Burnout is a common issue that we can all face as business owners. If it takes control of you it can affect not only your productivity but also your relationships with family and friends, and it’s important to always be mindful of looking after ourselves first.
I mean it makes sense when you think about it, right?
For many of us, we are the only person plugging away at our businesses and we are also often juggling being a partner and parent at the same time. Looking after ourselves both physically and mentally is vital for us as business owners to allow us to thrive.
I am aware of this all too well as I recently faced a turning point where I realised that I had been taking on far too much and had too many things on the go at once. Changes needed to be made in many aspects of my life asap!
So how do we bring our best self to work everyday (and also at home for that matter) while also being a business owner?
I’ve put together some tips based on what I’ve been working on personally over the last few months to keep things in check. I don’t want to give you an impossible list of unachievable items so I’m sharing my most important ones, which are also what I have found to be able to maintain.
Yes I can hear that groan from you all! As much as we all hate the idea of putting on that active wear and, well, getting active, exercise produces endorphins which are an important part of maintaining lower stress levels in your body and it gives us that feel good rush.
I totally get that fitting in regular exercise can be difficult when you are juggling work and a family life, particularly if you are in that full on startup phase or you have small children. I’m not saying run out and get a gym membership and start launching into to a full on exercise regime. Choose what works for you.
For me, I walk my son to school every morning and this gives me at least 30 minutes a day of gentle exercise – we both get to stretch our legs, get out in the fresh air and also have some one-on-one time together. I also try to get to pilates classes 1-2 times a week. See for me, I realise that an exercise regime where I’m running daily (urgh – I hate running!!) or off to the gym every second day just wouldn’t work. So I do what I enjoy, what I can and I’m cool with that.
I think the other important thing to keep in mind is to not beat yourself up if you do find you have a week here and there where you can’t exercise as much as usual. Just treat it as a one off and get back on your bike next week!
Make time for meditation
This was one that I had put down as a bit of a woo-woo / hippy kind of activity which I saw no purpose in for many years, until I started trying a few great meditation apps and I can absolutely see the benefit nowadays. Taking time to meditate is a great way to wind down and allow your mind to unjumble things and also find calmness and clarity.
I find that a 5-10 minute meditation is all that I need, and I actually choose to do it later in the day rather than first thing in the morning. I know for many, they will start their day off with meditation to get them in the right space to kick start their day, but I find I get more out of a quick meditation later in the day. This is my rationale – at the end of the day I’m often feeling really mentally drained after a stressful day working on the business and I realised that when I was home it was difficult to transition from being businesswoman to mother. It is the kids who pay the price for this as my fuse is already short and kids are naturally a handful at the end of the day. So I started taking 5-10 mins out as soon as we got home just for me. I shut myself out on the balcony with my headphones on and leave the hubby to wrangle the kids for a bit. It is the perfect time for me to distress and focus back in on myself and an enjoyable evening at home with my family.
For each of you there will be a different time of day that works best for you, but as long as you are having that time out for mindfulness you will be cooking with gas.
Get enough sleep
Most of us simply aren’t getting adequate amounts of sleep every night, and changing our sleep patterns can be life changing. You only need to ask a new mother about this – consistent lack of sleep affects our cognitive and emotional abilities. There is a lot of fantastic research about sleep including a book and TED talk by Ariana Huffington of the Huffington post who shares, “Yet the myth persists that we can do our jobs just as well on four or five or six hours of sleep as we can on seven or eight.”
It is a fact that consistently relying on only a few hours sleep negatively affects our productivity as well as other aspects of our lives such as our ability to manage our emotional intelligence and can lead to issues with weight and blood pressure. As adults we should be having 7-9 hours a night of good sleep.
Learn how to say no
When we are heading towards burnout it’s often because we are taking on too many tasks and humans really aren’t wired to focus on too many things at once, so somethings gotta give! I know when in the startup phase you are trying to build a brand and presence and you want to say yes to every opportunity, but if it is starting to come at the detriment of your own physical or mental wellbeing, it’s important to start to say no to some things. Take the time to seriously evaluate your time and decide if it may be more wise to say no to some things, particularly if they really aren’t part of a direct path to where you want to be with your life or business.
I’m a culprit for coming up with amazing new ideas and deciding to jump right into them on top of all of my other endeavours but I’ve learned over time to simply start a “future ideas” list and pop some of that stuff on a list that can be put aside for later instead of continually biting off more than I can chew.
Schedule in downtime
We aren’t robots so its impossible for us to be working machines day in and day out. Not only will it wear you out but your creativity can start to become stifled. I always feel its important to take out one day a week for non-work stuff and aim to keep this a low key day. Where possible have it as a quiet day of doing things you really enjoy doing (apart from work stuff! Other stuff!!), have time to reconnect with family and friends or escape your neighbourhood for the day. Try not to jam it with crazy errands or a frantic schedule as this won’t serve the purpose of the day.
I also try to have a weekend away with my husband once every 2-3 months. We both have busy schedules and kids, so we make a point of sending the kids to their grandparents for us to have 1-2 nights away every few months to just chill out. I find so much mental clarity on those weekends where I’m away and so far removed from life – it’s when all of my best ideas come. I simply sit with a notepad and jot down the thoughts but shelf it for later on to logisitically work through, and then get back to the job at hand of unwinding. It doesn’t need to be a big expensive trip away, just a night away in an area that feeds your soul. For me it is on the water but it could be whatever works for you.
So what’s your plan to minimise stress and burnout for yourself? Write down a few points that you plan to stick to on a daily / weekly / monthly basis to ensure you are always bringing your mental A-game to your business.