What entrepreneurs will do to avoid burnout is on par with what televangelists will do to get people to send them money—in other words, they’ll do just about anything. And why shouldn’t they? You know what it’s like: working straight through the night with only the blue light of the computer screen to keep you company, looking at a miles-long to-do list and not being able to muster up the energy to tackle even a single task, living on takeout and delivery pizza because you’ve been so busy, you haven’t made it to the grocery store in weeks.
Every entrepreneur will burnout at one point or another. But for most, that one experience is plenty and they vow to never push themselves to walking-dead-status again. But wanting to avoid burnout and actually avoiding burnout are two different things, and if you’re not careful, you might find yourself on the road to burnout – despite your best intentions.
But it doesn’t have to be this way! You don’t ever have to deal with burnout again. Here are five tips to help you avoid the dreaded burnout while still being the awesomely productive entrepreneur you are:
How to avoid burnout
1. Focus on the genius zone
The fastest track to burnout is trying to do everything yourself. There are only so many hours in the day, and even if you can do everything in your business, it certainly doesn’t mean you should.
You started your business because there was something about it you felt passionate about. Maybe it’s a software you created or a service you offer your customers you know you do better than anyone else in the game. That’s your genius zone. It’s the thing you love to do more than anything else, the thing you can work on for hours and be so involved you forget to eat dinner.
If you’re spending the majority of your time working on the other stuff in your business, like figuring out how to work your email auto-responder or dealing with customer service tickets, you’re not going to have the time or energy to do what you love. If you want to avoid burnout, you’ve got to delegate.
Hire a virtual assistant to handle all the administrative work in your business. Hire a graphic designer to develop your logo, branding and website. Hire a top-notch copywriter to write your sales page or marketing brochure.
When you delegate the “other stuff” in your business, you’ll have the time and space to focus on what you love and what you’re good at. Work will be a more enjoyable experience, and you won’t burn out.
2. Reverse engineer your goals
Want to get really overwhelmed, really fast? Write down all of your big goals for the next five years, like “hit a million dollars in sales” or “increase product distribution to 10+ countries.” Then, look at that list.
That anxiety starting to kick in? In all its sweaty-palmed, dry-mouthed tingly-chested glory? Yeah, I thought so.
Big business goals are completely overwhelming and anxiety-inducing. And the mental capacity necessary to try to process those big goals feels like pushing a 10,000-pound boulder up a never-ending hill.
Ugh. I’m getting burnt out just thinking about it.
That’s why it’s so important to reverse engineer your goals. By working backwards from the big goals and breaking them down into smaller, more manageable goals, you can chip away at them slowly and take daily steps to get you to where you want to go—without getting totally burnt out in the process.
For example, let’s say you want to hit a million dollars in sales within the next five years. To reverse engineer that goal, you’d want to break down into yearly, monthly, weekly and daily milestones. Instead of thinking about that million, start with increasing your sales by $100,000 in the next twelve months by releasing a few new products. Which means this week, you need to get a new product in the pipeline so today, you’re going to focus on brainstorming potential products with your team.
When you reverse engineer your goals, it breaks everything down into manageable steps. Rather than getting overwhelmed (and eventually burnt out) trying to hit the big goals, you’ll be able to focus on the everyday tasks that will get you there.
3. Get outside
A lot of entrepreneurs spend their time chained to their desk. They’re so focused on work and getting things done that they end up spending their life confined to the four walls of their office. But spending all your time at your desk doesn’t equal more work done. It equals burnout.
All that time inside isn’t good for you, your body or your business. Staring at your computer screen for hours on end makes you less productive, less creative, and way more likely to burn out.
How do you combat all of this desk and screen time, reinvigorate your creative spirit, and kick burnout to the curb? Get outside!
Researchers at UC Davis found that creativity is sparked when workers get outside of the office—especially if they ACTUALLY get outside into a natural environment. Even just a brisk walk around the block can get the blood flowing, the creative juices pumping and can help you keep your sanity.
Set an alarm for every two hours. When it goes off, step away from your computer and go outside. Soak up the vitamin D, breathe in the fresh air and enjoy the creative and productive boost you get courtesy of your friend Mother Nature.
As an entrepreneur, your mind is going a million miles a minute, swinging from past to future and back again. This constant barrage of thoughts means you’re always living in your head. And all that mental chatter? It’s exhausting. Not only will it lead to burnout, but it has the sad side effect of keeping you from enjoying all the awesome things that are going on right here, right now, in the present.
Slow down, get out of your head, and tune in to the present moment. Your entire business (and really, life) will shift.
Meditation has all sorts of awesome benefits. It reduces stress, increases productivity and focus, sparks creativity, makes you happier, healthier, and more compassionate…. Seriously, the list is endless. Meditation also keeps you grounded in the present moment and can help you avoid mental-chatter-related burnout.
And if you think meditation is only for gurus and hippies, you’re wrong. Super successful folks, from Oprah to Tim Ferriss, all tout the benefits of daily meditation for their business and lives.
To get started meditating, sit on a chair with your feet planted firmly on the floor. Close your eyes and focus on the inhale and exhale of your breath. When you notice your mind start to wander, gently bring your attention back to your breath.
Seriously. That’s it. Start with ten minutes a day and work your way up to 30. Meditate the burnout away. You and your business will be better for it.
5. Make time for play
That crazy Jack Nicholson character from “The Shining” was right when he said “All work and no play make Jack a dull boy.” No matter how much you love your job and business, if all you do is work, you’re going to burn out – fast.
If you want work/life balance, I’ve got news for you: you need to do things other than work. That’s where the “balance” part comes in. Make time for play. Meet a friend for lunch in the middle of the week. Take vacations (seriously…. take a vacation). Spend time with your family and loved ones that energize you and make you forget about the office.
When you take a step back from your work and focus on the other areas of your life that bring you joy, not only will you feel better, it will actually help your work. Taking breaks from work – whether it’s for a lunch date, a mental health day, or a two-week jaunt around the globe – has all sorts of work related benefits. You’ll be more productive, you’ll get your creative juices flowing and you’ll have more energy. Not to mention that because you have things in your life other then your job, you’ll feel like an actual, well-rounded person instead of a robotic worker drone.
When you make your life as much of a priority as your business, you’ll achieve a more balanced state of being. And that, my friend, is the antidote to burnout.
Your burnout avoiding to-do list
Avoiding burnout starts today. If you’re feeling overwhelmed in your business (and who isn’t?), I challenge you to take a step back from burnout and towards balance by putting each of these tips into motion. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
- Make a list of everything you do in a day. Then, go through the list and circle everything that you a) don’t need to do, b) don’t like to do or c) someone else could do for you. Then, delegate at least 3 of those items to someone else.
- Think about where you want to be in five years. Then, brainstorm one small thing you can do this month, this week, and today in order to get you closer to that goal.
- One day this week, take a brisk walk outside during your lunch break. Soak up some fresh air and Vitamin D before you dive into your afternoon work.
- Carve out ten minutes in your morning routine to sit in silence. Focus on your breathing and let your thoughts slip away. If ten minutes feels like too much, start with five and work your way up.
- Call a friend and schedule a lunch or coffee date for a work day this week. Spending time with someone who’ll have you in stitches will help you relax and remind you that there are other things more important than work.