The challenge of running a small to medium-sized business can seem overwhelming at times, with unpredictable income, staffing challenges, long hours and managing family commitments ranking among the most significant stressors.
The pressure can feel like it follows you from work to home and that it’s impossible to switch off from the demands of your business.
A recent study by Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre into small businesses in Western Australia, found that women business owners experience higher stress levels than men and that this stress increases with the number of employees.
“Running your own business can be incredibly rewarding but also enormously stressful,” says Inspiring Rare Birds Founder and CEO Jo Burston. “When you’re trying to scale the pressure ramps up, especially if you’re running a lean organisation or bootstrapping a startup,” she says.
If you’re feeling physically drained or mentally exhausted, have poor concentration and lack interest in your business, you could be suffering from the following types of burnout.
Constant tiredness is an obvious sign of exhaustion. You may also have lost your appetite, lack motivation, feel unusually pessimistic and frustrated, can’t get a good night’s sleep, and have increased sensitivity to noise, foods and chemicals.
Mental fatigue makes it difficult for you to think; concentrating becomes more challenging and thinking can make you feel physically tired. You can’t stop thinking about work, even when you’re not there.
Your business doesn’t challenge you anymore. You still have energy and clear thinking for things you’re passionate about, but that no longer includes your business.
How to prevent it
- Know your early warning signs. Burnout usually doesn’t happen overnight, it creeps up slowly and can make itself felt in major and minor episodes. Recognise the symptoms increases your chances of preventing it.
- Turn off your email and messaging notifications. Your time away from your business is valuable down-time so take advantage of it to clear your mind.
- Find an inspiring mentor. Running your own business can be a lonely experience, especially if you don’t have a co-founder or employees. A mentor can help you deal with the challenges you’re facing in your business every day.
- Do something you’re passionate about. If you no longer feel passionate about your business, consider starting a new project or a new business. This may require making long-term plans to remove yourself from the day-to-day running of your company or to exit it completely.
- Get between seven and nine hours sleep a night. You’re likely to be more productive and live for longer.
- Get organised. If you’re mentally exhausted you may be worried that you’ll forget some of the details involved in the running of your business. Organising your desk, emails, files and schedules at home and at work can give you back some of the control you feel may be missing.
- Automate and outsource. Now you can automate everything from social media posts and EDMs to scraping tools and employee workflow. Automating your business processes will help streamline your business and save you money. Outsourcing some of those processes can also free up your time and energy, especially if you’re trying to master processes that aren’t in your skillset.
- Make time to socialise. Not making time to catch up with friends and family can contribute to feelings of isolation, especially if you’re working at home on your own or you don’t have a mentor. Entrepreneurial communities like Inspiring Rare Birds, connect women and help them grow and scale their businesses. You can expand your social and professional networks, and get the support you need by attending their events and joining their platform for free.
- Organise your tasks around your energy levels and mental capacity, rather than the urgency of jobs. “I always make sure I do the hardest tasks of my day in the first three hours I’m at work, when I’m most alert,” says Inspiring Rare Birds Founder and CEO Jo Burston. Batching tasks like this helps ensure you make decisions at the times when you’re most rested and alert.
- Plan work breaks and holidays in advance. Knowing when you’ll have downtime and breaks away from your business will give you something to look forward to and enable you to plan you time and energy working in and on your business in better ways.
It’s important to listen to your gut instincts and have a personal warning system, so you recognise when you’re starting to get exhausted. If you’re not feeling good, get out of your office, studio or workshop. Go outside and be in nature, meditate, go swimming, do yoga or simply take a walk.
Are you feeling burnt out running your business? You don’t have to face the challenges alone. An Inspiring Rare Birds mentor can meet with you regularly, give you advice and connect you with valuable tools and individuals to help you and your business grow. Join today and the team will start the process of matching you right away.