On the fast-track to burnout? 10 tips to get a life

Take time out to appreciate your successes.Why did you go into small business? Chances are it was to create more flexibility in your life, or perhaps spend fewer hours in the office.

Ironically, many business owners wind up working more than they ever did for any employer – and burnout can quickly follow.

Here’s how to take charge of your schedule, and make sure you’ve got time for a life outside of work too.

1. Out of balance

Feeling grumpy, stressed, exhausted? Getting the death stare from your partner when you finally arrive home? Haven’t had time to manage your finances? Then there’s a big chance your work is taking over your life.

Barbara Holmes, director of Managing Work|Life Balance International, says while many people go into small business so they can set their own hours – and hopefully work less – the nature of running your own show means the reverse can happen.

“If you are the owner of a small business and you’re self-employed you aren’t getting sick leave any more, you don’t get annual leave. You get paid when you work,” she says.

“If you have a number of people you are employing, you have a responsibility to those staff members to remain profitable.”

But while you might sometimes have to suck it up and “bust heaven and earth” to get a job done, it pays to realise when you’re overdoing it.

2. Make a date

When we make a work appointment, we usually do our darndest to keep it, says Holmes. But strangely enough when we make a commitment to a partner or friend, it’s all too easy to let it slide – even though it’s probably a more enjoyable prospect.

“If it’s in your diary then you need to make that time,” says Holmes.

“If you are not living a healthy, balanced life you can’t manage your business effectively.”

3. Get a life

And make sure the social engagement above is not a one-off thing.

“The real key is recognising life outside work is really important. Unless you make a commitment to look after yourself and your life outside work then it will just not happen,” says Holmes.

There’s not much point reaching dizzying success if you don’t have any friends and family left to celebrate with.

“A lot of people have those a-ha moments which are too late,” says Holmes.

4. Let go of the reins

If you’ve got your own business, it can be difficult to delegate.

“I think that’s one of the issues for small business – nobody else can do it as well as you can, which is not true,” says Holmes.

“You really need to work with your staff to train them and in terms of multiskilling.”

5. Do a personal audit

Leadership development coach Chris Edwards, of Life7, recommends dividing your life into four areas: personal development, relationships, work and community and working out what is important to you in each of these areas.

“At the end of this exercise you will have a long list of roles, tasks and challenges and you will begin to get an understanding of exactly what you have to deal with,” he says.

6. De-clutter your time

Consider the personal audit above, and prioritise your top five tasks in each category, depending on their importance to you, suggests Edwards.

Then, have another look and find five items in each category that give the biggest impact for the least effort, he says. Delete the rest.

7. Don’t bust a gut if you don’t need to

Yes, some jobs are hugely important, but not all clients will have the same demands.

Do the best job you can, but don’t rush to finish jobs well ahead of time if they’re not urgent, says Barbara Holmes.


8. Escape

Having a decent break – a week at the very minimum – can do wonders for your happiness and future productivity, says Kate James, owner of small business Total Balance.

“It’s really hard for small business owners, but I just think there’s no excuses. Try and make it happen even if it seems really difficult.”

James says being continually stressed over a long period of time can lead to chronic stress.

If a long break is impossible, schedule shorter breaks throughout the year.

9. Clock off at a reasonable hour

“One of the problems with business owners is they tend to work from nine in the morning until nine at night,” says James.

She says it’s important to set expectations early with your clients. Don’t send emails after hours if you can help it, and don’t be superglued to your phone.

10. Make time for exercise

Recent studies have suggested that regular, brisk exercise can be as powerful for your mind as a low dose of antidepressants, says James. “I think exercise is incredibly important.”

James also believes strongly in the benefits of meditation, but notes it doesn’t necessarily have to be strange or spiritual – rather it can be a chance for small business owners to practise mindfulness.

Read our previous motivational stories Stop procrastinating! Avoid isolation in your home office

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