. Think about what you can realistically accomplish in a day, a week, or a year. Not what you wish you could accomplish, or what you could theoretically do under perfect circumstances, but what you can actually achieve in real life. Adjust your goals accordingly, and cut yourself some slack if you fall behind now and then.


2.  Prioritize your health.

As a business owner, you might find it hard to prioritize anything above work. But if you don’t take care of your health, you’re risking burnout. It’s hard to perform well or feel good when you’re living on coffee and takeout or sleeping five hours a night.

Head off this kind of burnout by making a commitment to your health. Start with sleep – aim to get at least eight hours a night. Eat a clean diet, make time to exercise, and watch your caffeine and alcohol intake. Even if you occasionally have to sacrifice productivity for health, you’ll feel and perform much better in the long run.  


3.  Set regular work hours – and stick to them.

Lots of business owners feel like they have to work 24/7. Don’t be one of those people. Set yourself some regular work hours every day, and try not to work outside those designated times.

Good time management is a big part of preventing burnout, so do your best to use your work hours efficiently. Make to-do lists, prioritize your tasks, and block out distractions as much as you can. That way, you won’t have to worry about undone tasks when you head home for the day. 


4.  Take time off.

Relaxation is essential for a good work-life balance, so schedule regular time to decompress and have fun. Treat your downtime just like you would an important meeting – don't answer emails or work on your business plan when you’re trying to relax. Use this time to work on a hobby, meditate, see your friends, or just relax with a good book. 


5.  Stay connected to your non-work life.

It’s easy to let "entrepreneur" become your whole identity, but this isn’t good for you. Identifying too strongly with your business can lead to overworking yourself, and burnout usually follows soon after that. Make an effort to distance yourself from your work sometimes. Spend time with your friends, family, or significant other every day, and make time for hobbies and activities that have nothing to do with work.  


6.  Ask for help.

Small business owners have to wear a lot of hats. But if you try to wear every hat all the time, you won’t be able to keep up with everything. Practice delegating jobs to your employees when you’re feeling overwhelmed. That’s why you hired them, and if you’ve trained them well, they’ll be perfectly capable of taking over some of your workload.


7.  Practice saying no.

When your business is still young and growing, you might feel like you need to accept every project, client, and opportunity that comes along. But not every job is going to be a good fit for your business, and if you take on a project that doesn’t mesh with your goals or values, you may end up feeling demoralized and burnt out.

The solution? Learn to tell which projects aren’t right for you, and practice turning them down. Saying no is difficult, but it protects your energy and happiness. It also ensures you'll have time and resources to take on better opportunities later. 

Tags: Health and Wellness

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Published by

Lisa Klein

Lisa Klein