I visit the same coffee shop once a week for two reasons: the owner and her staff are always cheery and welcoming and when I am still half asleep, she knows exactly what I want how I want my coffee without me having to say a word.
On a recent visit, the owner was grumpy and not in the best spirits.
Concerned, I asked if everything was OK.
“I am just tired,” she said. “I have been running too long and burning both ends of the candle.”
What she needed was a break. She acknowledged she was beginning to feel burned out.
Burnout is one reason many small businesses fail. The owner has too much weight on his or her shoulders and fails to take time to invest in themselves.
As a small business owner, it’s not uncommon to be up before the paperboy and to bed after David Letterman’s show.
Too little sleep, not enough exercise and a poor diet added to too much work and stress can cause burnout.
If you feel you are on the edge of burnout, there are some easy steps you can take.
As we all know, we need to invest in ourselves first so we can take care of our family, job and a long list of other tasks. Knowing what we should do and actually doing it are two different things. Before you lose hope, there is a cure for burnout.
The first thing to do is to acknowledge you need to invest in yourself so that your business can flourish. We are not doctors or psychologists so if you think you are feeling more tired than normal and it’s more than just a slump, it’s always a good idea to visit with your doctor.
The tips we are offering are to recharge yourself. Things we do when work becomes a little overwhelming or we know we need a break.
Here’s our tips:
- Say to yourself – I am not Superman or Superwoman. Somewhere a myth started that we could do it all. Unless you are Superman or Superwoman, it’s not possible to keep the house perfectly clean, take care of the family and run a business – unless you have help. Just acknowledge there are some days when some things won’t get done and it’s OK. Prioritize. If the laundry doesn’t get folded, it is not a disaster. If you miss a deadline for a client, that is a problem.
- Learn to delegate. The truth is high achievers have a hard time asking for help, figuring if they just do it themselves it will get done faster. While that may be true, it’s also just one more thing on your To Do List. Make a list of all the things you do on a weekly basis. What can you delegate? Do you really need to be the one driving to pick up flowers for the flower shop or could you ask an employee? By learning to delegate, you will have more time for the tasks that really only you can do.
- Set limits. Trying to balance your business’ bank account at 10 p.m. when you have to be back to work at 5 a.m. is probably not a good idea. And you probably will make mistakes. Block out time when you aren’t working on your business. If you are watching a movie, just watch the movie. Don’t multitask. And it’s OK to say no.
- Do what you dread first. I dislike cleaning the bathrooms. And dislike calling clients who haven’t paid. Whatever task I dislike the most, I do the first thing in the morning. That way I get it over with and can look forward to the rest of my day.
- Don’t be a slave to your phone. I am old enough to remember the days when I came home, pushed a button on the answering machine and learned who had called when I was away. It seems nowadays you can be in the middle of an important conversation, the phone rings and you have to take the call. Unless it’s really an emergency, the call can wait. I make it a rule to find ways to unplug from my phone such as when I go for a run. If someone needs me, she can leave a message. Same goes for checking emails, social media sites – schedule a time a few times a day – not every five minutes.
- Take mini-vacations. If you can’t get a way for a week, try to get away for a few hours every week. Go see a matinee, get a massage, visit your favorite bookstore, go to a new coffee shop, find a bench and people watch, sneak away to the library to read a book, visit a local farm, go for a hike with friends… The possibilities for a staycation are endless. I always find when I do something fun for me that I have more energy for my family and work.
- Take a vacation. In Europe during the month of August, it’s quite common to see a sign posted on a business that reads “Gone for Holiday.” We all have this idea that we can’t take time off and if we did, well things would fall to pieces. They won’t. And your loyal customers will probably applaud you for taking a vacation. Look for the slowest time in your business and schedule that time off. Let your customers know you will be gone. And then go, enjoy and come back renewed and refreshed.
By taking care of yourself, you will have more energy, enthusiasm, creativity and enjoyment for your work, your family and your friends.